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Conjectures on India's diplomacy with China

17:14, May 19, 2010

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By Li Hongmei

India's Defense Minister lately maintained that India was not overly concerned over “recent actions" by China and believed that bilateral ties between the two countries were on the road to improvement, and in particular, he denied India being “paranoid" over its relations with China, in a clear response to the charges made earlier by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh that the home ministry was discriminating against Chinese telecom investors in India.

Although Defense Minister A.K. Antony admitted that there were the longstanding border disputes between the two neighbors, it was a conscious decision on the part of the government of India to undertake "very cordial and friendly" ties with China, as well as with all its other neighbors, he said while speaking to The Times of India.

Contending ideas and remarks over China-India ties arising from India's high-profile officialdom might be something of a bellwether for India's diplomacy with China in future. In actuality, developing in twists and turns, the bilateral relations has been hobbling along towards a more mature and more pragmatic direction, since the brief but bloody border war in 1962.

When Jairam Ramesh, the then India's commerce minister, coined the term Chindia some time in 2005, hopes were running high that a new era of amity was about to dawn between the two emerging powerhouses of Asia. Above all, the argument aside, he believed Chindia would come into being through closer economic co-operation and expanding trade ties.

Sure enough, by the end of 2009, two-way trade was valued at $43bn, in spite of a fall of 16 per cent on 2008 levels. China replaced the US as India's largest trading partner in 2007.

However, the warming-up ties abruptly derailed while the economic cooperation was roaring along the sound track. The Indian government recently imposed restrictions on imports from China after concerns arose over the presence of Chinese telecommunications equipment located along the sensitive Indo-China border.

Besides, New Delhi's clumsy restrictions on the import of Chinese skilled labor, for example, amid mutterings about the security risk to strategic installations, have forced Chinese companies to suspend construction of power plants that India needs to plug its crippling energy deficit.

Back to the subject of Chindia, China and India indeed have a lot in common, weather it be political term or to-be reality. In diplomacy, for instance, the two countries jointly put forward “the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence", and for decades, both have adhered to non-alignment policy maintaining independence and keeping initiative. More over, neither of the nations have the intention to be entangled in the Western Camp.

On top of that, both China and India are seeking to lead the development of Asian Continent, and both are expected to change the world's chessboard and usher in a new global economic order, and both are viewed as heavy-carrying players in the region.

Presumably, when Ramesh coined the term Chindia, what crept into his mind was, perhaps, the common ground China and India share and the common prospect both are striving for, despite the fact that a broader rapprochement remains distant then and now.

Paranoid over China might be somewhat overstated, but an undeniable fact is that India has long kept a wary eye on China. In the mean time, India has been perturbed by the dual worries that the alliance of US and Europe would press its maneuvering space in the international community and, the oft-hyped G2 involving the U.S. and China would come true and influence its surrounding environment.

It is the particular mentality and the conditioning that would plunge India into a swirl of inexpressible dread and put it under the constant illusion of being intruded by others.

Fortunately, there are always wise personalities with insight and far-reaching vision in both India and China, and they are pinned on the hope to piece together history, restore the truth and plan for the future.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.


Li HongLi Hong

After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009.

Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.

Dai MinJohn
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."