India-China Relations: Not born rivals, but friendly rivals

Jul 31, 2017
By Rudroneel Ghosh
In a welcome development, China’s official Xinhua news agency released a pragmatic commentary to mark Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval’s visit to Beijing. Doval’s recent meetings with top Chinese leaders, including state councillor Yang Jiechi and President Xi Jinping, highlight the first high-level official engagement between the two countries since the Doklam standoff began in the India-Bhutan-China trijunction region.
The Xinhua commentary made a strong plea to avoid conflict as this would negatively affect most economies in a globalised world. It further stated that the recent border issue between the two countries showed a lack of strategic trust which had to be mitigated.
In fact, the commentary asserted that India and China aren’t born rivals and have much in common as developing nations. It even said that China would like to see a strong India standing shoulder-to-shoulder with it. Admittedly, the tone and tenor of the Xinhua article is markedly different from the strident reports that sections of both Chinese and Indian media have published in recent days.
Needless to say such war mongering is extremely dangerous and irresponsible. India and China are neighbours and two of the most important nations in Asia. Conflict between them will have catastrophic consequences and the option itself should be taken off the table. China needs India’s huge market, and India needs Chinese investments. The growing two-way trade exemplifies the symbiotic economic relationship between the two countries. Add to this the fact that China is the factory floor of the world and very few manufactured goods don’t have a Chinese component.
As Xinhua has rightly pointed out, what the Doklam standoff shows is a clear lack of mutual trust between New Delhi and Beijing. And as long as this exists the threat of miscalculations on both sides will remain. Leaders of the two countries must realise that differences are not disputes – the former should never be allowed to escalate to the latter. And there is no civilisation conflict between the two peoples – on the contrary things like Buddhism serve as a bridge between the two nations.
Thus, it’s time to de-escalate the Doklam standoff. What is needed is more dialogue and interactions between all levels of government and civil society of the two countries. Let’s also recognise the fact that both India and China are going through delicate moments of transition. While China is seeking to transition to an innovation-driven economy leaving behind its labour-intensive manufacturing base, India is looking to kick start a second round of industrialisation that will take its economy to the next level.
In both cases there are vested interests and ideological handicaps that are proving to be barriers to this transition. Hence, it is all the more important that differences between India and China are managed properly so that destabilising forces are not able to take advantage of them. In East Asian tradition, one concept of rivalry is where rivals push each other to better themselves.
Here the rivals don’t bear any ill will towards each other but compete to develop their inner strengths. India and China can be such friendly rivals. New Delhi should try and compete with Beijing on poverty eradication, while Beijing should try and compete with New Delhi in the IT sector. This way both nations and peoples can gain. Hence, India and China aren’t born rivals. But we can be friendly rivals.
Times of India, July 31, 2017

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