[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: India and China — Rebuild the trust

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Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nuclear Suppliers Group, Doklam plateau, Panchsheel agreement, Belt and Road Initiative

Mains level: Turbulent India-China relationship and ways to bring it back on track


News

Sino-Indian relations are in a state of disrepair 

  1. 2016 was marked by China’s decision to block India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group
  2. 2017 was defined by an extended military confrontation in the Doklam plateau

Not sweeping differences under the carpet

  1. Beijing and Delhi are finally acknowledging the deeply problematic nature of the relationship
  2. This public admission of trouble is a welcome departure from the entrenched habit of sweeping differences under the carpet
  3. Also from masking problems with grandiose rhetoric on “building a new Asian century” and “promoting multipolar world”

Critical issue in bilateral relations

  1. It is the absence of mutual trust
  2. Since 2008, there has been a steady accumulation of problems — tensions on the boundary, an imbalance in trade, strategic competition in the region and the divergence on international issues
  3. These problems, in turn, deepened distrust

Turn to a new page

  1. This idea has been articulated frequently, in recent times by the Chinese ambassador to India
  2. One of his proposals is to sign a “treaty of good neighborliness and friendly cooperation”
  3. India and China have had a tradition of hoary declarations that created an illusion of mutual understanding but deepened mutual distrust
  4. The declaratory approach was of no help in addressing the real disputes over territorial sovereignty

Panchsheel of no use

  1. The Panchsheel agreement signed in 1954 was of no help in resolving the difficulties over Tibet and the boundary that emerged in the late 1950s
  2. This was despite the idea of “five principles of peaceful coexistence” that Delhi and Beijing claim to be their unique contribution to modern international relations

Focus areas

  1. First is the urgent need to distill lessons from the Doklam crisis and prevent the recurrence of another such incident
  2. One of the main lessons from Doklam is that more confidence-building measures on the border are not going to guarantee stability
  3. The context in which the CBMs were put since the 1990s has fundamentally changed
  4. The second area of focus is on President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative
  5. Unconditional bilateral discussions on the BRI make good sense
  6. Both Delhi and Beijing say they are eager to promote connectivity in their shared neighborhood

Way forward

  1. As the stronger power today, China might think it can afford to be unilateral — on the frontier as well regional economic initiatives
  2. Without a return to genuine bilateralism that takes into account the interests of both parties, Beijing will find the chasm with Delhi continue to deepen
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China
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