Kushal Sakunia writes on how the Chinese Premiere’s visit to India could be seen as one to improve relations between the two countries.
For the first time, future shared interests are taking over the past differences in the relations between the countries on the two sides of the McMohan line. In light of the Chinese incursion in Ladakh last month, the gesture of choosing India as his first official visit by Premier Li, hint at a possible positivism in Sino-Indian relations.
Both leaders spoke of the territorial disputes, trans-border rivers, peace and stability as well as improving economic ties by looking at investment opportunities in each other’s countries. However, despite the gestures and the words, the path for Beijing & New Delhi to come closer is still long, complex and with a lot of hurdles.
When the new leadership took over in China early this year, resolving border dispute was the first point in the list of Chinese President’s five point agenda on relations with India. In the talks between the two leaders, India voiced serious concern over the recent Chinese incursion in Ladakh and communicated that in the absence of peace and tranquility along the border, bilateral ties will suffer. The boundary may remain disputed in coming years. China’s boundary dispute settlements with 12 of its 14 land neighbors show a pattern and also serve as useful indicators of what India can expect in future negotiations. In a majority of these settlements, China has insisted on demilitarization of the border areas and the urge of a “Quick Settlement” of the border dispute with India may also lead to a Chinese offer of a demilitarized zone across the LAC.
The last few years, China’s relations have deteriorated with Japan and South-east Asian countries. Relations with some ASEAN countries deteriorated in 2009 after Beijing identified the disputed South China Sea islands as a “core interest.” Previously, China had identified Tibet and Taiwan as core interests. China-Japan relations have been to new low with disputes over the Senkaku Islands and energy fields in the East China Sea. Philippines has started stapling Chinese visas and Vietnam is red-eyed over the South China Sea. With the growing presence of USA in this region, China certainly cannot afford creating another highly hostile neighbor on the south-western frontier.
Though we raised our concerns over the contentious Brahmaputra water dispute and the trade imbalance issue and not to forget that, the joint declaration did not mention support to One-China policy, India was not effective in raising concerns over growing Chinese presence in the POK and the Chinese visa policy for Kashmiris (China for the first time is taking sides by issuing stapled visas to Indian Kashmiris while normal visas to residents of POK).
With China showing positive signs, India should demand Chinese reciprocity on all strategic issues. It is in India’s immediate interest to put other strategic concerns on the negotiating table as well – starting with China’s failure to endorse India’s bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council and hugely growing Chinese military involvement in POK. The past experiences with China have not been good for India and as we come closer, we should not forget the contentious & thorny issues with the Dragon.
- China: Learning Statecraft from China (ionglobaltrends.com)
- India, China And The American Pivot: Should New Delhi Reassess Its Strategy? – Analysis (albanytribune.com)
- Kurshid flags up Kashmir ‘concerns’ as China calls for greater trade links with India (dailymail.co.uk)
- Chinese State media sees Li visit as marking a ‘new chapter’ (thehindu.com)
- Chinese premier: Peace requires India-China trust (cnsnews.com)
- “Incursion could be China’s way to bring border talks on front-burner” (thehindu.com)