The Big Picture: Takeaways from India-China Strategic Dialogue
The India-China relationship is one of partnership as well as of rivalry i.e. partnership in growing trade relationship and rivalry as China increases its influence in the region and uses Pakistan to checkmate India. Recently, Foreign Secretary S.Jaishankar visited Beijing for the first Sino-Indian strategic dialogue since Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi took over. The dialogue came in the wake of China’s veto for the third time against designation of Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief Masood Azhar as a terrorist by the United Nations. China has also blocked India’s entry into NSG. It has also ignored Indian objections to the proposed CPEC passing through Pakistan occupied Kashmir which India claims as a sovereign territory. India and China have been strategic partners since 2005.
- The visibility accorded to the issues of Masood Azhar and NSG membership to India were of much higher order. It is expected that India and China could work towards some kind of common objective in relation to Afghanistan. Though, it is tough to draw any definite conclusion after single round of talks as the disputes between these countries have been there for a very long time. They have defied solutions over the years and in the last couple of years, there have been more complications. India explained its rationale to China on the listing of Azahar under UN 1267 sanctions committee during strategic talks.
- China at present is much more heavily invested in Pakistan than it ever was. Therefore, in terms of India’s foreign policy challenges vis-a-vis Pakistan, it has to be careful of China’s inclination towards Pakistan as well. This is also a reason why China has put technical hold on Masood Azhar’s issue for the third time given all the evidence are available. The evolution of Beijing’s stance on terrorism in and emanating from Pakistan is an area of prime concern to India.
- The forums for discussion of all outstanding issues are actually narrow and for Sino-Indian relationship, more such forums are needed for interaction. For example- there are complaints regarding adverse trade balance for which there can be a trade representative so that the two countries can have a new forum to discuss all outstanding issues related to trade. This way, India’s decision making process will be complemented on another facet. This will also not encroach upon core issues where both the countries differ. India and China have done business worth $70 billion but almost $53 billion of this is Chinese imports to India.
- The entire dialogue was called restructured strategic dialogue. What is the restructuring all about is something to be known. When China speaks of joint development projects, one has to analyze it thoroughly because China is using this terminology for South China Sea disputes for which it is not willing to give up its sovereignty claims.
As of now it is well known that Chinese presence is there in the form of String of Pearls, OBOR and CPEC. China is going to be the largest economy in the world in a few year’s time. Its economy is five times larger than India. It is highly militarized with an efficient military and has a clear vision of what it wants i.e. to first dominate Asia and perhaps later to be a superpower. India being its southern neighbour should not be hyper about its strengths like using Tibet or Taiwan unless it has the economic and military strength to do so and take care of its national security and interests. India must not make the same mistakes like the past. Standing eyeball-to-eyeball with China won’t be profitable. A policy of leverage, people-to-people movement and areas of convergence to nudge Beijing towards recognizing its viewpoint might be more helpful in the long run