Who is more powerful, a dragon or an elephant? They are powerful in their own ways. Dragon has managed to achieve the status of a global economy. Hope the elephant is not sleeping yet or just dancing. The Sino-Indian bilateral ties have been expanding but also experiencing new constraints. The world is watching the dawn of the new beginning between them as well rivalry.
In September last, President Xi Jinping visited India and commenced his visit from the native town of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad. Now, when Modi reciprocated on 14-16 May, he also started his visit from President Xi’s ancestral home province of Shaanxi from where the ancient Silk Road used to begin. This was symbolic in deepening bilateral pleasantries and depicted a positive narrative of both countries’ relations.
They agreed to resolve their border disputes. A peaceful cooperation between the two giants is essential to bring stability in Asia. China objects the 1914 border agreement signed by the British authorities in India with Tibet by establishing a de-facto boundary. China has claims over Zangnan, which is part of the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh. Both countries share a common border of over 3500 km. The Tibetan issue in 1959 and the 1963 border clash deteriorated relations between the two countries.
It is in Pakistan’s interests that stabilization should come into China-India relations. When President Xi visited Pakistan in April, he addressed the Joint Session of the Parliament where he spoke in length about regional integration in South Asia. We need to learn carefully his statement improving ties with India.
The Indian economy has been catching up. India is the third largest economy of over US$ 2 trillion after Japan in Asia. A partnership between them is essential to build a truly an Asian century. The adverse relationship needs to improve between them. Pakistan should be confident about how China is reaching India or even India is reaching China. Our relations with China are out of any doubt and mistrust.
Similarly, India should understand the reality of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. If India has not resolved the issue of Kashmir with Pakistan in the past 67 years, Pakistan can no longer wait to defer its development to bring prosperity to the most poverty ridden areas of Gilgit-Baltisan.
Without waiting for Indian consent, Pakistan and China demarcated their boundary, part of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir, in March 1963. This was a major tactical breakthrough in the Sino-Pakistani relations and a robust growth witnessed after that. The Sino-Pakistani agreement has been linked to the final resolution of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India and after the resolution, China would negotiate with the sovereign State of Kashmir, Pakistan, or India whatsoever.
China signed a business deal worth US$ 22 billion with India during Modi visit to China. When President Xi Jinping visited India last September, a deal of US$ 20 billion was brokered. Within a short span of time of eight months, a total of US$ 44 billion from China into India is meaningful.
The Chinese economy has global reach. China has been investing worldwide. In Brazil, China has been investing US$ 53 billion. USA is also an important destination of Chinese investment. In Pakistan, it is worth US$ 46 billion to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Slightly lesser than this capital, China has been investing in India. Therefore, CPEC should also been seen against this perspective of China’s global economic reach.
Similarly, under China’s maritime Silk route strategy under the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative, China has been building ports in South Asia. China has completed the Gwadar Port, Chittagong Port, Hambantota Port, four ports in Myanmar, and is now building a port in the Indian State of Gujarat. The building of these ports is not for strategic and naval reasons. They are purely for commercial reasons.
China-India bilateral trade has exceeded US$ 70 billion. Addressing CEOs at the India-China Business Forum in Shanghai, Modi asked the Chinese businessmen to fully explore the vast opportunities and potentials available in India. Historically, both China and India were prosperous economies in the world. It was the brutal colonization that had shrunken their share in the global economic production.
We can hope that Modi’s trip to Mongolia, part of India ‘East Act Policy’ will not upset his country’s growing ties with China. India should refrain from exerting pressure on China and encircling it from Mongolia, South Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. President Xi did not use his trip to Sri Lanka and Maldives for balancing China’s ties with India. Asia witnessed so many great games since ancient and colonial times. It is time to reconnect Asia, overcome its poverty, build new roads of confidence and trust.
Altogether Modi’s China policy is confused, his biggest problem is China. He is confused between ‘cooperating’ and ‘opposing’ China. His balancing approach is not coming up. It is not yet clear if China and India are friends or foes. China has been pursuing a visionary and pragmatic approach in its relations with India. Modi needs to come out of his Hindutva philosophy of harassing its neighbors and using the Tibetan issue as leverage over China.
Moreover, Kashmir is an important factor in Pakistan-China relations. If India wants to improve its fences with China, it needs to prevent from bullying Pakistan to create an atmosphere of cordiality. China does not want India to object the building of the CPEC in the areas of Kashmir under Pakistan’s control. There is a provisional border agreement between Pakistan and China, which also meant that China endorsed Pakistan’s position on Kashmir until the final settlement of the disputed area.
Before Modi’s visit to China, Beijing conveyed the same to India as it first conveyed the same to China. This is China’s absolute conviction in its relations with Pakistan. Similarly, China is over-conscious of its border dispute with India over Arunachal Pradesh. Global Times wrote ‘no matter how much cooperation they can establish, border disputes will offset all progresses’. India needs to develop a rational approach in amicably resolving border disputes both with China and Pakistan.
The writer is a Senior Research Fellow at
the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He writes on East Asian affairs.