Missing Opportunities: India and OBOR

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘India and OBOR: It’s Not Complicated’, BRICS Post, 16 October 2016.

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for their bilateral on the sidelines of the 8th BRICS Summit in Goa two issues dominated. One was the Chinese resistance to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The other was China’s refusal to support UN action against terrorists living under state protection in its ally Pakistan, who were involved in the attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi in 2001 and the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.

It is unlikely that New Delhi will get anywhere with the Chinese on either issue. The reasons are rather simple. Read more

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India-Taiwan Relations: Promise Unfulfilled

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘India-Taiwan Relations: Constrained or Self-Constraining?’, in Jagannath P. Panda (ed.), India-Taiwan Relations in Asia and Beyond: The Future (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2016), 37-47.

The big problem in India-Taiwan relations is the lack of ambition. Given the depth of economic relations and often enough, of political ties too, that many countries including in East Asia itself have with Taiwan, one wonders if there is not also a lack of creativity in the case of India-Taiwan ties. The economic dimension in the relationship is often highlighted – the most recent case being the announcement in August 2015 of Foxconn investing (US)$5 billion in India[1] – but it also seems unlikely that the Government of India went out of its way to court Foxconn because it was a Taiwanese company or indeed, that it is going out of its way for any Taiwanese company.

If the Act East policy is an opportunity to recast and revitalise India’s ties with East Asia across dimensions, then this recasting and revitalisation must also cover Taiwan.

One-China Policy

If the development of China-Taiwan relations in the decades following China’s economic opening up and reforms is any indication, the story of India-Taiwan relations is one of missed opportunities. This is understandable in some respects, given that India-China relations themselves were only slowly recovering from the 1962 conflict. The 1980s were still early days as negotiations on the boundary dispute were taking off. Still, India took note of Taiwan under the Look East policy fairly early, as indicated by the 1995 establishment of representative offices in Taipei and in New Delhi. Read more

Using China as Leverage with Pakistan

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘UNGA is an opportunity for Modi to talk Pakistan with Xi Jinping’, Hindustan Times, 23 September 2015.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are both headed to the United States. If they meet on the sidelines of the 70th United Nations General Assembly, it would be a fitting backdrop for a fresh look at Sino-Indian ties after the high of the Modi visit to China in May this year and the low later of the Chinese blocking an Indian bid in New York to sanction Pakistan for releasing 26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.

This relook must in the main be about Pakistan. Read more

Expectations from the Modi Visit to China

This article was originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘Is it wise for India to stay out of Silk Road initiative?’, South Asia Monitor, 12 May 2015, before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China.

Of the predictions that came true, more sister-province/state and sister-city agreements, announcement of a new visa arrangement, an India-China Think-tank Forum.

 

It is now slowly but increasingly evident to Indians across the board that China, their largest neighbour, will likely be their most important foreign policy challenge for decades to come. Gradually but surely, China will come to occupy regular attention in India across a range of fields from geopolitics to scientific research and development to political and ideological creativity. In this context, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming visit to China and the media coverage it will generate will be an important milestone in how Indians perceive and understand China.

Possible Outcomes

Modi has gained a reputation for extreme secrecy and last minute ‘deals’ during visits abroad. China, however, will not be such an easy place to do this. Unless, of course, CPC General Secretary and Chinese President, Xi Jinping, is willing to play ball. This however, is unlikely, given the Chinese self-image of being in a league of just two, contending with the US for regional and global domination while everybody else is for all practical purposes, and despite any rhetoric to the contrary, slotted into lower tiers of importance.

What then are the possible agreements that the two sides might reach during the Modi visit?

The agreements related to economic cooperation including infrastructure construction, industrial parks and sister-city and sister-province/state ties will likely number quite a few, even if they will not match the 51 agreements that resulted during the Xi visit to Pakistan. Boosting bilateral trade and investments at the service of the Prime Minister’s flagship ‘Make in India’ campaign will be a big item on the agenda, if not the most important one.

More sister-city and sister-province/state agreements could help accelerate a trend of Chinese sub-national enterprises targeting specific sectors and localities or states in India for economic opportunities. It also makes immense sense for two countries the size and complexity of India and China for their cities and regions to develop their own independent economic linkages with each other. Along the way, there could be significant spillover effects in terms of increasing mutual understanding, greater familiarization with each other’s cultures and ways of working, tourism, educational exchanges and so on.

An agreement for a more liberalized visa regime between the two countries was to be signed during Xi’s India visit in September but was finally abandoned. The agreement will be extremely important for Chinese investors, businessmen and tourists seeking to explore and commit to India.

It is also quite possible that an agreement of some sort on trans-boundary river waters will come to fruition. To expect an all year-round sharing of information might be too much to expect from the Chinese. It is more likely that China will agree to give India another 15 days worth of data on any one river.

An India-China Think-tank Forum is a proposal that has been doing the rounds for some time, now and will likely reach fruition during this visit. This would be an important avenue for a frequent and unhindered exchange of views between the policy and scholar communities on both sides and replicates a similar exercise in the Sino-US context.

