The Thorny Boundary Issue
Post the Doklam flash point, while there is no fresh escalation, but there is simmering tension between the two countries as the issue still stands unresolved. For India, standing up with Bhutan is critical as it also ensures that India’s image as a long lasting ally to its friends in the region is reinforced. Besides, it also prevents the Chinese from knocking at India’s door with strategic infrastructure at a vital choke point. While India has been keen on a respectable resolution to the boundary issue in all the three sectors, in the talks between special interlocutors, China wants a formula first for the Eastern sector essentially some territory swap in Arunachal Pradesh that India cannot agree to. A forward movement can be on ensuring that there is a movement in the middle sector in Uttarakhand where there is least amount of differences between the two countries. This can also set into motion resolution of the boundary dispute between the two countries.
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China realizes that muscle flexing with India on political issues, can adversely impact Chinese economic interests in India and it doesn’t want to escalate these. Through some deft political moves between the two countries and a signal from both Modi and Xi they have let trade to be an unifier for both the countries as the neighbors tend to gain with a robust trade policy. India wants China to address the widening trade deficit and also wants to prevent India becoming a dump yard for cheap Chinese products. Indian expertise in IT sector and the Indian Pharma companies need to be allowed a free market access in China, and Modi Xi meeting can set the right direction.
China’s Ambiguity on Terrorism
China’s playing footsie with Pakistan on the issue of Masood Azhar and blindly supporting Pakistan, is damaging its own image as a country with global leader aspirations.
At a juncture when its own economic interest is at stake, the Indian PM will reiterate that it was in shared interest of both the countries to ensure that they jointly fight terrorism where ever it occurs and Xi should exercise genuine pressure on the Pakistani military leadership to ensure that Pakistan stops terror factories running on its territory.
PM’s meeting is important to reiterate to China that there is space in Asia and beyond for both the countries to co exist as Asian leaders, however Chinese hegemonic aspirations especially in the South China Sea need to be curtailed. Both countries will do well to contribute to the cause of Asian stability if they work together in harmony and work together on global issues like, climate change where their perspectives match. However, if China continues to undercut India’s interests New Delhi will also take measures to protect its national interest.
The larger message that the two leaders need to send out is as two large Asian neighbors and global players is that they need to work together to build a strong Sino-Indian relationship while they settle the contentious issues. A positive direction of India China relationship can work well for global stability.