Early May, even as the world was coming to grips with the killing of Osama bin Laden, the US was moving to deal with the other great challenger to its global interests, namely, China. The 3rd Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED) between the two countries was held between 9 and 10 May in Beijing and touched upon a wide gamut of bilateral issues of concern. These ranged from human rights to China’s bias against foreign companies.
In addition to the usual heads of state summits between the two sides, the SED that involves cabinet ministers on both sides provides an opportunity for both sides to get down to the brass-tacks in the full glare of the media. The Dialogue indicates not just the gravity of the problems between them but also the seriousness of their bilateral dialogue. And the seriousness can only increase. Hitherto, the SED has performed the function more of maintaining status quo between them than of really ironing out differences. But the current SED suggests that the Obama administration has begun to reconsider its hitherto overly cautious China policy and is willing to take up confront Beijing on more sensitive matters. And coming in the wake of the bin Laden killing, the Chinese were no doubt aware that a reinvigorated US would also begun to turn its gaze back towards East Asia.
For India, the key point here is the manner of the Sino-US engagement.