Upsurge in China-India Ties and Pakistan
Col (R) Muhammad Hanif
Since last few years both China and India are trying to upgrade their economic and defence relations. In 2013 Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed a five point formula to improve bilateral relations. The two countries have strategic and economic dialogue in place. Both have restarted the stalled defence dialogue in 2013 and are expected to resume joint military exercises shortly. China and India also have specialized dialogues on Afghanistan, Central Asia and counter-terrorism. In 2013 Premier Li chose India as his first overseas stop. During his that visit to India in May 3013, he emphasized on the need to build trust and laid stress on economic benefits of greater ties. China-India economic relations have already grown with their bilateral trade going up from US $ 3 billion in 2000 to US $ 66 billion in 2012.
With Narendra Modi coming into power in India as the Prime Minister, China and India are taking initiatives for achieving substantive improvement in their bilateral relations. In June 2014, Chinese foreign Minister, Mr. wang Yi visited India as a special envoy of Chinese President. During his two days visit, Mr. Wang met Prime Minister Modi, called on Indian President, and held discussions with the Indian External Affairs Minister. According to the Times of India dated June 10, 2014, China said that foreign minister Wang Yi’s concluded visit to India was of “great significance” and sent out a message that Chinese leaders pay high attention to bilateral ties and their mutual interests far outweigh disputes. “From this visit, we know that China-India relations are now in a new age of gearing up,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. “Indian leaders also responded positively,” Hua said, pointing to the statement of Modi who said that Wang brought important messages from President Xi Jinping.
Modi’s coming to power has brought very positive responses from China’s leadership. Chinese are well conversant with Modi since as Chief Minister of Gujrat he had attracted China’s investment for infrastructure projects of the state. While the Chinese foreign office has indicated Beijing’s willingness to work closely with the Modi government, a Chinese government think tank has called Modi as India’s Nixon who would expand bilateral ties with China in a large way by amicably resolving border dispute to jumpstart an Asian revolution. It is also being said by India’s strategic community that fast tracking India’s relations with China is certainly a big idea for Modi to work on. According to India’s Economic Times, out of India’s five year plan up to 2017 of investing US $ 1 trillion in its infrastructure projects, China has offered to share 30 percent of investment equal to US $ 300 billion in those projects. In this context, during his visit to India in June 2014, China’s Foreign Minister also talked more about China’s participation in India’s economic development. Chinese President also met Modi on side lines of BRICS summit and invited him for the upcoming APEC summit (for the first time) and also invited him to visit China. China-India relations are also warming up due to their close cooperation at BRICS forum where, in the latest summit, all five member states have created BRICS Bank.
China and India are enthusiastic to improve their relations to advance their national interests. While their common interests include peace in Afghanistan, Central Asia and South Asia in post US withdrawal scenario to protect their investments in Afghanistan, both countries also want peace on their borders to focus on their economic development and to reap benefits of trade and investments in their huge consumer markets. Both countries also want to cooperate in multilateral forums. Moreover while India wants to use China’s influence on Pakistan to its benefit, China wishes to limit India’s expanding relationship with the US and Japan. Although both countries want to advance their relations, next few years will be important to gauge whether they can make major compromises to address their bilateral irritants. And, above all if India can really exercise so called strategic autonomy to get too close to China in view of the incentives provided by its strategic relations with the US.
However, in the light of the recent diplomatic warmth seen between China and India and in view of the long enduring strong strategic partnership between Pakistan and China, which China would certainly like to further strengthen, the scholars’ community in Pakistan is of the view that advancement of China-India relations may also be beneficial for Pakistan, provided it does not undermine Pakistan-China relations. With its good relations with India, China can help in influencing that country for resolution of Kashmir and other disputes with Pakistan. Moreover China-Pakistan-India cooperation on Afghanistan can greatly help in bringing peace in that country and influencing India to end its interference in destabilizing western parts of Pakistan from Afghanistan. By mutual economic cooperation all three countries can gain by increasing trade and investments, although Pakistan would desire that if China intends to invest in India on a large scale to the tune of US $ 60 billion per year in next five years, it may also invest at least US $ 10 billion per year in Pakistan. In this context China may also like to complete construction of economic corridor from Kashgar to Gwadar in next five years. But, with all these likely advantages, in the near future, in view of its strategic interests related to India, if China gets compelled to support India’s candidature for permanent membership of UNSC and NSG, without Pakistan getting into NSG and before resolution of Kashmir and other disputes with India, it would be a very bad development for Pakistan since it would amount to allowing India to attain full dominance over Pakistan in the region and at world stage. While it will weaken Pakistan’s defence by eroding strategic balance in South Asia, Pakistan will also be in no position to negotiate resolution of its disputes with India at bilateral level, although Pakistan’s very strong friendship with China suggests that such a scenario will not emerge. It however seems appropriate to suggest that Pakistan should remain in constant contact with China on the subject.
Carried by: The Pakistan Observer, July 28, 2014.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer, and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.