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Positive Outcome


The announcement by India that ‘differences would not be allowed to become disputes’, more or less, sums up the success of the Modi-Xi meet in Chennai. Neither side was expected to step back from its strategic goals, but there is enough space for cooperation between India and China. This is particularly so in a rapidly changing world that is seeing long held conventions melt under the pressure of national interests. Relationships are having to be renegotiated, especially those that have not been properly established in the first place.
There were those who wanted the meet to become some kind of slug-fest, with India raising Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang, and the Chinese, the Kashmir issue. Such an approach would have been pointless and certainly not what the two countries intended. If the two can profit from each other – the healthy trade that already exists is a pointer to that – there is absolutely no reason why differences should be brought to the fore. The Chinese emphasised on developing Trust and Harmony, which was very Confucian of them. This is in contrast to the India-Pakistan stand-off that puts conditions on reviving the ‘confidence-building measures’ expected to improve relations between the two countries. Any ‘normalcy’ achieved has been sought to be exploited by Pakistan to further its Kashmir obsession through proxies and terrorists.
In this context, India cannot afford to relax on China, either. While the Chinese will not seek open conflict, they will continue with the passive aggression by building up military infrastructure along the border. There cannot be the complacency of the Nehru era, but that does not mean investment cannot be made in the kind of economic development that would lead to enhanced social and cultural bonds.
The Chinese have also expressed the hope that through careful ‘management’ of the problems, even the border issues can be resolved. There is no harm in testing them on this, as it clearly rules out aggression and conflict. The plan is to celebrate, next year, the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and ‘The Year of Sino-Indian Cultural Exchange’. It has already been seen how Indian movies have carved out a niche for themselves in the Chinese market. Similar appreciation among the youth of both countries in each other’s lifestyle and cultural products could create a strong lobby for peace.
Above all, the world could become a considerably more peaceful place were India and China begin to adopt a common approach on emerging challenges. Right now, the rift between the two is not just exploited by Pakistan, but also important powers like the US and Russia. It would help if China were to take the initiative to back India’s entry as a permanent member into the UN Security Council. Such goals are definitely worth pursuing.