Thursday, March 31

Managing and Engaging Rising China: India's Evolving Posture

A good long article on the latest phase of Indo China engagement. I quote bits of the intro and conclusion:

India's relations with China are uneasy in the best of times, but over the past few years the spectrum of differences between the world's two largest countries has steadily widened, with the relationship becoming more complex as a result. The Chinese ambassador in New Delhi acknowledged this state of affairs during an interview just before Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited India in December 2010 for damage control, characterizing relations as being in a “fragile” state that needed care.1 Little visible progress, however, has been made in resolving a series of issues which have become politically unpredictable and made India's diplomatic relations with China tenuous. Thus, Wen's statement during the visit that “we are partners not competitors,”2 made said more in the spirit of hope than describing the current reality. There has indeed been some cooperation in economic ties and in areas of global significance such as climate change. But the list of issues pending resolution which bedevil the relationship has been growing. The constructive partnership envisaged in 2005, when the two countries announced the India-China Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity,3 remains unfulfilled and has proven difficult to attain.

India's relationship with China is at a crossroads. It can go in several directions depending on how the two deal with each other's concerns and their ability to reach a reasonable settlement on some of the core sovereignty and security issues. Both need a stable, sensitive, and reasonably cooperative relationship as their status and power in the world changes. The rest of Asia also wants to see peace and stability maintained in this major relationship of the 21st century, even as the two states compete in trade and diplomacy. The world's interest lies in the simultaneous growth of India and China, from which it can reap vast gains. China, in particular, needs to come to terms with the constraints on its diplomacy being imposed by its nationalist territorial discourse, irredentism, and a preponderant realpolitik approach, especially in its diplomacy toward India. It needs to work to untangle the complexities that have emerged over the past five years, while helping to forge a stronger understanding of the interests which link the two countries.

For the past two decades, India has invested in expanding its ties with China with the hope that, in the process, long-term disputes will give way to a mature and mutually beneficial relationship. India's recent emphasis on reciprocity and mutual interest in its China relations and its growing sensitivity to China's assertiveness indicate that it must also prepare for an alternative scenario in which constructive engagement may not work in managing a rising and assertive China.

Constructive engagement may not work in managing a rising and assertive China.

The power of Asia's two largest countries is undergoing gradual but fundamental change. Without a strong structure of cooperation and understanding in place, unsettled disputes between China and India could get out of hand and seriously destabilize Asia. The emerging Asia faces many opportunities for peaceful development. The uncertainties are not as acute and unpredictable as the uncertainties and conflicts Europe faced when it was rising through the 19th and 20th centuries. The gains from growing cross-border trade and investment, the industrial and market networks across the region, and the involvement of international and regional companies in widening regional networks act as brakes against war. Nonetheless, the challenges to peace and stability are serious enough and need to be addressed by the two states in a constructive manner if they are not to repeat the mistakes of the European powers.

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