The year 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and China. While the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic provides a new backdrop to this milestone in bilateral ties, it does not substantially change the direction in which relations were heading, only the pace.
Bilateral ties have seldom been smooth, even if the default position of the leaderships on both sides has been to portray them as being normal and in reasonable fettle. After the low of the Doklam stand-off in mid-2017, ‘informal’ summits between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping were promoted as a way to put the relationship back on the rails. The Indian government has certainly expended much effort domestically to make it look like the informal summits were some sort of diplomatic breakthrough. Except that problems have cropped up so regularly in the relationship that it fools no one. Continue reading Covid-19 Introduces New Tensions in India-China Relations
In an age of extremes, of hyperbole, and of tall promises, a headline announcing that getting Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar sanctioned by the UN’s 1267 Committee is a ‘big’ diplomatic win for India should not be surprising. It would however, be worrying if Government of India officials or responsible political leaders were to also parrot this line.
India’s Permanent Representative to the UN was calm in his tweet declaring that Azhar had been designated a terrorist. Finance Minister Arun Jaitely, however, at a press conference on behalf of the ruling BJP could not resist taking potshots at the opposition Congress, criticizing it for asking, “what is the big deal?” and went on to call the listing ‘badi kootnitik vijay’ (big diplomatic victory). Continue reading Listing Masood Azhar as Global Terrorist: China Helps India to a Pyrrhic Victory
India failed yet again to have Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Masood Azhar sanctioned because of a ‘technical hold’ by China at the UN Security Council’s 1267 Committee. Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. (retd) V K Singh chose the occasion to send out a tweet asking if China’s stance was ‘a reflection of the soft position of some leaders & political parties’ implying, of course, Indian opposition leaders and parties.
The Minister’s ill-advised tweet is a clear indication of this government’s political priorities focused on settling domestic political scores in election season and a preference to deal with Pakistan – clearly the more profitable issue from an electoral point of view – rather than the longer-term and harder challenge of China.
The MEA statement in response to the outcome of 1267 Committee meeting did not even name China directly as being responsible. This, when it has previously criticised China by name. Instead of taking a consistent position on China, the Minister has decided to milk the occasion for domestic politics by imputing motives to his party’s political opponents. Continue reading India’s Mixed Signals to China on Terrorism
Remarks from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the wake of India’s attack on Balakot in Pakistan and the subsequent tensions between the two South Asian neighbours appeared to suggest that Beijing was taking a more or less neutral stand. The official spokesperson’s answers to repeated questions on the Indo-Pak incidents stuck to the same overall formulation calling for restraint from both sides and for de-escalation.
A Pakistan Slant
However, the fact is that this apparent Chinese neutrality also creates a false equivalence between India and Pakistan in which Pakistan’s original sin as the perpetrator of terrorism, including the Pulwama attack, is erased and equal responsibility assigned to both India and Pakistan for the current instability and tensions. Continue reading China’s Reactions to India’s Attack on Balakot, Pakistan
In the wake of the Pulwama attack in Jammu & Kashmir against Indian paramilitary forces, the Indian government has withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status for Pakistan. This status had been accorded to Pakistan on the basis of India’s obligations under the World Trade Organisation. The former had, however, never reciprocated and it is only now that New Delhi has sought to respond in kind. 
While this is seen as a strong signal of sorts to the Pakistanis, it is unlikely to be so given the abysmally low level of Indo-Pak bilateral trade.
According to the UN Comtrade Database, Indo-Pak trade stood at US$1.992 billion in 2015, just about crossed the US$2 billion threshold in 2016 and in 2017 had not increased by more than a few tens of millions of dollars over the previous year. Pakistani exports to India in this period stayed between US$310 million and US$350 million. By contrast, Sino-Pak trade in 2015 stood at nearly US$13 billion with Pakistan suffering a deficit of some US$11 billion. In 2016, trade went up to US$15.3 billion with not just Pakistani imports rising but its exports to China also falling worsening its deficit. This trend continued even as Sino-Pak trade rose to nearly US$17 billion with Pakistani exports to China constituting just a shade over US$1.5 billion. Continue reading India’s Withdrawal of MFN Status to Pakistan: Ceding More Space to China
China’s position on terrorism occurring outside its borders is based on its own specific and national concerns about the unrest in Xinjiang and legitimating its responses rather than acceptance of any international standard or norm of understanding or dealing with terrorism. The Chinese statements on the 16 December 2014 Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan/Pakistani Taliban attack on a Pakistan Army-run school in Peshawar that resulted in the death of 145 people, including 132 children, is a case in point. The Chinese reactions to the attack offers further evidence that Beijing has decided to buy into and support Pakistan’s dual approach on terrorism – countering those who fight against Pakistan on the one hand and supporting those who fight Pakistan’s enemies, namely, the US and India, on the other. This in turn should throw up questions for India about the wisdom of its annual counter-terrorism exercises with China. Continue reading Counter-Terrorism in South Asia: China’s Win-Win Triangle
India and China have yet to resolve their long-standing boundary dispute. But in recent years they have built a carefully crafted architecture of Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) to prevent possibilities of any adverse developments along the disputed border. What is the state of current CBMs as perceived by leading experts from India and China? How have these held up to the pressures of recent years? Where do national perceptions merge or contend? What additional measures might be needed to strengthen those CBMs that already exist?
Published as co-author with Dipankar Banerjee, ‘Sino-Indian Military CBMs: Efficacy and Influences’, in Dipankar Banerjee and Jabin T. Jacob, Military Confidence-Building and India-China Relations: Fighting Distrust (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2013), pp. 1-11.
The visit to India by the Chinese Defence Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie last week, needs to be examined for what it says about four important or potentially important issues in the Sino-Indian bilateral relationship – the AfPak situation, the boundary dispute, bilateral military cooperation, and Chinese views about the Indian media. Continue reading Chinese Defence Minister’s Visit to India: Seeking opportunity amid crises