India-China relations went through a year of relative calm in 2018. This was the result of the so-called ‘Wuhan Spirit’ – after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in the Chinese city in April to attempt to sort out tensions in the relationship following the several months-long standoff in Doklam (Dolam) in Bhutan middle of last year. However, this respite must be considered unusual for the goal that China under Xi has set itself is of racing to the top of the global hierarchy at the apparent expense of the United States and India certainly is seen only as a bit player in this story. Continue reading 2019: What’s in Store for India-China Relations?
2018 marks 40 years since China launched its economic reforms, and opening up that changed its domestic economic structure as well as set it on course to being the global economic giant it is today. Now, China’s significance in the global economy is not in question whether as an industrial producer, as a consumer of raw materials, or as a pioneer in pushing the frontiers of technology and its applications.
What has also been apparent since at least 2012 when Xi Jinping took over as general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), if not earlier, is that China’s economic power is being put to political uses at both the regional and global levels. Somehow, the west, led by the US, appears not to have anticipated that the ‘rise of China’ would bring with it a challenge to not just western economic domination but also to American military might and perhaps, most importantly, to the very idea of democracy and other largely western political values and ideals.
A dynamic foreign policy Continue reading The Rising Chinese Challenge to International Politics As We Know It
A major political crisis is underway in Sri Lanka following President Maithripala Sirisena’s sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, replacing him former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and finally the dissolution of parliament. There are now multiple petitions now pending before the country’s Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of Sirisena’s actions.
Meanwhile, if general elections were allowed, Rajapaksa’s chances of returning to power look good given that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party – which he formally joined just a few days ago – came out on top in local elections in February. 
During Rajapaksa’s tenure as President from 2005 to 2015, the Chinese had begun to gradually involve themselves in Sri Lankan politics. Continue reading Political Crisis in Sri Lanka: Little Risk for China
On the eve of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first state visit to China came the announcement that the two countries were starting a bus service along the Karakoram Highway between Kashgar in Xinjiang and Lahore. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) was quick to protest on the grounds that the bus service passed through Indian territory under occupation by Pakistan.
The MEA statement leaves out the fact that this is not the first bus service between China and Pakistan. The first was launched in June 2006 between Gilgit and Kashgar, used by both traders from Pakistan and Chinese tourists and traders. Just a month earlier, a truck service had also begun with Chinese traders allowed to bring their vehicles up to Karachi and Gwadar.
There is no record of the MEA having protested these Sino-Pak connectivity services in 2006. Continue reading China-Pakistan Bus Service through PoK: Complaining is Easy
US Vice-President Mike Pence delivered a key speech on his country’s China policy early this month on 4 October 2018. His speech drove home the message of the burgeoning challenge to American interests from China. Using specific examples, he pointed out how the Chinese sought to influence American domestic politics, stole American technology, and undermined other countries through debt-trap infrastructure projects under its Belt and Road Initiative.
Implications for India
Pence’s speech on China has also been read as being politically motivated given the November mid-term elections to the US Congress. While this may be so, it also offers Indians an opportunity to think why their country’s foreign policy challenges from China do not form more of an issue at least during parliamentary elections. Continue reading Raising China as an Issue in Indian Elections
Imran Khan’s taking over as Prime Minister of Pakistan introduces several degrees of uncertainty in the China-Pakistan relationship given his past record of statements on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Khan has previously criticised the CPEC, if not the Chinese themselves, for favouring the bigger Pakistani provinces and ignoring the smaller ones such as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa where his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has been in power since 2013. After his July election victory however, Khan spoke specifically about learning from China’s experiences in poverty alleviation and anti-corruption besides stating that CPEC provided an economic opportunity for his country. Of course, Khan was also dealing with the reality of a tougher US mood against Pakistan under the Donald Trump administration, leaving him rather heavily dependent on China and Saudi Arabia to have Pakistan’s back politically and economically.
Pakistan’s Incomplete Reform Agenda Continue reading Economic Complications in the Naya China-Pakistan Relationship
Chinese Defence Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe’s visit to India in late August is an occasion to consider the state of India-China military exchanges.
While military-to-military exchanges are important, there seems little to them in the India-China case beyond merely keeping up appearances. Gen. Wei’s visit was preceded by the late July visit of Gen. Liu Xiaowu, deputy commander of the Western Theater Command (WTC) with charge of the border with India and in mid-August, of the head of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army, Lt Gen. Abhay Krishna.
Even the business of familiarization as is the case with these visits of theatre commanders does not mean much because they do not have any regular schedule and can be easily disrupted. Continue reading Chinese Defence Minister’s Visit: To What End for India?
Today, the Chinese portray the 15th century voyages to the Indian Ocean by their admiral, Zheng He, as aimed at promoting diplomacy and trade. But the record shows that these were expeditionary voyages of the Ming dynasty navy that apart from making gifts to local leaders and religious and other institutions along the route also involved itself in local politics. In one case, in Sri Lanka, Zheng even effected a regime change.
History has been repeating itself after a fashion in the modern era with China throwing its support behind then Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s in his fight against the LTTE, his economic development programmes and then his re-election effort in 2015. Following his loss, however, Beijing slowly made amends with his successor Maithripala Sirisena, and recently announced a ‘gift’ of US$295 million to be utilized for any project of the latter’s wish. Continue reading Beware of China Bearing Gifts
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Indonesia at the end of May 2018 followed that of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to the Southeast Asian nation earlier the same month. The Modi visit is a significant step not just for the bilateral relationship but in clarifying what India’s strategy is in the region. It is, therefore, important to both understand China’s impact on the India-Indonesia bilateral relationship and what it is that India is up against in converting the rhetoric into action.
As important as practical immediate-term outcomes are – as on counter-terrorism, for example – a long-term vision should also animate the relationship between India and Indonesia that has for long been consigned to a secondary or tertiary status in both capitals. One Indian official on the eve of the visit said that he expected the visit to be ‘forward-looking’. But he also set its foundation very low by noting the obvious that ‘India and Indonesia do not share any territorial disputes, which is significant to add momentum to the relationship’. Continue reading Modi’s Indonesia Visit: China in the Mix