The Chinese have not been blind to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s display of personal and strategic camaraderie with the Americans.
Beijing is trying to keep ASEAN a divided house over the South China Sea issue by employing a mix of diplomacy and economic engagement.
In the whole issue of the American rebalancing towards Asia, the perspectives of countries besides China also need to be understood. These countries have their own balancing act to follow; and India, much more so than most other countries, given that it is a strategic partner to both China and the US and has ambitious of superpower status itself.
Domestic instability in Pakistan, the continuing spread of religious radicalism from Pakistan into China, and threats to Chinese economic interests are conditions that would amplify the need for Beijing to take a sterner line with its “all-weather friend”. This could well be a serious dilemma confronting the Chinese leadership at some point in the near future.
If “much of the history of the 21st century will be written in Asia”, then New Delhi will need to find the energy and resources to focus not just on its troubled western frontiers but also on its sprawling and diverse eastern neighbourhood.
The killing of Osama bin Laden shook the Chinese in more ways than one. From ordinary netizen to government-run media, there was disbelief, sarcasm and worries of a geopolitical sort.
Empty plaudits for multilateralism and championing a multi-polar world cannot hide the fact that New Delhi’s current method of engagement with China avoids the intense domestic public scrutiny that comes from a sustained high-level and exclusive dialogue with Beijing.