India-China: Ties of convergence and divergence
BY ASHOK B SHARMA
One of the most difficult area of study for the students of international diplomacy is India-China relations. This relationship can be rightly characterized as one of limited convergence and wide divergence of interests, depicting the growing nature of rivalry rather than friendship.
Chinese moves are more of assertive nature, while that of India are of accommodative nature. Chinese Ambassador to India, Zhang Yan while recently addressing a business meeting in Delhi on the eve of the visit of the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao had said that India-China relationship is "fragile, easy to break, difficult to repair."
The compulsions of friendship stems from the fact that two emerging economies and political powers are close neighbours and both have reconciled to live peacefully in mutual interests. You can choose your friends, not neighbours and as equally owerful neighbours you have to mange anyhow.
The impact of the recent global financial crisis has caused a gradual shift of economic power from the Trans Atlantic zone to the Asian region, particularly India and China. Both India and China are world’s two populous countries. They are also nuclear powers.
India has now begun receiving sympathy and support from the powerful Trans Atlantic countries who are interested in maintaining a balance in the world’s geo-politics. Another obvious choice for India is that it is a democracy.
However, China has been successful in making an early foray in the world’s geo-politics by registering its presence and influence in almost all continents, more particularly in the East Asian neighbourhood. The Trans Atlantic powers are conscious of the growing Chinese influence. Countries like UK, France and US have openly supported India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, while Russia has extended support in-principle subject to the reforms in UNSC. China is already a permanent member of UNSC with veto powers.
There is an ongoing debate for the need for reforms in the UNSC to reflect the contemporary global realities. Many developing countries are interested in seeing India in the UNSC. The very fact that India was elected as a non-permanent member of UNSC for two years beginning January 1, 2011 by a majority of 187 out of 192 votes testify this.
Being aware of the growing importance of India in the world politics, the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao who is currently on a visit to India from December 15 to17, did not openly support India’s candidature for a permanent member of UNSC. He only said that he appreciated India’s aspirations for playing a greater role in world politics.
India is an active member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). China is associated with SAARC as an Observer. Other Observers to SAARC are Australia, Japan, US, South Korea, EU, Iran, Mauritius and Myanmar – this balances Chinese influence in the region.
India is an Observer in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and at its Tashkent Summit in June 2010 it was decided to open the doors of SCO to new members. SCO connects China to other countries of Central Asia, which is India’s extended neighbourhood.
China has already begun exerting its influence and presence in South Asia and in the Indian Ocean region. Some aspects of China-Pakistan relationship particularly those like the China’s role in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), China’s Kashmir policy and China-Pakistan security and nuclear relationship pose grave concerns for India.
China has indicated that Jammu and Kashmir is not an integral part of India and hence it is issuing stapled visas to the residents of this part of the country. The Chinese Premier himself initiated discussion on this issue at the delegation level talks but instead of resolving it he said that it should be further discussed at official-level talks in the near future.
Comparatively, India has not taken any perceptible measures which suggest that it does not recognize Tibet as an integral part of China or Taiwan as a separate country. China’s favourite assertion of One-China Policy did not figure in the joint communiqué as it did not categorically agree to Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India.
India’s northern border is being disputed by China and some Indian areas are under its occupation. Jiabao’s visit did not resolve the boundary issue. He said “China-India boundary issue is a historical one. It is not easy to completely resolve the issue. It requires patience and sincerity to resolve it.” He suggested further talks Jiabao, however, described India-China border as peaceful which has not witnessed much of exchange of fire. But China’s intention is to keep India on tenterhooks by engaging itself not only on the areas bordering China but also that bordering Pakistan. China is still rigid in its claims over Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Ladhak which are integral parts of India.
The joint communiqué welcomed the opening of the telephonic hotline between the Indian Prime Minister and the Chinese Premier and agreed on regular consultations between the two leaders on issues of importance. It agreed to set p a mechanism for regular exchange of visits between the heads of state and government and foreign ministers of both the countries, but fell short of suggesting Annual Summits. China not agreeing to Annual Summits between the two countries shows lack of cordiality in relationship.
The joint communiqué signed by India and China on the visit of the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao did not categorically denounce the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai, but made a general statement for jointly fighting terrorism in all its manifestations. At the delegation level talks, Indian side raised concerns over the Pakistan soil being used for terror attacks against India. The joint communiqué, however, recognized the need to implement all relevant UN resolutions, in particular UNSC resolutions 1267, 1373, 1540 and 1624. The UNSC resolution 1267 calls for banning few terrorist organizations active against India.
