Is China Softening Toward India?
Since Doklam there has been softening of relations between the two counties.
Doklam Stand off between Indian and Chinese troops ended with the Indian claim that Chinese troops had pulled back, whereas they merely, what in military terms is called, ‘dug-in.’ They have build barracks etc in the area, which is otherwise, Bhutanese territory. Chinese aim of this ingress into Bhutanese territory is two fold. One to demonstrate to Bhutan that, India cannot protect its territory and two to get upto to a point from where it can, when required, at will block the Siliguri Corridor. Doklam incident did not boil over because President Xi Jing had his own compulsions in not escalating the stand -off into a fight at that point of time.
Since then there has been softening of relations between the two counties. India’s National Security Adviser, Foreign Minister and Defence Minister have in turn visited China. Finally the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, visited China, where much bonhomie and goodwill between him and President Xi was on display, with Indian music playing in the background. Undoubtedly India need to have friendly relations with China, equally, how far this friendship can be made to stretch is something for India to assess.
China wants India to join its One Road- One Belt and China –Pakistan Economic Corridor. ( CPEC ) Both these projects are essentially to promote Chinese trade with countries astride these corridors and beyond. CPEC passes through PoK, under illegal occupation by Pakistan, and India joining this corridor weakens its claim over this territory.
China has been assiduously working to draw India’s immediate neighours under its own influence, and laying out what it calls, ‘ring of pearls,’ around India. It has refused to settle border issue with India and continues to claim Arunachal Pradesh, besides periodic violations of Line of Actual control. ( LAC ) It is seeking to dominate with its naval power, the India Ocean. It is using Pakistan to keep India, tied down, locally, using latter’s terrorist assets. Recently it stalled India’s entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group, a consortium of nations that governs trade in civilian nuclear technology. China also prevented the United Nations Security Council from black listing Masood Azhar, head of Pakistan based terrorist organization called Jaish- e-Mahammed. This group was involved in attack on Indian Parliament in 2001. This outfit has long been designated as terrorist organization by the United Nations and U.S. state Department.
India had very good relations with Russia and bought most of its military equipment from it. Once the Chinese expansionism pushed India closer to USA and creation of, ‘Quadrat’ i.e. that is USA, India, Japan and Australia for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean and region for naval operations Russia made move closer to Pakistan, supplying the latter, for the first time, military equipment.
Similarly if India is to shift policies to get closer to China, because of alleged pressure from that country or at best to please it, first by issuing a circular advising government officials to skip Tibetan commemoration marking 60 years of the Dalai Lama’s exile in India which was scheduled to be held in New Delhi, resulted in the venue being shifted to Dharamsala. Second declining Australian request to join this years, ‘Quadrat’ exercise called, ‘Malabar,’ in the India Ocean region, bound to have some fall out on our relations with U.S. A. Earlier in order not to offend China, India appears to swallow its concerns about Maldives tilting towards that country.
China’s own softening towards India needs to be viewed in the light of strains developing in its relations with USA over latter’s large trade deficit and violations of intellectual properties rights of American companies operating from China. This could terminate into a full fledged trade war. Further India is a huge market and with strains in trade developing with USA, China is eying Indian market with greater focus and therefore, seeking added improvement in relations. However china would want not want another country, in this region, to compete with in trade and influence. What china is attempting through Belt and and CPEC initiatives is a replay of Gun Boat diplomacy of European countries during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but with a different format.
Whatever be the Indian compulsions for developing closer ties, bonhomie and goodwill with China, is bound to throw up a range of signals to countries on the periphery of India and USA and those in South East Asia. China’s GDP is five times that of India, it military budget has been three to four times that of India, for many years, so at best India would remain on the sidelines and that is what China would want. India’s rise as economic and military power is not in China’s best interests. At least by putting up a façade of improved relations with India, it may be hoping to stall or at least slow down pressures building within India to upgrade its military.
The latest move to buy Russian S-400 missiles is drawing objection from USA, where Democrat congressman Harry Cruller, who represent Texas has expressed concerns at the technology transfer for F-16 fighter jets to India.
While it is good to be on friendly terms with a powerful neighbour, but there are apprehensions of being carried away for the second time into this Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai syndrome. These closer relations, with China and purchase of high tech military equipment from Russia will have its own fall out on our relation with USA and India may end up falling between two stools, or become a case of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds!