Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

India-China relations: China Inconsistent in its words and actions


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: India- china strained relations



  • India-China relations have been under enormous strain in recent years. The Indian foreign minister, S. Jaishankar, on many occasions has stated that India-China relations are going through an extremely difficult phase. For the two to return to normalcy in the relationship, he added that it will depend on three mutuals: mutual sensitivity, mutual respect and mutual interest.

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Chinese foreign minister statement

  • Statement by Wang Yi: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that China is ready to work with India in improving bilateral ties.
  • Statement said China will work with India for steady China-India growth: Speaking at a symposium on the international situation and China’s foreign relations in 2022, Wang reportedly said that both countries “have maintained communication through the diplomatic and military-to-military channels, and both countries are committed to upholding stability in the border areas. We stand ready to work with India in the direction toward steady and sound growth of China-India relations.
  • Statement against the backdrop of Tawang clash: The Chinese foreign minister’s statement comes against the backdrop of the December 9 clash near Tawang in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, where soldiers on both sides sustained minor injuries.

Strained relationship between India-China

  • No sign of taking a back step: Even though the two sides managed to bring the Tawang situation under control, the reality is that the number of forces on deployment on either side of the border after the Galwan clash two years back shows no sign of being pulled back, a stark reminder of the far-from-normal state of relations between India and China.
  • Despite of commander level talks, no fruitful negotiation on disengagement: Despite 17 rounds of military talks at the army commander level, the two sides have not been able to resolve their differences and accomplish a complete disengagement of their military forces.
  • Statement by India: Following the 17th session of military talks last week, the Indian Ministry of Defense issued a statement that blandly stated that both sides will maintain the security and stability on the ground in the Western Sector and that they agreed to stay in close contact and maintain dialogue through military and diplomatic channels and work out a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest.


Is there any positive change in Chinese strategic thinking?

  • Chinese foreign policy is just the same: It is unclear if Wang’s comment on India-China relations reflects any fundamental change in China’s foreign policy. Clearly, there has been no general softening of China’s attitude.
  • Speech was a part of diplomacy: The minister’s statement on India was part of a long speech taking stock of China’s diplomacy and foreign relations in 2022.
  • Particular focus on United states: In the statement, there was a particular focus on the troubled nature of its ties with the United States, calling out Washington’s erroneous China policy. Wang went on to say that it was U.S. stubbornness in seeing China as its peer competitor and Washington’s “blatant blockade, suppression and provocation against China” that has put the relationship in “serious difficulties.
  • Concerned about Taiwan: The minister noted Taiwan is a red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations. He also made note of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan to which the minister said that China has taken firm and resolute measures, which have strongly deterred anti-China elements in the United States and the Taiwan independence forces.
  • Indirect reference to QUAD: The Quad, which comprises the U.S., Japan, India and Australia, also found an indirect mention in Wang’s speech. He stated that China is opposed to “bloc confrontation and zero-sum competition.
  • Aggressive with each of India’s security partner: Each of India’s new security partners among the Quad countries has been subjected to China’s aggressive behavior in military, political and economic terms, which has brought a new depth of strategic purpose to the Quad.


Way ahead

  • India’s relationship with China has been teetering from bad to worse over the last 32 months since the standoff in Ladakh began, and it seems unlikely to improve unless Beijing’s calculus vis a vis India and the region undergoes a drastic change.
  • On the current status of the ties Indian foreign minister, S. Jaishankar, remarked that “the state of the border will determine the state of the relationship.”
  • While Delhi’s G20 leadership may bring opportunities for engagement with Beijing, what is required first is a clear vision and a grand strategy to deal with the China challenge, instead of reacting to each crisis as it emerges


  • Inconsistencies, both in China’s words and also between words and actions, will likely reduce the willingness of other countries, including India, to take seriously China’s statements about wanting a reset of ties.

Mains question

Q. India-China relations, though occasionally showing signs of peace and cooperation, have often been afflicted by tension and mistrust. China is inconsistent in words and actions. Discuss.

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