hina and India have a long history of interactions and live side by side. The story has been told from generation to generation about the famous Chinese Buddhist monk Xuanzang who lived during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) who traveled from China to India to learn Buddhism.
Both China and India are geographically linked to the Himalayan Mountains, but are separated in their hearts because they lack one another’s deep understandings.
The two countries established diplomatic relations in early 1950, after India won its independence in 1947 and the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949. They put forth the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence which has far-reaching effect and helped develop a new form of foreign relations after World War II.
India, however, kept an unjustifiable stance on the territorial question after independence. A war broke out between the two in 1962, after India increased military provocations in border area and tried to capture territories by force. China launched counterattacks and the Indian troops were defeated. Severe relationships soured.
Economic and trade relations between Beijing and New Delhi have witnessed unprecedented levels of development since the end of the Cold War in the late 20th century, and the warming of relations in the early 21st century. The two countries have signed border-stabilization agreements and held border talks. The two countries’ positions and strategies have become more organized, based on their shared priorities and interests in the regional and international arena.
Thus, bilateral relations have entered a new phase with more cooperation channels, such as BRICS cooperation structures, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, G20, etc.
But the growth of relations between China and India hasn’t always been smooth. The explanation for this is that many things still need to be solved. The boundary conflict lies at the top of the list. While the two countries have signed agreements to secure their borders and conduct talks, there have so far been no substantive results. An successful compromise would be harder to achieve in the near future.
When conflicts drag on for a long time it will eventually cause trouble, such as the 2017 Doklam standoff and the recent Galwan Valley incident. It will be harder to reach a border agreement at a time when both countries are growing in national strength overall.
The differences in the strategies and interests of the two countries appear to have become a gap which blocks the development of bilateral ties. India’s strategic objective as a growing nation and developed aim is to be a global force. It is willing to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council but China is cautious in this regard because of the specific positioning of its strategic interests. Beijing insists the case should be dealt with in a comprehensive UN reform program-it should not be dealt with as a stand-alone problem.
Another example is the Indo-Pacific Policy that was introduced in the US with the goal of countering China. This is obviously opposed by Beijing. Yet Washington has pulled New Delhi into its moves against the Indo-Pacific. As far as the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative is concerned, New Delhi firmly opposes the plan, for concerns that Beijing will use this opportunity to expand its reach in the Indian Ocean and boost its presence in Pakistan and other South Asian countries.
Both of these will be steps at cloud collaboration between the two countries.
Some inconsistencies have also become stumbling blocks within bilateral relations between the two countries. A friendly relationship between Beijing and Islamabad and confrontational links between Islamabad and New Delhi have long been a mystery that can not be resolved easily anytime soon.
Over and above this, trade imbalances between China and India could be long overdue. The gaps in politics, governance, principles and other factors between the two countries will also continue to strain relations.
Why is China and India expected to play along? In my view, there are two fundamental needs: First, China and India are not strategic competitors, and should not be. Second, China and India have no excuse to go to war once again. Consultation can help ease or cool down conflicts. If those would become China and India’s consensus, and serve as the bottom line of both sides’ strategic thought, revolutionary progress could be made.
From a strategic viewpoint, even though the two countries have difficulties in being good friends, they can also become partners in cooperation. China and India make up about 40 per cent of the world ‘s population. It’s predicted that both countries would be among the top three superpowers in the world in terms of total strength by the middle of this century. It’s just going to be a beautiful world where the dragon and the elephant dance together rather than fight.