Oct 08, 2019, 03.03 PM
Mahabalipuram, a historically important place during the Pallava Empire, is all set to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping on October 11 for his second informal meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The two leaders had held the first informal summit in Wuhan last year, which significantly helped normalise the turbulent bilateral relationship in the aftermath of the 73-day Doklam crisis. President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and his administration’s decision to increase tariffs on Indian goods, has also generated the prospect of improvement in relations between New Delhi and Beijing.
This became evident when China agreed to address India’s concern about the increasing bilateral trade deficit, deciding to take measures to increase import of rice and sugar and accelerate the process of review and approvals of Indian pharmaceuticals and agricultural goods.
However, China’s promise in this regard proved only rhetoric, with the trade deficit having touched US$ 57.86 billion in 2018. Moreover, India’s exports to China declined by 1.62 per cent to reach $7.70 billion in the first six months of 2019. While economic and trade issues have been a major bone of contention between the two sides, recent developments have added to the rising tensions. India’s decision to abrogate Article 370 and divide the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir into two union territories: Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, has not gone down too well with the big dragon.
China’s position on the Kashmir issue is clear and consistent, a Chinese government spokesperson said, adding that it is a legacy of history between India and Pakistan, which it says is also the consensus of the international community. China also expressed its opposition to India’s move to create a separate Union Territory of Ladakh, saying that there are areas of dispute between the two nations which, according to Beijing, affects China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Beijing even went to the extent of raising this issue at the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations, miserably failing to garner any favourable response of the world community.
While India strongly responded to China’s attempt to interfere in its internal matter, the global community became sharply aware of how strongly China was trying to protect Pakistan, a breeding ground for terrorists.
In August, the armed forces of China and Pakistan held the Shaheen-VIII air force joint exercise. And, just before Jinping’s India visit, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will be in China to boost bilateral strategic ties.
China’s expanding presence in South Asian countries also has serious ramifications for India’s security. This is why over the last five years, the Modi government has taken all possible efforts to improve ties with its neighbours.
The recent opening of the oil pipeline between India and Nepal will have a profound impact on cementing relations between the two friendly countries.
Another stumbling block between India and China is the long-standing border dispute. While both the countries have reaffirmed their commitment to resolve this problem through peaceful means, China’s assertive posturing against India along the border in the recent times has underscored their real intent.
While Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India, Beijing - referring to it as South Tibet - puts its claim over the state. In turn, when the Indian armed forces have just concluded “Him Vijay” – the biggest ever mountain combat exercise, China has objected to such exercises, putting a big question mark over the outcome of the upcoming meeting between Modi and Xi.
The expanding ties between India and the US and Modi’s government’s decision to endorse the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy have also created an impression in China about India becoming part of a larger US containment policy towards it.
While it is logical for India and China to compete with each other, as the two aspire to play a pivotal role in shaping the geo-strategic direction of Asia, it must be backed by peace, security, development and prosperity. One can only hope that during his upcoming visit, President Xi will make some concrete announcements to boost bilateral ties between the two nations.