Indo-China Relationship: Change of Mindset Needed

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Muscat, Oman – During the recent visit of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping to India, many things were said about Sino-Indian relationship. Some commented “Elephant and Dragon are together to dominate the world”, while some reminded not to trust and to look at history to understand dubious intention. Some media highlighted “Trust Deficit”, “Trade Deficit” in Sino-Indian relationship and questioned “Can India rely upon China”?

The critics, as usual, questioned the move inviting the Chinese president to Ahmedabad first instead of regular guard of honour in Delhi. Some smelled hidden agenda. Through his self style and unperturbed manner, Modi silenced his critics. Elaborate, gorgeous, informal arrangements were made to showcase cultural heritage, developments and great hospitality the Indians are known for. No doubt, the attempt was to create inter personal relationship stronger before the meeting for hard talks in the Capital next day. Both the Chinese president and China’s first lady will surely cherish the memory of such warm and informal reception for long time.

Joint statement after the meeting proves that Modi did not forget to thrust upon that friendship and business cannot be achieved without resolving the sensitive border issue and stopping regular incursions. The Chinese president also did not ignore the importance of such issue and commented “it would soon be a history”.

It may be said that such promise from China is not the first time. Incursions are occurring regularly, rather increasing. There is no clear cut demarcation along the vast border areas between two countries. The present LAC is based on “line drawn on the map” in 1913. Obviously there are confusions, claims and counter claims from both sides. Keeping the matter pending by the British rulers including Tibet issue and then soft stand by our politicians soon after independence caused loss of opportunity to resolve border issue with China when they were comparatively weaker. Had Tibet been independent country or part of India, our border issues would have been much more tension free. Many believe those acts as policy blunders.

The presence of military troops in Indian territory which created direct face-off, cannot be seen without knowledge and intention from higher authorities of China, particularly when the two leaders are engaged in meeting on mutual cooperation in Delhi. In spite of all such regular incursions, both sides maintained restrain so far and no bitter incidents have taken place so far in recent years. This time also India responded by strengthening troops against presence of Chinese Army in Ladak region. It may be argued that China wanted to gauge the determination of the present leadership. China is known for their shrewd geo-political tactics, so it cannot be ruled out.

Empowered by huge economic strength, China is showing muscles and trying to play a dominant role with its neighbors and other Asian countries. The question is, should India stop efforts to strengthen mutual business cooperation, close the door of partnership and friendship? Many opine enough attempts were made but the question remains, how consistent were our previous endeavors? The problems is, the people of South-Asian countries emphasis too much on past history but people of south-east Asia and far-east countries set aside past history more easily, to give priority to business interests, cooperation –in spite of the fact that “Nationalism” is very strong in each of those countries. So our diplomatic efforts must go on.

Large manufacturing base, higher productivity made China more advantageous over India. So when we cite trade imbalance, competitive advantage of China cannot be ignored. It may be better strategy to invite Chinese Manufacturers in India which will create local job opportunities rather than allowing imports under pressure. China is reaching its peak in manufacturing but weak in service sector where India is strong. We should bargain for more Indian service sector companies to be allowed in China, increase our manufacturing base through their anufacturers. Investment plan of USD 20 billion by China may be the positive first step towards that direction. The trade deficit between India and China has increased and it is not in India’s favour at present. But one should not ignore that China has already made investment in India, particularly in Gujarat and there are more than 160 Indian Companies in China. Allowing more and making rules more operation friendly in China will be helpful.

Suspicion and mistrust notwithstanding the relationship must go on, both countries must move forward. We desperately need to change our mind set and say India and China are friends and not foes. We need to really relook at Indo-China relationship and try to win mutual trust, strengthen cooperation. It is only through that attempt, both countries will be able to reap the benefits to play combined role as strong player in the global market.

Mousumi Roy
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Mousumi Roy has a Masters (MA - Political Science) from Calcutta University and is a visiting professor of International Relations in Muscat, Oman

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