Sino-Indian ties: Need for patience

Beijing is said to have realized recently that the ongoing Islamist terrorist attacks against it are being inspired, funded and militarily aided by the same sources as those against India.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he gives a speech in front of students at the University of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo. (photo credit: REUTERS)
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he gives a speech in front of students at the University of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Statesmanship demands not only offering choices of mutual interest to other rulers but also assuring them of one’s credibility in partnership. It seems our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has both in plenty.  Using them skillfully, he has recently accomplished a major breakthrough in India’s relations with Bhutan, Nepal , Brics countries and Japan.  And now he looks all set to have it with Asia’s most powerful China as well. Come September 17 and he will be greeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Ahmedabad himself when he arrives there before visiting Delhi.  In Gujarat, Modi will be escorting Xi to the Sabarmati Ashram and the riverfront park developed during his chief ministership in the state. Incidentally, September 17 is also Modi's birthday. He will be celebrating it with this most important Chinese guest at a private banquet that night.  
Knowledgeable sources say the Xi visit will be an important milestone in Sino-Indian ties. Infrastructure investments in India, increasing bilateral trade and reducing trade deficits have been at the top of the Modi agenda.  During the Xi visit India and China will be signing as many as 20 agreements and MoUs . They include the setting up of two ‘industrial cities’ near Gandhinagar and Pune. The total investment in the projects likely to be approved will exceed $100 billion over the next five years.  The facility near Gandhinagar will involve a Chinese investment of around $5 billion in companies related to power transmission and conversion. The facility near Pune will have auto ancillary plants designed for export.  These parks will generate more than 10,000 jobs each for Indians. They will make India a manufacturing base of the kind the Chinese companies have made in the United States.  
New Delhi and Beijing will be discussing a plan to involve Chinese companies in dredging more than 600 canals and reservoirs in six states across the country. This will enhance India's water storage capacity and  boost its supply to farms in the concerned states. This is estimated to cost China $18 billion.  The two sides will also discuss doubling of speeds on existing Indian railway tracks with the use of Chinese technology and constructing "fast trains" with speeds of 160 kilometers per hour.  Besides, there will be agreements for increased student and tourist flows between the two nations and for the entry of Chinese banks to provide soft loan to the Indian clients.
New Delhi and Beijing are looking forward to serious consultations to negotiate a FTA (Free Trade Agreement). India today faces not only Chinese non-tariff barriers on its exports but also “non-economic” pricing of Chinese exports.  Some Chinese products are being exported to India at throw away prices. This hits Indian industry and forces India to resort to anti-dumping action. This issue needs to be sorted out.
Besides, China is interested in sharing with India its vision of the Maritime Silk Road (MSR). It connects Quanzhou (Fujian province) with South and Southeast Asia, including India, Maldives and Sri Lanka. China is ready to support funding for the development of marine industry, including ship building, logistical infrastructure and industrial parks in the nations joining this initiative. Beijing needs the MSR following the economic downturn in the West that was once crucial to its export led growth.
China’s MSR vision has deeper geopolitical imperatives as well. The United States-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) initiative today seeks to forge a regional free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region.  The TPP includes:  Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia.  Beijing is being apprehensive that the American ‘Pivot to Asia’ is not but a doctrinal invention for concentrating its additional forces and equipment in the Asia-Pacific. This runs parallel to the TPP.  Both are part of the US-allies agenda to contain China.  
I am, however, not sure if the Modi-Xi summit would cut much ice in other important areas of Sino-Indian relations. Modi and Xi are said to be determined to enhance their strategic and cooperative partnership to a higher level to achieve a negotiated settlement of the Sino-Indian border dispute in due course. New Delhi’s relations with Beijing have already improved a lot since India’s then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited China in 1988. Defense cooperation between the two nations has also improved a lot in recent years. Then Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh was in China in July to discuss strengthening the recent Border Security Management Cooperation Pact and defense relations.
Military to military cooperation between the PLA and India Armed Forces encompasses exchange of high and medium level visits, availing of training courses in each other’s institutions, conduct of Joint Training Exercise, mutual attendance in Seminars/ Conferences, CBMs on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) including sports activities between border troops and basic Naval exercises.
Yet New Delhi continues to remain upset with Beijing over the latter's approach to its boundary dispute with India, its claims to India’s Arunachal Pradesh, its policy of issuing stapled visas to Indians of this state, its reported occasional infiltration from across the Line of Actual Control, its support to Pakistan’s nuclear-missile capability, and its indifference towards India-specific terrorist attacks from across India's border with Pakistan and Pak-occupied Kashmir. Pertinently, the other day India's foreign minister wondered why China could not have a one-India policy when New Delhi had had one-China policy for so long now.
Besides, New Delhi feels put off whenever Beijing displays its negativity towards India’s entry into the nuclear club, the UN Security Council, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation.  Pertinently, China’s logic in the context of the Council membership has been that an expanded Council should include only developing countries; it cannot support India as it is in the group of four (with Brazil, Germany and Japan) for this membership. 
Prime Minister Modi may need to be patient and make special efforts to win over Chinese President Xi in addressing all such irritants in their bilateral ties. The border question deserves special focus. Given the popular sentiments on this issue in both nations, no breakthrough can ever be imagined in Sino-Indian relations without solving this issue.  Ever since Rajiv Gandhi’s 1988 visit to China, many kinds of dialogues have been held to solve this question. During Prime Minister Atal Bihari’s rule in New Delhi the two nations invented a new mechanism of Special Representatives for the border talks. But there has been no major breakthrough so far. Now Modi and Xi need to appoint new representatives to settle the matter.
Another priority area for India and China may be to curb Islamist terrorism. Beijing is said to have realized of late that the ongoing Islamist terrorist attacks against it are being inspired, funded and militarily aided by the same sources as those against India and other secular nations are. Modi may use this Chinese realization to rope in Beijing meaningfully against violent Islamism. 
The author is a senior Indian journalist based in New Delhi