Reset relations: China must avoid Thucydides Trap with India and uphold mutual cooperation

Sep 7, 2017
The meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Brics summit in Xiamen has seen a pragmatic assessment of bilateral ties. Coming on the heels of the 73-day Doklam standoff between the two countries, Modi and Xi resolved to prevent recurrence of such incidents by maintaining strong contacts between their militaries. Emphasising shelving of disputes and enhancing mutual trust, the two sides recognised that peace in the border areas is vital for development of bilateral ties. This is indeed welcome and shows that India and China as neighbours do have the capacity to manage their differences.
However, in order to ensure that irritants along the border don’t keep cropping up, it’s important to fast-track the settlement of the boundary issue. Otherwise, the trajectory of India-China ties will follow the one-step-forward-two-steps-back pattern. China says it would like to work with India to uphold the five principles of peaceful coexistence. But mutual trust is a two-way street. Just as Beijing wants New Delhi to be mindful of its interests, it too should be sensitive to India’s interests. China constantly cautions the US to avoid the Thucydides Trap – a situation where a rising power causes fear in an established power, leading to conflict. The same caution applies to China in its relationship with India.
On this score, the Brics Xiamen declaration condemning Pakistan-based anti-India terror groups was a positive development. China should reflect this position in bilateral dealings with India as well. At the end of the day, Chinese business interests in India are huge. And with Chinese exports facing stiff political resistance in many foreign countries, the Indian market has become important for Beijing. Instead of getting stuck in pointless zero-sum games, India and China should work together for mutual benefit to usher in an Asian century.
Times of India, September 7, 2017

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