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Comparative Politics Foreign Policy Uncategorized

Recalibrating India’s Foreign Policy in South Asia: The China Factor

China has long adopted a foreign policy of undermining Indian influence in South Asia. Beijing’s assertive approach has included regular high-level official visits, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and the sale of military weapons and platforms to India’s neighbours. The Chinese aggression in eastern Ladakh in the summer of 2020 is only the latest form of such a policy.

Clearly, there is little let-up in China’s pace despite the fact that the Chinese economy is struggling on a number of fronts. One of these is the impact of COVID-19 but this might be said to be a common problem across the world. What is noteworthy is that China is currently also contending with the consequences of an ongoing and sharpening conflict with the United States in the form of a ‘trade war’ since January 2018, and what is being described as a new cold war on the political front. What is more, the chances of an outbreak of kinetic conflict because of a mistake or heightened tensions cannot be ruled out either. How is it then that China has opened up a new front of conflict on its borders with India at this juncture? 

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Borders Foreign Policy War and Conflict

Covid-19 Introduces New Tensions in India-China Relations

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.

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Comparative Politics Foreign Policy

Another Rajapaksa at the Helm in Sri Lanka: The China Factor

The victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the presidential elections in Sri Lanka in November and the subsequent appointment of his older brother and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister have created some concerns in India that the island nation might be returning to a more pro-China foreign policy.

It is important to look into these concerns more carefully.

One, it is not as if the Sri Lankans under former president Maithripala Sirisena, and successor to the older Rajapaksa, was able to pull his country completely out of the Chinese embrace. As is well-known it was during Sirisena’s tenure that the country had to sign over Hambantota to China in 2018 for a 99-year lease.[1] And other major Chinese investments such as the Colombo Port City and the Norochcholai power station continued unhindered.

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Borders Foreign Policy War and Conflict

Vacuous Summitry

Following the Doklam stand-off between India and China in mid-2017, the Wuhan ‘informal summit’ between Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping the following April was seen as some sort of a tension-busting exercise and hosannas were sung to a new kind of diplomacy with talk of a ‘reset’ in the relationship. In the run-up to the second informal summit to be held at Chennai tomorrow[1], however, the shallowness of the exercise is now evident especially in the security and political realms.

Even if one were to ignore the fact that it was not until yesterday that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs finally confirmed that the summit was even on, the level of mutual suspicion today appears to be no less than was the case following Doklam.

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Borders Comparative Politics Foreign Policy

India-China Relations: Running on Empty

China’s decision to take India’s reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir to the UN Security Council raises several questions about its interest in durable good relations with India.

Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit to Beijing was clearly not enough to prevent China from issuing yet another statement declaring China’s ‘Clear Position on the Kashmir Issue’ on 12 August. This statement, which followed the meeting between Chinese Foreign Minster Wang Yi and Jaishankar,[1] was essentially a combination of the two statements issued previously by the Chinese on 6 August on India’s decision in J&K[2] as a more specific one on Ladakh.[3]

Even if held behind closed doors, the UNSC meeting on 16 August was significant because it was for the first time since 1965 that it had convened exclusively to discuss the Kashmir dispute.

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Borders Foreign Policy Sub-nationalism War and Conflict

Chinese Reactions to India’s Reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir

The change in status of the state of Jammu & Kashmir effected by the Indian central government has led to considerable international attention, including from China.

On 6 August, the Chinese Foreign Ministry offered two separate comments: one “on the Current Situation in Jammu Kashmir”[1] and another more specifically “on the Indian Government’s Announcement of the Establishment of the Ladakh Union Territory Which Involves Chinese Territory”.[2]

In the first statement, while China declares that it is “seriously concerned” it asks “both India and Pakistan to peacefully resolve the relevant disputes through dialogue and consultation” (emphasis mine). One should read this as the Chinese indicating they do not see it only as an Indian responsibility to “safeguard peace and stability in the region”[3], that Pakistan should not imagine it has sanction from Beijing to stoke military tensions in the wake of India’s actions.

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Foreign Policy Political Parties

Chinese Expectations from Modi 2.0

Chinese analysts saw Narendra Modi’s reelection as Prime Minister as a foregone conclusion. What came as a surprise to them – as it did to many in India – was the scale of Modi’s victory. Many assumed – going by Indian press reports and conversations with Indian visitors – that Modi would return with a reduced mandate and be forced into a coalition government. The implication here was that Modi would not have as free a hand in governance and foreign policy as he did in his first term.

What then do the Chinese expect from the second Modi administration?

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Borders Comparative Politics Foreign Policy War and Conflict

China-India-Pakistan Trilateral: Red Herring and Opportunity

At an event in mid-June organized at the initiative of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, China’s envoy, Amb. Luo Zhaohui noting that India and Pakistan had become full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization mooted the idea of a ‘China-India-Pakistan Leaders Meeting … under the SCO framework’.

The last time the Chinese envoy came up with a trilateral idea for cooperation was at a speech at the United Service Institution of India in May 2017 where he suggested that the name of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could be changed to accommodate Indian sensitivities. That speech can no longer be found on the Chinese Embassy website indicating that he possibly spoke out of turn or at least ruffled some feathers in Beijing and/or across the border.

Nevertheless, Amb. Luo’s latest speech is unlikely to disappear if for nothing else because the trilateral idea is not a new one.

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Borders Comparative Politics Foreign Policy

What does India think of China’s “Belt and Road” Initiative?

Jabin T. Jacob, ‘What does India think of China’s “Belt and Road” Initiative?’, ICS Occasional Paper, No. 19, December 2017.  

Abstract

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is an ambitious regional and global project that it has attempted to sell as a global public good. One country where the Chinese project has met clear, consistent and widespread opposition at both the official level and among strategic analysts, is India. As important a factor that a sometimes reflexive Indian opposition to things Chinese is, there are also big contradictions and wide loopholes in Chinese arguments and justifications for the BRI that deserve to be highlighted. This paper examines Chinese arguments in so far as they relate to India but the weaknesses of these arguments are also germane to other countries that have joined or are seeking to join the BRI.