Shyam Saran, Member, ICS Governing Council and former Indian Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy
The successful conclusion of the Belt and Road Forum (BARF) in Beijing, which India chose to stay away from, has led to a chorus of voices warning that in doing so, India has isolated itself both regionally and globally.
With the exception of Bhutan, all the South Asian neighbours of India participated, as did countries India regards as its partners in resisting the Chinese dominance of Asia; these include the US, Japan, Australia and Vietnam. Japan and Vietnam are also countries of South East Asia, which, like India, have territorial disputes with China, but they did not consider those disputes reason enough to stay away. It may also be argued that India itself has not let its territorial disputes with China stand in the way of cooperating with it on matters of mutual interest such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) or the BRICS Development Bank (DB).
India’s membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) will also present opportunities for regional cooperation with China and other member countries. These opportunities constituted a rationale for seeking membership in the organisation. So, did India make a wrong call in staying away from the BARF? Continue reading “Pressing Pause: India’s Absence at China’s Belt and Road Forum”
Ashok K. Kantha, Director ICS and former Indian ambassador to China
It is one of the most imaginative and ambitious programmes ever to be rolled out by a government. It represents a broad strategy for China’s economic cooperation and expanded presence in Asia, Africa and Europe, and has been presented as a win-win initiative for all participating nations. But for India, the connotations of China’s Belt and Road Initiative” are somewhat different. A flagship programme and the most advanced component of the initiative, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, a region that belongs to India and is under the control of Pakistan. As a country acutely conscious of its own sovereignty-related claims, China should have no difficulty in appreciating India’s sensitivities in this regard. Continue reading “India’s Concerns about China’s Belt and Road Initiative”
Alka Acharya, ICS Honorary Fellow and Professor, Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
There appears to be a world of difference between the images presented by India-China economic and commercial ties on the one hand and the politico-strategic on the other. Interactions and exchanges with representatives from both these domains are markedly different in tone and tenor—the former focus on the opportunities, openings, benefits and profits while the latter dwell more on the dangers, threats, challenges and disputes.
Prima facie, they appear to be working at different levels, according to their own—somewhat different—logic and rationale, and it does not look like they will converge any time soon in a more composite picture of this most critical of relationships in the world today. The political understanding at the highest level, which is committed to building a strategic and cooperative—and now more promisingly ‘developmental’—partnership, struggles with deep suspicion that runs through practically our entire strategic discourse. On the other hand, economic engagements have become the most dynamic and transformative aspects of the India-China relationship today. But this has to contend with the structural mismatch between the manufacturing strengths and industrial capacity of the two economies—and therefore, unsurprisingly, perceived by and large as a situation that works only to China’s advantage. The controversial and contentious political issues and the angry exchanges understandably garner greater attention.
And yet we must ask ourselves as to whether that is all there is to the overall picture. Continue reading “Economic Ties with China: India Needs to Look Beyond Politics”
Kishorchand Nongmaithem, Research Assistant, ICS
In January last year, when the Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran, the two countries agreed to expand their commercial ties to US$600 billion in the next ten years. On that visit, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Xi that, “Iran never trusted the West” that’s why Iran “seeks cooperation with more independent countries” (like China). China also welcomed Iran to work together under its ‘Belt and Road’ connectivity framework.
A year later in March 2017, King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia visited China, and during his three-day stay, the two countries signed deals worth US$56 billion that included 14 cooperative agreements and 21 other deals on oil production, investment, energy, space and other areas. Continue reading “China and the Iran-Saudi Rivalry: Towards a Greater Role?”
Kishorchand Nongmaithem, Research Associate, ICS
Traditionally, China has played little role in West Asia. However, in recent years it has become more active in its diplomatic engagement with the countries in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s four-day visit to China commencing on 20 March 2017, just few days after China hosted Saudi Arabia’s king Salman bin Abdulaziz and signed an agreement worth US$65 billion, shows China’s increasing interest in the region’s politics. China’s diplomacy appears intended to increase its profile and facilitate its interests in the region. Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping also toured to three of the most important countries in West Asia—Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Continue reading “The Dilemma of China’s New Engagement with West Asia”
Kajari Kamal, PhD student, University of Hyderabad.
