In an economic system that is still globalized, conflict does not automatically equal economic setback. This is because the conflict is no longer simply a shooting war, but a complicated struggle of wills.
India and China are cases in point. Last year they had a serious military standoff over the Doklam border region, which came on the head of tensions between them over a clutch of other issues – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Beijing’s foiling New Delhi’s efforts to bring Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar under United Nations sanctions, and China blocking India’s bid for a membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
Yet according to official Chinese statistics, its trade with India has been booming. Two-way value reached a record US$84.44 billion in 2017, an 18.63% increase over the previous year. And what is more, India’s exports to China saw a 40% increase, thus somewhat mitigating New Delhi’s complaint of an imbalance. India has long complained about a trade deficit that was more that $52 billion in 2016 and remains around that figure even now, though the overall volume of trade has increased.
The Narendra Modi government’s ties with China have waxed and waned. Initially, both sides even spoke of the possibility of a quick border settlement through out-of-the-box solutions. But thereafter it became clear that there was no meeting point there. Communication broke down over the NSG and Masood Azhar issues, and India publicly refused to endorse the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Indeed, it stepped up to the plate in the West Pacific in helping revive the “Quad” grouping with the US, Australia and Japan. India’s relations with China involve the four C’s – conflict, competition, cooperation and containment. The areas of conflict are well known – the border, and China’s relationship with Pakistan.
China may not think India as much of a competitor when it comes to the economy, but politically New Delhi remains a potent presence in areas that border both India and China, especially in South Asia. The two sides cooperate on a range of areas; India was among the early supporters of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and is, of course, a partner of China in BRICS and of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). As for containment, this is actually the hidden theme in their relationship – China thinks that India is trying to contain its rise in collaboration with the US and Japan, while New Delhi believes that Beijing’s policies in South Asia are aimed at preventing India from playing a larger extra-regional role.
Recent Indian moves signal New Delhi’s effort to restore balance in a relationship with Beijing that had gotten frayed, in large measure by India’s megaphone approach on contentious issues that the two countries confront. Many of these could have been resolved through quiet diplomacy
Recent Indian moves signal New Delhi’s effort to restore balance in a relationship that had gotten frayed, in large measure by India’s megaphone approach on contentious issues that the two countries confront. Many of these could have been resolved through quiet diplomacy, but New Delhi wanted to appear muscular and tough and sought to browbeat Beijing without really having the wherewithal to do so. This has led Beijing to look at India with more wary eyes.
Until recently, despite periodic transgressions on the undefined Line of Actual Control that marks the Sino-Indian border, things were reasonably calm. Now, after the Doklam crisis, the Chinese appear to be seriously shoring up their military posture along the entire LAC, and so the net result could well be a setback to the maintenance of peace and tranquility on the border. As for the Indian Ocean, there is no direct confrontation, but the Chinese presence is marked and steadily growing.
Despite the bravado and bluster of its generals, India would be seriously disadvantaged if it actually had to fight China and Pakistan simultaneously. However, this is not a probable scenario. China is not likely to intervene in any India-Pakistan issue, though it is quite possible that Islamabad would consider embarrassing New Delhi were India to be involved in any border confrontation with China. As for any larger war, that is not likely to happen, as long as rational calculations guide the policies of the three nuclear-armed nations. Indeed, one of the greater failures of Indian diplomacy has been its inability to break the so-called Sino-Pakistani nexus. This has severely constrained its regional policies and compelled India to seek a somewhat lopsided “alliance” where Washington seeks India’s military commitment in the Pacific, but steers clear of any commitment to New Delhi’s more vital interests in the north Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.
Source: Asia times