The meeting between State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in New Delhi on Friday is seen as a rare opportunity for the two sides to get bilateral relations back on track.
Since the Donglang (Doklam) standoff in 2017, which undermined the mutual trust between China and India that had been built up through bilateral interactions since 1998, and the Galwan Valley clash in 2020, which has ruined the political consensus between the two countries, China and India relations are at a three-decade low.
The meeting of foreign ministers from the Quad (a loose strategic grouping of the United States, India, Japan and Australia) on February 11 heightened concerns over ‘unilateral attempts to change the status quo’ in the Asia-Pacific region. And on Feb. 15, India again banned 54 Chinese apps, including those from Tencent and Alibaba, indicating that relations between India and China were difficult to repair.
The main reason for this lies in India’s belief that it is facing a “time of strategic opportunity” due to Sino-US strategic competition. In reality, New Delhi made the wrong assumption, at least economically. For example, in 2021, Sino-Indian trade exceeded $125 billion, up 43.3% year-on-year, with India’s exports increasing by 34.9% and imports by 46.1%, which shows that China-India economic cooperation is beneficial to both sides and the Indian government’s efforts to “de-sinicize” the country’s economy have failed.
At a time when the Sino-Indian border talks have yet to make substantial progress and the United States continues to advance its Indo-Pacific strategy, can the growing Sino-Indian trade help reset the bilateral relations?
At the Munich Security Conference on February 20, Jaishankar reiterated that “the state of the China-India border will determine the state of China-India relations.” Such conditional remarks suggest that resetting China-India relations is extremely difficult. But the one-sided approach of “strategic competition, confrontation and mutual suspicion” should not become India’s overall policy towards China.
India’s “excessively assertive diplomacy” vis-à-vis China has not brought it substantial advantages on the border issue, and due to the lack of strategic resources and the huge governance gap left by the United States in Afghanistan, the “expectation gap” between the United States and India continues to widen.
In 2022, one of the priorities of the Indian government is to ensure a healthy economic recovery. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s February 2021 report predicts that due to rising commodity prices, India’s economic recovery will face challenges in 2022 and its current account deficit will widen further to 6 .4% of GDP. Therefore, stabilizing China-India relations will help New Delhi boost the country’s economic recovery.
India has always insisted on “strategic independence” and believed in using its “smart leverage” to become a leading global power so that it can influence major global agendas. India’s insistence on “strategic independence” could also be the reason for a possible correction in China-India relations.
As neighbors whose interactions have been fundamentally frozen over the past two years, it would be very constructive for China and India to have open “face-to-face” exchanges on bilateral and regional issues of interest. mutual at a higher political level. While they won’t immediately stabilize bilateral relations, they could at least prevent ties from continuing to reach new lows at an “unexpected” rate.
Serious follow-up would be necessary to “stabilize” all the fundamentals of bilateral relations and gradually build a new framework and principles of interaction based on in-depth and lasting communication between the two countries.
In the face of unprecedented changes in the international situation, the strategic communities of China and India have ample scope to exchange views on climate change, multilateralism and global governance, economic recovery and other questions. It’s not just about analyzing everyone’s attitudes, progress and dilemmas, but more importantly trying to understand everyone’s concerns on a deeper level and taking follow-up action.
Since young people are the future of a country and communication and interaction can help them understand each other better, young people in China and India should open new communication channels in entrepreneurship, digital economy, cross-border e-commerce, study abroad. , advanced technology and other fields in the post-pandemic era to advance China-India relations.
The main factor preventing the improvement of Sino-Indian relations is the influence of protectionist Indian nationalists on the Indian government. To restructure China-India relations, India should refrain from banning Chinese-made digital devices and apps, boycotting Chinese investment and trying to ‘hunt down Chinese capital’ through multilateral policy banks , as such actions will further drive the wedge between the Indian government and the pro-China business community. In short, the Indian government needs political courage to make wise decisions, because the pressure of Indian nationalists could harm the interests of both peoples.
The author is a research associate at the National Institute of International Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Opinions do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.