The debate on whether to include India as a member in the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or not, has brought the India-China-Pakistan dynamics in the limelight again. China’s resistance to India’s membership is seen by the Indians as clearly strategic, targeted at constraining the rise of India as a global power. While some observers of India-China relations believe that factors such as border disputes, power asymmetry, mutual distrust, and most recently, nuclear proliferation issues, are obstacles in the normalization of bilateral relations, some others strongly believe that there lies a fundamental clash of interests, rooted at a strategic culture level, which manifests in China’s determination to play a key role in world affairs, as it has done as a great power and a great civilization, in the past. In a dyadic relationship, the importance of the perception of each other’s strategic culture cannot be overemphasized. Andrew Scobell argues that China’s foreign policy and its tendency to use military force are influenced not only by elite understanding of China’s own strategic tradition but also by their understanding of the strategic cultures of other states.
Continue reading “India and China: Perceptions of Strategic Culture and its role in the NSG membership issue”
Atul Kumar, Visiting Associate Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies.
On 27 January 2016, Losang Gyaltsen, Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government, announced in the TAR’s Tenth People’s Congress that his government would accelerate the construction of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway in the 13th Five Year Plan (2016-20) period. His government promised to start a preliminary survey and research to build the Nyingchi-Kangding railway section, in the current year. Yin Li, the acting Governor of Sichuan, sent out similar messages a week earlier at the Sichuan People’s Congress. These statements from the top leadership of both provinces reflect the importance of this rail project.
Continue reading “Sichuan-Tibet Railway: Growing Connectivity in PLA’s Western Theater Command”
Alka Acharya, Director and Senior Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies.
Almost exactly eighteen years ago, in June 1998, after a summit meeting between the Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Bill Clinton of the US, a joint statement was issued in Beijing. It referred to the nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan in the preceding months and “the resulting increase in tension” as being “a source of deep and lasting concern to both of us”, which they jointly condemned. The statement went on to say that both the PRC and the US “agreed to continue to work closely together, within the P-5, the Security Council and with others….to prevent an accelerating nuclear and missile arms race in South Asia.” India had strongly dismissed this attempt by both to meddle in its affairs. Of course Vajpayee’s famously “leaked” letter to Clinton, had clearly placed the responsibility for India’s nuclear explosions at China’s door – both China’s advanced nuclear capabilities as also its support to Pakistan. India’s dance with the nuclear giants had begun, bringing the three countries into an intricate power-balancing act, with the shadow of the Sino-Pakistan nexus in the background.
Continue reading “Tripolar Dynamics”
Virendra Sahai Verma, Honorary Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies.
India-Pakistan rivalry in Baluchistan-Iran coast line is hotting up to become a new nerve centre of geopolitics with direct involvement of US and China. Pakistan’s media is flush with hailing China’s promised investment of US$46 billion for China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a game changer which will make Pakistan as the ‘next Asian Tiger’. The coast line sits at the mouth of Strait of Hormuz and 17 billion barrels of crude oil pass through from here every day. It connects central Asia, south Asia and west Asia.
Continue reading “A Story of Two Ports: Chabahar vs. Gwadar”
Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman, is a PhD candidate at Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Guwahati, Assam and Panchali Saikia is Scientific Officer-Social Science, International Water Management Institute, New Delhi at the International Water Management Institute, New Delhi. Both were part of ICS delegations of scholars to China in December 2015 and April 2016 respectively.
China’s engagement with India on Yarlung Tsangpo/ Yaluzangbu-Brahmaputra water cooperation has been limited to mere Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) – mostly related to hydrological information (limited to water level, discharge and rainfall in flood seasons) on the river by China to India. These MoUs fall short of the objective of ‘Strengthening Cooperation on Trans-Border Rivers’ or of the obligations of a bilateral treaty. Beijing has time and again spurned India’s proposal of having any water treaty or establishing institutionalized cooperation towards having mutual rights and responsibilities on management of the shared rivers. It is often seen that Chinese officials and academics are either reluctant to address or ambiguous in their responses to questions concerning YarlungTsangpo-Brahmaputra River. This strongly supports the general impression that China stresses on the full sovereignty of the riparian state over the water within its boundary and may use it according to its needs, even in the case of transboundary rivers. As an upper riparian, China’s approach towards engaging with the lower riparian countries, be it on the Mekong or the Brahmaputra, has been strategically placed rather than establishing commitments or acknowledging any regional concerns of the river basins.
Continue reading “For Sub-regional Cooperation on the Yarlung Tsangpo-Brahmaputra River Basin”