WATGDPI primer – India and China

WATGDPI primer India China
Primers are content builders for your GD essay writings and PI. This primer is about India and China.


For both India and the United States, China’s expanding power is the most important development in East Asia. Both partners stress engagement with China; both also see China as a major strategic challenge, requiring an unusually high degree of subtlety and sophistication in their diplomacy. Partly because neither country wants to be seen as part of an anti-China alliance or to feed Chinese concerns about “encirclement,” official contacts between India and the United States have not devoted much time to in-depth discussion of China. As a result, one of the most important areas of policy convergence is left largely unstated at the official level, and the differences between Indian and U.S. policies and perceptions are rarely explored.

Indian policy toward China has gone through several metamorphoses in the past half-century. The heyday of good feeling summarized by the Hindi slogan “Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai,” or “Indians and Chinese are brothers,” gave way to intense suspicion especially after China bested India in the 1962 war in the high Himalayas, and then to a less active posture still dominated by Indian suspicion of China’s ties with Pakistan, followed by a period of revived political and economic engagement. As China has become more powerful economically and militarily, Indians have increasingly come to look on China as the standard against which India’s own international role and international acceptance should be measured. It is a lopsided relationship: China is more important to India than the reverse. Since about 2000, India’s economic success and greater international profile have increased its importance to China without ending the asymmetry.
For many years, the most visible bilateral issue was their border dispute. In 1993, the two sides signed an agreement to reduce tensions on the border and respect the Line of Actual Control between Chinese-held and Indian-held territory in the Himalayan region. In 1996, they agreed to start serious border talks. That agreement led to a partial exchange of maps in 2000, the first in nearly 40 years, and to discussions on border management issues. The unspoken assumption behind these moves was that if there was a solution, each side would keep what it already controlled, an arrangement that would require each to give up some of its claims. Neither was in a hurry, and both were determined not to let the dispute cause serious problems. Multiple meetings have occurred, but actual border negotiations have yet to take place.

With rare exceptions, this tacit commitment to restraint has worked. The border is generally peaceful, and border trade arrangements have expanded, most recently by adding a border trade point in Sikkim. The few instances in which Chinese officials have publicly reasserted their old claims, as happened in 2006, caused consternation in India. Both countries are taking careful note of each other’s activities in the region, including China’s upgrading of infrastructure and India’s expansion of an air base and the modest increase in the size of its forces. But the border issue, despite being unresolved, is no longer the signature issue for India-China relations.
The other political bone of contention, the Dalai Lama’s presence in India, has enjoyed a similar tacit agreement not to upset the current policy balance. India formally recognized the Tibet Autonomous Region as part of China in 2003. India is still home to the Dalai Lama and his supporters, and it goes to some lengths to avoid embarrassing demonstrations during high-level Chinese visits. China is willing to live with this situation. Protests in India during the movement of the Olympic Torch toward Beijing in 2008 occasioned some unpleasantness between Beijing and New Delhi, but fundamentally, India and China agree to disagree on this issue, usually without incident.

The issues at the top of the current bilateral agenda are economics, energy, and strategic competition, including China’s ambitions in South Asia and the Indian Ocean. Both countries emphasize the positive aspects of their relationship, but in practice, these coexist with a continuing rivalry. China does not see India as an obstacle to its “peaceful rise,” though it is not eager to see India’s influence increase in the region. Indian strategic thinkers see China as an important economic relationship and a vital element in the multipolar region and world they hope for. They also see China as a potential barrier to India’s global ambitions, a view that was reinforced by China’s last-minute lobbying at the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group against the U.S.-India nuclear agreement.

On the economic side, two-way trade has grown nearly sixfold since 2002. India would like to redress the adverse structure of trade. India’s exports to China are dominated by primary products, with iron ore the dominant commodity and ores, slag, and ash composing more than half of those exports. China, by contrast, exports primarily manufactured goods. By 2002, India’s trade had slipped into deficit with China. Like the rest of the relationship, trade is asymmetrical. India accounts for less than 2 percent of China’s trade, whereas China is India’s top merchandise trade partner. But despite these shadows, the expansion of India-China economic ties practically guarantees that India will continue to look on China as a vital economic partner, and that their competitions and disagreements will be tempered by engagement.

Investment has expanded more slowly and cautiously. Indian government figures show only $4 million in investments from China between 1991 and 2008. The two countries signed a Bilateral Export Promotion Agreement in November 2006, pledging to work toward $5 billion per year in two-way investment flows. India has excluded Chinese investment from some sensitive areas, especially ports. As India’s major corporations become global, they will inevitably seek a presence in the Chinese market. The same may also be true, perhaps with a lag, of Chinese companies. If this exchange of investments materializes, it will serve as another stabilizer for India-China relations.

