The increasingly aggressive Chinese foreign policy is chiefly driven by two factors: A build-up of nationalistic fervour in domestic politics and the Chinese economy’s hunger for new markets. In the year 2012, Xi Jinping spoke of the “Chinese dream,” referring to national glory. Soon after Jinping took over as the Chinese president in 2013, Xi undertook efforts to expand the Chinese footprint worldwide.

 

Last two years turned to be rather contentious between India and China. Delhi is now trying to reset relations with Beijing. The reset is supposed to reinforce the proposition that China is India’s “natural ally”.

 

Issues:

 

  • The problems between the two countries have become increasingly intractable in recent years. The talks on resolving the boundary dispute have been stalled for more than a decade.
  • High level officials of the Communist Party can overrule the State Councilor and the Foreign Ministry at any time.
  • As the two armed forces operate closer to the long and disputed frontier, they run into each other quite frequently.
  • On the economic front, the trade deficit in favour of China was at $52 billion in 2017 it constitutes nearly half of the gap between India’s imports and exports.
  • Within the region, China’s deepening ties with Pakistan and its growing economic and military penetration into the Subcontinent and the Indian Ocean are making India increasingly anxious and laying the foundation for prolonged friction between the two Asian giants.
  • Nationalism is one of the key enduring driving forces that have shaped Chinese foreign policy over the research period. China’s “nationalist” efforts have caused sparking conflicts with inconvenient neighbours.

 

Challenge:

 

  • Beijing has been active in blocking India’s effort to secure membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
  • China also remains the only major power that does not support India’s claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
  • China’s absolute and relative power vis a vis India (and all other powers in the world) has dramatically risen, thanks to decades of economic reform and sustained high growth rates.
  • For e.g.: China’s GDP ($12 trillion) is nearly five times that of India and its defence expenditure at $150 billion is three times larger than that of India.
  • The huge power differential in favour of China, Beijing’s growing global reach and expanding international influence mean Beijing has fewer reasons than before to accommodate India’s concerns.

 

Policy ahead:

 

  • Delhi must strive to retain its strategic space amid the expansion of the Chinese footprint and at the same time avoid the escalation of differences into disputes.
  • An effort, to widen the areas of cooperation that will provide some balance against the many negative factors that are unsettling bilateral relations, must continue. For e.g., Delhi is deploying considerable resources to compete with Beijing in economic and military diplomacy in India’s neighbourhood.
  • It is also building strategic partnerships with other powers.
  • Even as India joins the Quadrilateral (The Quad), Delhi should try to engage with China in various multilateral forums including the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and keep alive all bilateral channels of communication.

 

India, by no means, is alone in confronting the problems with Chinese power. All major nations are struggling to come to terms with it. As a larger country sharing a disputed border and an overlapping periphery, India’s task is a lot more complicated. Given this a set of policies can help India tackle China.

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