Sign at a Chinese airport - On India, 'Monitor Situation, Exercise Caution'
Sign at a Chinese airport – On India, ‘Monitor Situation, Exercise Caution’

Asian Century?

One important marker of the Asian century will be how India and China are going to cooperate in the science and technology sector to create solutions for uniquely Third World problems as well as to overcome problems that come from copying a Western model of economic development. To this end, cooperation and joint development of renewable energy technologies, to name just one sector, should be a big part of the agenda, capable of being slotted into both the infrastructure construction and ‘Make in India’ campaigns.

Scientific research can also provide the opportunity to avoid or overcome suspicions in other areas. One idea doing the rounds is cooperation between the two countries on the development of deep sea mining in the Indian Ocean. The Chinese are already engaged in this in the southwest Indian Ocean and so is India, so perhaps, this is an opportunity to not just cooperate but also keep an eye on what the other side is doing.

The problem, of course, arises since it is China that is expanding opportunities and finding reasons to be in the Indian Ocean while India’s opportunities to partner with China in similar endeavours along or opposite China’s coast are limited either because of China large territorial and consequently EEZ claims or because India does not often have the wherewithal or the incentives to venture that far. Where it has, New Delhi has preferred to partner with the Japanese or the Vietnamese.

This then leads to a major issue that is also likely to crop up during the visit, namely of Indian receptivity to China’s new ‘one belt, one road’ idea and in particular, the Maritime Silk Road. Given the particular version of historical reinterpretation, rewriting even, that the initiative involves, India is wary of joining in. However, given also the potential of the Chinese initiative to transform the economic, and possibly, the political landscape of Asia, New Delhi must seriously consider if staying out and being unable to exert influence on the process is an option.

India’s China Policy: Time to Overcome Political Drift

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, “India’s China Policy: Time to Overcome Political Drift,” RSIS Policy Brief, June 2012.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

A foreign policy without competent and visionary political direction, especially in a democratic dispensation, is a serious shortcoming. The Indian government’s policy towards China in recent years has been driven more by bureaucratic expertise and military demands than by political vision. Such a foreign policy risks either missing opportunities provided by the global situation or diverting and wasting limited national resources. As a rising global power, New Delhi can scarce afford the current drift in its foreign policy. With China as neighbour and one that has a head start in many aspects of national and global power and influence, the lack of initiative and boldness in its China policy are likely to be even more costly for India.

RECOMMENDATIONS

• India will have to develop its own expertise and viewpoints on China instead of relying only on Western sources and perspectives. The rapid establishment of centres for the study of China now under way in India needs to be better planned and coordinated. Resources promised by the government must both be made available on time and increased.

Read the rest here

The BRICS Challenge: Converting Rhetoric to Leadership

Originally published: जबिन टी. जेकब, “सिर्फ बयानों से नहीं बढ़ेगा ब्रिक्स का वर्चस्व,” Business Bhaskar, 5 April 2012, p. 4.
(original text in English follows below the Hindi text)

क्या ग्लोबल इकोनॉमी में ब्रिक्स एक असरदार, संगठित और नेतृत्वकारी आवाज बन कर उभर सकता है? क्या ब्रिक्स देशों का एक साथ खड़ा होना क्या पश्चिमी वर्चस्व वाली मौजूदा विश्व व्यवस्था के लिए चुनौती बन सकता है? लेकिन दिल्ली में हाल में समाप्त हुए चौथे ब्रिक्स शिखर सम्मेलन से इन बड़े सवालों का कोई जवाब नहीं मिलता।

आर्थिक दायरे में तो ब्रिक्स देश पश्चिम के लिए बड़ी चुनौती बन सकते हैं। पश्चिमी देशों खास कर यूरो जोन में जारी आर्थिक संकट के इस दौर में ऐसा संभव है। दिल्ली घोषणा पत्र में तो पश्चिमी देशों को नसीहत भी दी गई कि वे मैक्रो इकोनॉमी और वित्तीय नीति के मोर्चे पर जिम्मेदारी का परिचय दें। इन देशों से साफ-साफ कहा गया कि उन्हें अपनी अर्थव्यवस्था में ढांचागत सुधार करने होंगे।

लेकिन सिर्फ बयान देने भर से विश्व व्यवस्था का नेतृत्व आपके हाथ में नहीं आ जाएगा। Read more

China and India: Two Rising Powers at Loggerheads

Original Article: “Chine et Inde: deux puissances émergentes antagonistes,”  Société de Stratégie – AGIR (Paris), No. 44, December 2010, pp. 43-56.

Abstract: Despite being among the fastest growing world economies, interactions between China and India remain limited owing to their unresolved boundary dispute. Concerns have grown over rapid military and infrastructure development by the two countries along the disputed boundary as well as over perceived and potential competition between them, both in their immediate neighbourhood as well as elsewhere in the world. Nevertheless, there have also been instances of international cooperation such as at the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009. Thus, the key question of the ‘Asian century’ will be if these two rising powers and neighbours can manage their relationship in a manner that promotes peace, stability and economic development both regionally and globally.

Read more (in French