By Krati Gupta
Edited by Namitha Sadanand, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
The initiation of Sino-Indian relations, dates back to around 2000 years. Cultural and traditional exchanges through the Silk Route, and later, the spread of Buddhism from China to East Asia through this route was the prehistoric nature of transactions. But since then, the two most populous and fastest growing economies of the world have been in an ‘on and off’ relation due to a variety of strategic and geographical differences, which kept on springing up over the course of time.
With Arunachal Pradesh serving as a bone of contention between the two countries, the 1962 war was fought. China claims that 90,000 sq km of its own land is occupied by India in Arunachal Pradesh, while India slammed the accusations by proclaiming that China has grabbed 38,000 km of its territory in Jammu and Kashmir. Also, China solidly assisted and provided backing to Pakistan during the Indo-Pak war in 1965, which led to further deterioration of bilateral ties in 1960’s and much of the start of 1970’s. One cannot forget that China supplied military nuclear weapons to Pakistan against India and till date continues to be the biggest arms exporter to Pakistan.
Soon after the Congress under Indira Gandhi lost the elections in 1977, the Morarji Desai led Janta party extended an olive branch by formulating the ‘Look east’ policy, aimed at strengthening ties with its eastern neighbours, including China and ensuring mutual co-operation and friendship. But not much good has been done in this regard, since the former UPA rule.
A ray of hope comes with BJP gaining power. The Prime Minister Modi’s penchant for China’s model of economic development is well known and clearly depicted by his four-time visit to China, during his tenure as Gujarat’s Chief Minister. China has also reciprocated the goodwill, with its premier Li Keqiang, being one of the first foreign leaders to congratulate Modi on his swearing in through a telephonic conversation. Foreign minister Wang Yi’s recent visit to New Delhi, also serves as icing on the cake. The bilateral talks seems to be amicable with Yi’s later statements that both the countries are “natural partners” and “China-India cooperation is like a massive buried treasure waiting to be discovered”. All this comes in the backdrop of Chinas strained relations with its neighbours: Japan, Vietnam and Philippines. It is clear that China wants to project a friendly image by resuscitating its relations with India. But the question is, should we shake the extended hand and take an impromptu decision or is there still scope to smell the rat?
Well, a decision of such significance and influence needs to be analysed profoundly. The latest Russia-China 400 billion-dollar natural gas deal, is a win-win for both the nations. According to the deal, China acquires unremitting natural gas supply for 30 years and Russia gets to reduce its dependency on European markets. This also evidently marks that Russia will take China’s stand as far as China-Japan territorial disputes are concerned. In the wake of this, it’s important for India to convince Japan that its ties with China aren’t anti-Japanese in disposition. We have had excellent relations with Japan and taking a step towards China shouldn’t, in any case, lead to hampering older camaraderie. An interesting fact as quoted by Indian daily DNA, also depicts the amity, ” Japanese PM Shinzo Abe follows only three people on Twitter, one of whom being our own PM”.
There is no anonymity regarding China’s fluctuating nature and its tendency of encirclement, proof of which is the 1962 war. Also, China has always been keen on enhancing its geographical dominance over the south-Asian region. Agreed, that China is the biggest trade partner of India and Wang Yi’s visit conjectured that bilateral trade will soon achieve a new high of 100 million dollars, but with India already suffering a trade deficit of $31 million, it is vital that every step that the government takes in this regard should be cautious and well planned. For a long time now, China has cleverly restricted imports from India, while itself buying raw materials from India at cheaper rates and selling unrestricted quantities of manufactured goods to Indian consumers at higher prices. It’s high time that we stop letting China pull wool over our eyes.
The good point still is that the ball is in our court, we can decide how to act on this. It’s obvious that pleasant socio-economic relations with the world’s second largest economy will only strengthen India and its economy. But amidst all this, India should not forget its stand on border dispute and better trade policies; efforts must be made from both sides and a meaningful solution must be reached. We can welcome China by providing faster land clearances, skilled labour and better economic policies which will enhance confidence in business and promote stronger bilateral ties; but simultaneously the defence side needs to be made stronger. We need to proceed with caution and project an image of strength in front of our gigantic neighbour. The recent step by the Indian government to accept the proposal of adding 54 ITBP (Indo Tibetan border force) outposts along the China border shows this mindset. After all, safety comes first.
Krati is currently a pre final year, Chemical engineering from Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad. She loves watching movies and posing for pictures. Apart from juggling between the concepts of thermodynamics and heat transfer during college hours, she is a greenhorn at writing and is highly optimistic about exploring the vast horizon in this field . She believes penning down her thoughts will make at least a small difference to the world.