Jiabao is on his way to visit Pakistan. It would be interesting to know what he says there.With a view to make its presence felt in East Asia, India enunciated its Look East Policy in 1992. China is already ahead in exploiting the economic wealth and political strategy in the region. India is connected to the South-East Asian region by its membership of BIMSTEC group where it has roped in its immediate neighbour, Myanmar – a country which did not have many sweet relations with India in the immediate past.
India holds annual summit meetings with the 10-member ASEAN group. ASEAN group has six partners namely China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. The presence of other countries as partners balances China’s influence in South-East Asia. There are already some countries in the ASEAN region which are resistant to Chinese influence,
India-ASEAN FTA in goods has been operationalised since January 1, 2010 and a similar agreement on services and an investment agreement are on the cards. India is a member of East Asia Summit (EAS). The US and Russia are the Guests of Honour in EAS with their formal entry at the summit level scheduled in 2011. The presence of US and Russia would balance Chinese influence.
It was in the 5th East Asian Summit in Hanoi in October 30, this year that the Chinese Premier made an offer to visit India in December 2010 and subsequently his visit was scheduled.
Under ARF India has contributed to discussions on maritime security in the region. Indian Defence Minister, AK Anthony represented India in the first ADMM-Plus meeting held in Hanoi in October 12-13, 2010. India as a founding member of the Indian Ocean Rim – Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) is trying to fortify its maritime security in the region. IOR-ARC has 18 member countries spanning three continents and three oceans. Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) initiative launched by Indian Navy has provided a forward looking framework for constructive engagement among navies in the region.
There are geo-political axis where China and India meet like Brazil-Russia-India-China group called BRIC. The upcoming BRIC summit is likely to be hosted by China next year. Another is Russia-India-China group called RIC which meet at the level of foreign ministers. The BRIC and RIC have direct bearing in the Asian region. The words of the joint communiqué –“There is enough space in the world for development of both India and China and indeed enough areas for India and China to cooperate.” – need careful analysis. In realty it is much of rivalry and less of cooperation and as the areas of convergence is limited the cooperation is on select areas of mutual interests.
China is in the BASIC group of countries including Brazil, South Africa, India putting up similar agenda for negotiations on climate talks. China and G-77 have also supported similar agenda on climate talks. Recently the negotiators at Cancun agreed to set up a $100 billion fund to help developing world to combat climate change. But no agreement could be reached on further emission cuts and to extend the lifetime of the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012. In such a situation the death of Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding instrument that imposes emission cuts on developed countries, will be most unfortunate for the world.
With the emission levels rapidly rising in China, it would in the near future, be reluctant to call for stringent emission cuts.
China and India along with the developing and least developed countries are jointly striving to achieve a level playing field in global trade through appropriate negotiations in the WTO. China and India are members of the G-20 set up aftermath of the global financial crisis. But China faces criticism in G-20 for the competitive devaluation of its currency.
During the current visit of Premier Wen Jiabao, six MoUs were signed between the two countries on cooperation in cultural exchange, green technology, media exchange, sharing of data on water bodies and hydrology and banking. India and China agreed to grant permission to the banks of the other country to open branches and representative offices. Already 10 Indian banks are operating in China at various stages.
It was agreed for encouraging exchanges between civil society organizations, youth, students, media, scholars, think tanks, artists and cultural personalities. It was decided to introduce Mandarin as aforeign language in the curriculum of schools in India from the next academic year beginning April 2011. This set of agreements, if properly implemented, can definitely help us to understand China in a better way.
Another issue of concern is the management of trans-border rivers. Many of the rivers nourishing the plains of northern India and also areas in north-east India arise in the highlands of the Tibetan Autonomous Region and are a source of livelihood and sustenance for millions of our people. There are reports of China damming trans-border rivers like Bhramaputra. In the joint communiqué, though there was a agreement on sharing of data relating to hydrology and trans-border water bodies, there was no categorical assurance from China that its project on river Brahmaputra would not affect India’s interests.
India and China agreed to raise the level of the bilateral trade between them to $100 billion by 2015. In the current year it is likely to exceed $60 billion. But the concern is the growing trade deficit for India. The Chinese side has agreed to address this concern by promoting imports of pharmaceuticals, IT, engineering goods and agri products from India. India has invited Chinese companies to invest in infrastructure and manufacturing sectors. India has appreciated $ one million Chinese contribution for Nalanda University. India-China relationship is complex. Time alone will decide the future of this relationship.