India – China bilateral relation has been complex and friendly at the same time. The two countries are biggest competitors in terms of economy. The bilateral relation between India and China, also known as Sino-Indian relations began in 1950. India and China are the fastest growing economies and are most populous countries. India and China share cultural similarities since ancient times. The first records of contact between China and India were written during the 2nd century BCE. The trade route between them, Silk Road had major role in the spread of Buddhism.
China and India are separated by the Himalayas. China and India today share a border with Nepal and Bhutan acting as buffer states. Parts of the disputed Kashmir region claimed by India are claimed and administered by either Pakistan (Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan) or by the PRC (Aksai Chin).The Government of Pakistan on its maps shows the Aksai Chin area as mostly within China and labels the boundary “Frontier Undefined” while India holds that Aksai Chin is illegally occupied by the PRC.Relations between contemporary China and India have been characterised by border disputes, resulting in three military conflicts — the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the Chola incident in 1967, and the 1987 Sino-Indian skirmish. The Cholas maintained good relationship with the Chinese. Arrays of ancient Chinese coins have been found in the Cholas homeland (i.e. Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Pudukkottai districts of Tamil Nadu, India).During World War II, both India and China both played a crucial role in halting the progress of Imperial Japan.
In 2008, China became India’s largest trading partner and the two countries have also extended their strategic and military relations.The two countries are co-operating each other on a range of international issues like trade, climate change and reform of the global financial order, among others, to promote common interest”.In June 2012, China stated its position that “Sino-Indian ties” could be the most “important bilateral partnership of the century”. In the same month, both the countries set a goal to increase bilateral trade between the two countries to US$100 billion by 2015.
Despite growing economic and strategic ties, there are several hurdles for India and China to overcome. India faces trade imbalance heavily in favour of China.In early 2017, the two countries clashed at the Doklam plateau along the disputed Sino-Bhutanese border. India remains wary about China’s strong strategic bilateral relations with Pakistan, while China has expressed concerns about Indian military and economic activities in the disputed South China Sea. A 2014 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed 72% of Indians were concerned that territorial disputes between China and neighbouring countries could lead to a military conflict.
China and India also dispute most of Arunachal Pradesh. However, both countries have agreed to respect the Line of Actual Control. After Independence Jawaharlal Nehru based his vision of “resurgent Asia” on friendship between the two largest states of Asia; his vision of an internationalist foreign policy governed by the ethics of the Panchsheel (Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence), which he initially believed was shared by China. Nehru was disappointed when it became clear that the two countries had a conflict of interest in Tibet, which had traditionally served as a buffer zone, and where India believed it had inherited special privileges from the British Raj. Nehru sought to initiate a more direct dialogue between the peoples of China and India in culture and literature. Around that time, the famous Indian artist (painter) BeoharRammanoharSinha, who had earlier decorated the pages of the original Constitution of India, was sent to China in 1957 on a Government of India fellowship to establish a direct cross-cultural and inter-civilization bridge. Noted Indian scholar Rahul Sankrityayan and diplomat Natwar Singh were also there, and SarvapalliRadhakrishnan paid a visit to PRC.Up until 1959, despite border skirmishes, Chinese leaders amicably had assured India that there was no territorial controversy.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao paid an official visit to India from 15–17 December 2010 at the invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He was accompanied by 400 Chinese business leaders, who wished to sign business deals with Indian companies.In April 2011, during the BRICS summit in Sanya, Hainan, China, the two countries agreed to restore defence co-operation. China stopped the practice of stapled visas of Jammu and Kashmir people.In the 2012 BRICS summit in New Delhi, India, Chinese President Hu Jintao told Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that “it is China’s unswerving policy to develop Sino-Indian friendship, deepen strategic cooperation and seek common development” and “China hopes to see a peaceful, prosperous and continually developing India and is committed to building more dynamic China-India relationship”. India’s decision to boycott the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit held in Beijing in May, which even Chinese adversaries such as Japan and the United States attended, was another major blow to China-India relations.India’s decision in November to join the revived Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad),a strategic dialogue between the United States, Japan, India, and Australia with a naval component has damaged China-India relations in 2017.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made his first foreign visit to India on 18 May 2013 in a bid to increase diplomatic co-operation, to cement trade relations, and formulate border dispute solutionsIn September 2017, Prime Minister NarendraModi travelled to China to attend the 9th BRICS Summit on the sidelines of which he met Chinese President Xi Jinping and held extensive talks. Beijing’s latest move to extend its ambitious USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan and the victory of the pro-China Communist Party of Nepal (UML) leader K P S Oli in the just concluded polls in Nepal added to the long list of challenges New Delhi and Beijing will have to handle in 2018. The Indian diplomatic circle, with help from the US, also prevailed upon China to ensure that the country lifts its objections over putting Pakistan back on the terrorist financing watch list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF).According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 33% of Indians view China positively, with 35% expressing a negative view, whereas 27% of Chinese people view India positively, with 35% expressing a negative view.
China’s investment in India, especially by mobile phone makers like Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi besides ecommerce giant Alibaba were on the rise. The total investment was stated to be around USD 3.5 billion so far. China and India have huge potential despite long list of differences. .China and India have been working together to produce films together, such as Kung Fu Yoga starring Jackie Chan.Putting behind the Dokalam standoff, the two sides agreed to move forward in their ties with Xi telling Modi that he wants to put the relationship on the “right track”. China and India are rising powers, keenly observed by the West and, increasingly, the rest of the world. Emerging trends indicate that both India and China would remain highly competitive in the global and regional trade and economic domain, and would continue to compete for status and influence in the Asian region in general, and in South Asia in particular.A more systematic dialogue process, going well beyond high-level visits, that acknowledges their differences instead of emphasising imagined similarities could lay the foundations for a better understanding of the domestic compulsions that drive each nation’s foreign policy.
by Mrs. Meenakshi Sharma