The Indian and Chinese governments have set their ties a very low bar of achievement talking essentially soft issues like cultural exchanges which are low-hanging fruit but which are unlikely to help repair in a hurry the high degree of bilateral political mistrust
There is a case to be made for an India-led initiative in the Indo-Pacific that displays greater commitment to upholding international law than to ‘inclusivity’ as well as willingness to take on a wider ambit of regional responsibilities in the security and political domains
In the second Modi term, New Delhi will have to do a better job than issuing statements on the BRI or ignoring it altogether and be willing to offer credible alternatives if it is retain any standing among its neighbours and further afield.
While economic diplomacy is the mainstay, China’s maritime presence in the Middle East is also growing and together these support a clear and strong political message on China’s domestic and foreign policy interests that countries in the region are reluctant to contest.
The eventual listing of Masood Azhar as an international terrorist at the UN is as much a ‘big diplomatic win’ for China as for India – after all, Beijing prevented New Delhi from achieving the objective for ten years.
The political, social and security implications do not look pretty for countries participating in the BRI. New Delhi might, however, consider if absolute opposition to the BRI is ultimately doing either its relationship with China or its own global image any long-term good.
China professions of neutrality in South Asia cannot be taken seriously and are, in fact, attempts to create a false sense of equivalence between India and Pakistan.
India’s attenuation of economic links with Pakistan risk reducing its options in that country and making it even more dependant on China. New Delhi’s action shrinks its own leverage in South Asia while increasing China’s role.
Does India have it in itself to become an economic and political alternative to China?