Expanding trade has a political dimension as well. High-level commitments to double trade in five years, like the one China’s president Hu Jintao made during his 2006 trip to Delhi, underscore both the importance of India’s economic expansion and the fact that the Chinese government, unlike its U.S. counterpart, is sufficiently involved in the economy to be able to influence directly the volume and composition of trade.

In the energy field, the two countries are mainly competitors…. Their mutual dependence on a global energy market is likely to limit the effects of their competition more than declarations of Asian solidarity or of cooperation.
China’s relations with India’s neighbors are a source of resentment and some anxiety. The biggest issue is Pakistan, which has a close relationship with China going back nearly half a century. China has long been a major military supplier to Pakistan and contributed importantly to Pakistan’s development of nuclear weapons. India sees the Chinese-funded port at Gwadar, on the Pakistani coast near the Iranian border, as a future strategic threat. Chinese policy has become more nuanced in recent years. It has shifted from explicit endorsement of Pakistan’s position on Kashmir to an even-handed stance, and in 1999, China pressed Pakistan to end its incursion into the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. But despite these signs of caution, and despite the improvements in India-China relations, China still seems to want to keep open the option to use Pakistan as a strategic check on India. China’s close relations with India’s other neighbors—Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka—look to New Delhi like a potential challenge to Indian primacy in the subcontinent.

India watches with particular unease Chinese involvement in and around the Indian Ocean. Indian strategic writers, citing Chinese journals, have noted China’s expansive naval doctrine and its aims to go beyond the current “green water” fleet to a “blue water” fleet that reaches the second island chain beyond China’s coast by 2020. The dispute over Chinese construction on Mischief Reef, in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, is regarded as a harbinger of things to come, with China biding its time and becoming more overtly aggressive when its near-term domestic objectives have been met. India sees Chinese military ties to Burma as another part of China’s “string of pearls” in the waters around India, along with China’s interest in a port on the southern coast of Sri Lanka at Hambantota. Not surprisingly, the Indian navy is more suspicious than other parts of the Indian government about Chinese maritime intentions. Naval officials recognize that China, like India, has a vital interest in protecting the Indian Ocean sea-lanes that transport much of its energy supply. But they believe that within the next decade or two, China will also have ambitions to project its power into this area, potentially impinging on India’s position.

More generally, India sees China’s military modernization efforts as the foundation of a future effort to increase China’s footprint in India’s strategic neighborhood. The areas that have been a particular focus for China’s military upgrades, strategic nuclear forces, surface-to-surface missiles, space warfare, and navy are all elements in long-range power projection, and hence strengthen New Delhi’s concerns.
U.S. interests vis-à-vis China have strong similarities to India’s. Neither the United States nor India wants to see a single power dominate Asia. Both have a substantial economic stake in China, and both want to ensure that China’s and India’s massive energy needs are met without disrupting international energy markets.
The predominant U.S. analysis of China’s military modernization is more benign than India’s, however. It starts from the premise that a significant military upgrade is a natural and inevitable consequence of China’s economic development. With some exceptions, U.S. observers do not believe that China aims at a long-term presence in the Indian Ocean in the next decade or two. They find the concerns of the Indian security establishment exaggerated.

U.S. and Indian policy responses to this major challenge have both similarities and differences. For both, engagement is the heart of their diplomatic approach. U.S. policy stresses strong relations with the other major Asian powers, Japan and more recently India. Indian policy is moving in that direction, with a growing relationship with Japan. A major U.S. goal is to have China become, as then-deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick put it, “a responsible stakeholder” in the international community.The one major element in U.S. policy that is largely absent from India’s has to do with Taiwan. For the United States, averting conflict over Taiwan is central to relations with China and to the peace of East Asia. India has largely sidestepped the Taiwan issue, although it established a nonofficial mission there in 1995. Indian trade with Taiwan is modest ($2.6 billion in 2006–2007).

India’s basic strategy for expanding its international role despite China’s head start is twofold: to tend its own power base, strengthening its military and especially its economy; and to develop a well-rounded set of relationships with the rest of Asia. Indian strategists see this as the best pathway to emerging as an alternative center of power. India has no interest in forming alliances, formal or informal, against China. Such a move would undercut the engagement that has been mutually beneficial to both countries and would probably alienate India’s other friends in Asia, none of which wants to pick a fight with China.

Indian policy represents a kind of double hedge against being taken for granted by either the United States or China. India and China share a desire to see the region and the world become more multipolar. They also share a strict concept of sovereignty and noninterference in other countries’ internal affairs, which they apply to the operation of multilateral organizations. For India, the fact that there are international issues on which it works with China and in opposition to the United States represents an example of foreign policy independence, politically useful to Indian governments in spite of the strong political consensus behind today’s close relationship with Washington. At the same time, Indian leaders understand that China is watching their growing ties with the United States, and they hope that the U.S. connection will expand India’s margin for maneuver vis-à-vis China.