[Op-ed Snap] Sovereignty And A Road

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BRI

Mains level : Wuhan summit alone will not fasten India-China Relationship. Other Stepa are required.


Background

India has, once again, decided to not participate in China’s second Belt and Road Forum (BRF) due on April 25, which is likely to be attended by around 40 heads of government.

Situation after Wuhan Summit

  • The admiration of India’s attempt to engage China through the Modi-Xi Wuhan informal meeting has faded away in recent months
  • For instance, for the fourth time in a row, China blocked India’s bid to designate the Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist at the UNSC, the CPEC is going on regardless of India’s stern objections vis-à-vis PoK, and the balance of trade is still hugely in China’s favour.

Loopholes in criticism

  1. High Expectations –
  • First, thanks to the overpublicising of the Modi-Xi meeting, the expectation bar was set to an unrealistically high level.
  • The Wuhan meeting was not about resetting India-China relations. It was an initiative to engage each other in a constructive dialogue.
  • Wuhan and subsequent steps were intended to only manage the differences and prevent relations from getting derailed.
  • The popular perception in the Indian media that because of Wuhan, China would not go ahead with the CPEC or support India on Masood Azhar and the belief in the Chinese media that it would lead India to join the BRI, are misinformed at best.

2. Not a stand-alone dialogue –Second, Wuhan was not a stand-alone dialogue, it was deeply embedded with the Doklam standoff. For the two countries, facing an eyeball-to-eyeball situation in Doklam, Wuhan came as an opportunity to re-start the dialogue.

India’s response to BRI

  • India’s response to the BRF is not linked with the Wuhan spirit.
  • Territorial Concerns – It is deeply rooted in its territorial sovereignty concerns vis-à-vis China and Pakistan. The Chinese investments in Pakistan are complicating the matter with each passing day. India’s main concern remains the much-controversial CPEC that passes through the PoK.

Current Relationship

  • It is clear that China has been selective in addressing India’s concerns, and India too has adopted a similar approach.
  • China is mindful of the fact that without India’s participation, BRI will remain an incomplete project at best.
  • That is perhaps why China is keen to have another Wuhan-like dialogue. We do need more such meetings but only to facilitate the negotiation processes.

Way Forward

  • Pragmatic Approach- Considering the asymmetry in its relationship with China, India needs to continue its pragmatic and balanced policy of engaging China through dialogues while actively looking for ways to deal with the possible scenarios.
  • The institutionalisation of regional groups –The quest to institutionalise the Quad and Indo-Pacific seems to be turning into reality with the restructuring of the MEA’s ASEAN Multilateral Division and the Indian Ocean Region Division into the Indo-Pacific Division.
  • Trilateral Dialogues – Trilateral dialogues and search for avenues to normalise and improve regular healthy conversations with China are the best way forward.
  • Balance of relationships – Self-doubt over peace initiatives or hesitation in moving forward on the Quad are detrimental to India’s interests. One should not happen at the cost of the other. A careful balancing of both tracks will contribute to India’s stronger positioning in the region.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-China
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