How India Lost Its Allies To China; What Could Follow?

Posted on October 1, 2010 in Politics

By Anjali Devangan:

The two South Asian giants, India and China both boast of ancient civilizations and a rich history. The relations between both the countries remained cordial for years, in fact for millennia. But the 20th and the 21st centuries have witnessed some radical changes in their ties which will remain pivotal in world economy for the next few decades.

The Sino-India war in 1962 over a border dispute marked the first incidence of tensions between the two neighbors. China and India share over 2000 kilometers of border and the absence of a formal delineation will continue to pose as a threat to the resolution of the disputed claims. This issue has further been exacerbated by China’s recent insurgence in Arunachal Pradesh and its refusal to accept the Indian state as a part of the Indian map recently at the Shanghai World Expo 2010.

Excluding the burgeoning border disputes, there exist many other factors that contribute to their scratchy relationship.

The one that India remains most vary about is the nature of China’s ties with India’s other neighbors – Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. In particular, the Sino- Pakistani alliance seems the most hostile and threatening to India. After all, India’s nuclear tests were aimed at dissuading China, not Pakistan. The then Indian defense minister George Fernandes had called China a “bigger potential threat” than Pakistan and described how his country was being “encircled” by Chinese military activities in Tibet and alliances with Pakistan and Myanmar.

The mutual suspicion and distrust between the two nations is apparent with India’s perception that China is denying India membership in the P- 5 (UN Security Council), N- 5 (Nuclear Club), ASEM (Asia- Europe Summit), APEC (Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation), and EAS (East Asia Summit) and vice versa with China’s fears and apprehensions about the intentions of US-India alliance.

Continuing unrest in Tibet poses as another factor for tensions in their relations. In spite of India’s maintains that Tibet belongs to China, the provision of an asylum for Dalai Lama makes China suspicious of India being pro-Tibet and anti-China.

To further the suspicion, China is currently planning on naval presence in the Indian Ocean. It is currently in talks to develop sea ports in Pakistan and have naval bases in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Finally, it is rivalry that exists between the two nations that can never see them as friends. India and China are currently in the race together as rising Asian powers, in terms of economy, army influence, manpower, nuclear powers and as leaders of the developing world. Both the countries are investing heavily in the Middle East and Africa for resources.

However, sources have proved that bilateral trade between the two nations has substantially increased (from a paltry $350 million in 1993 to $30 billion in 2007) and could cross $60 billion in 2009 and double again by 2015 (Source: The Times of India, 2008). While India provides China with raw materials, China exports its finished manufactured products to India, giving China an upper hand in this aspect. Also, India’s lack of infrastructure and shortage in power are further disadvantages. We also saw India and China cooperate over environmental issues in the Copenhagen Climate Conference 2009.

While India and China have never demonstrated clear enmity, there is enough evidence to prove they are not each other’s favorites either. To see whether the once oblivious neighbors return to being cooperative and unsuspicious of each other, we will have to just wait and watch.

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