With the subtle shift in global political architecture from West to the East, the two most populous nations, China and India, with a huge border between them, are poised to rival each other for global recognition and influence. According to the United States National Intelligence Council Report titled “Mapping the Global Future,” by 2020, the international community will have to confront the military, political and economic dimensions of the rise of China and India. This report likened the emergence of China and India in the early 21st century to the rise of Germany in the 19th and America in the 20th, with impacts potentially as dramatic. The India-China relationship, is already one that is on edge. Chinese foreign policy is currently aimed at enhancing its economic and military prowess to achieve regional hegemony in Asia. India’s foreign policy towards China is aimed at containing it. It is a well-recognized fact that China has begun to seriously cultivate Pakistan as a local foil to India. From supplying nuclear and missile technologies to building its military infrastructure, China has worked hard to create Pakistan as an effective counterweight to India. China’s attempts to increase its influence in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, its territorial claims on parts of India such as Arunachal Pradesh, its lack of support for India’s membership to the United Nations Security Council and other regional and global organizations, all point towards China’s attempts at preventing the rise of India as a regional and global player.

The strategic Indo-US partnership and the earlier civilian nuclear cooperation agreement is a testament to the growing strength of US-India ties as a counterweight to China. A commentary on India-China relations by John Garver states that India-China relations have, over the years, been shaped by a deep and enduring geo-political rivalry rooted in the “decades-long, multi-layered, and frequently sharp conflict over the two states’ relations with the lands and peoples lying around and between them.” According to Ashley Telis, China and India as rising powers in Asia and will remain natural competitors, competing to increase their influence not only in South Asia but also outside South Asia proper. Tellis goes on to argue that India-China competition is not likely to mutate in to malignant rivalry in the near-term but if Indian and Chinese economic and military capabilities continue to grow at the current pace, there is a likelihood of this relationship turning into a dyadic rivalry. In so far as India’s China policy is concerned, there is a broad consensus across Indian political spectrum for improving bilateral ties with China and for resolving Sino-Indian differences through dialogue. It has been pointed out that there are three broad views in India on how to deal with China and they have been classified as the pragmatists, the hyperrealists, and the appeasers. The pragmatists view China as a long-term threat and as a competitor but argue that this competition can be managed by engaging China economically and balancing against China by emerging as a major power in the international system. The hyperrealists view China as a clear and present danger and would like India to contain China by forging alliances around China’s periphery and by strengthening its military capabilities. The third view is that China is a friendly and benevolent neighbor and therefore India should engage it whole-heartedly since China, in their opinion, is not a threat to India in any way. The earlier perception in India that the global balance maintained by the superpowers through the Cold War could be used to contain external dangers and thus military preparedness could wait was shattered by the 1962 border conflict with China. The India-Pakistan war of 1965 further revealed the extent of Sino-Pakistan collusion. While India’s economic and military capabilities have no doubt increased substantially in recent times, with its GDP being fourth in the world in purchasing power parity and its military the third largest in the world, China’s capabilities have continued to remain ahead of India’s. Former Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes described China as India’s “potential enemy number one” and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee explained to the world powers that Indian nuclear tests were a response to the threat posed by Chinese nuclear weapons and Sino-Pakistan nuclear and missile collaboration. From Hindi-Chini bhaibhai to potential enemy number one, India’s relationship with China has oscillated to rivalry over foreign capital, export markets, political influence, and aspirations for regional leadership.

The tone of the relationship between China and India has varied over time; the two nations have sought economic cooperation with each other, while frequent border disputes and economic nationalism in both countries are a major point of contention. The modern relationship began in 1950 when India was among the first countries to end formal ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan) and recognize the People's Republic of China as the legitimate government of Mainland China. It is a fact that both China and India are major regional powers in Asia, and are the two most populous countries and among the fastest growing major economies in the world. Growth in diplomatic and economic influence has increased the significance of their bilateral relationship. Historically, cultural and economic relations between China and India date back to ancient times. The Silk Road not only served as a major trade route between India and China, but is also credited for facilitating the spread of Buddhism from India to East Asia. During the 19th century, China was involved in a growing opium trade with the East India Company, which exported opium grown in India. During World War II, both British India and Republic of China played a crucial role in halting the progress of Imperial Japan. Relations between contemporary China and India have been characterized 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. In early 2017, the two countries clashed at the Doklam plateau along the Sino-Bhutanese border. Both countries have steadily established military infrastructure along border areas including amidst the 2020 China–India skirmishes. Additionally, India remains wary about China's strong strategic bilateral relations with Pakistan, and China's funding to the separatist groups in Northeast India, while China has expressed concerns about Indian involvement with the QUAD and military and economic activities in the disputed South China Sea. Beginning on 5 May 2020, Chinese and Indian troops engaged in aggressive melee, face-offs and skirmishes at locations along the Sino-Indian border, including near the Pangong Lake in Ladakh. Additional clashes also took place at locations in eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). On 29 June 2020, the Indian government banned 59 Chinese mobile applications including TikTok, WeChat, UC Browser, SHAREit and Baidu Maps amongst others. PRC responded with blocking Indian newspapers and websites in mainland China. Following the initial ban, in September, the Government of India further banned 118 more Chinese apps including popular gaming app, PUBG Mobile, citing the sovereignty and integrity of the country. In November, the fourth ban list was released, listing 43 more apps including Alibaba Group's AliExpress, Alipay Cashier and Alibaba Workbench. Following the fourth ban list, 200 plus Chinese apps had been banned by the Indian government, including apps owned by Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, Sina and Bytedance. In early 2021, India and China have successfully completed their four-step disengagement plan in Pangong Tso, Eastern Ladakh. China pulled back its troops to the East of Finger 8 on the north bank, which is the farthest extent of India’s claim line, while Indian troops retreated to the Dhan Singh Thapa post behind Finger 3. This effectively re-establishes status-quo ante as of April 2020 (before the crisis began) while also dramatically reducing the risk of inadvertence through a temporary no patrolling buffer zone. All military infrastructure in this zone has also been dismantled. It has been argued that India’s “quid pro quo” strategy (Operation Snow Leopard) to occupy the heights on the south bank at Rechin La and Rezang La, the Kailash Range, and on the north bank of Pangong Tso which overlooked Chinese positions on the ridge lines in the Finger 4 area, led to this breakthrough by creating equal opportunity for both states to make concessions.

Sources- Various, Britannica, Wikipedia..


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