This Article is written by Preksha Bothra (a 2nd-year B.A. L.L.B. student from BMS College of Law, Bengaluru)
Table of Contents
India and China were part of early civilizations, the Indus Valley Civilization on the banks of the Indus River and The Shang Dynasty on the banks of Yellow and Yangtze River. Both the countries occupy the Asian region on the map and are densely populated. China has the highest population, and India comes at a close second. Canada and Russia are the only two landmasses bigger than China in area.
China, formally known as The People’s Republic of China, is a communist, a one-party dictatorial government ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). On the other hand, India is a democratic, multi-party, parliamentary republic governed by the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). Both the countries share a 3,000km international border. The two countries have maintained trade relations for more than 2,000 years. Arthashastra, a book written by Chanakya during the Mauryan era (2nd century BC), mentions Chinese silk.
India’s capital is New Delhi, whereas China’s capital is Beijing. Indo-Chinese relations refer to the bilateral relationship between the two countries. In the past, there were cultural and economic relations between India and China. Contemporary China and India relations have been characterized by border disputes, resulting in three military conflicts – the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the Sino-Indian war of 1967, and the 1987 Sino-Indian skirmish. Since the late 1980s, both China and India have rebuilt diplomatic and economic ties. Having enlarged their military and strategic relations, China, in 2008, became India’s largest trading partner.
History or Background after independence till 2019
India and China mark April 1, 2020, as the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between them from 1950 till now.
In June 1954, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai visited India, and both the countries signed the Joint Statement and advocated Panchsheel (Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence). In October 1954, Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (the first head of a non-socialist country) visited China.
The Indo-China Border Conflict or Sino-Indian Conflict led to a significant backlash in bilateral relations between the two countries.
In August 1976, both the countries restored their ambassadorial relations
In 1988, Rajiv Gandhi, prime minister of India, visited China to initiate bilateral ties between China and India. Both the countries agreed to expand and diversify bilateral relations in all fields.
In May 1992, the President of India visited the state of China. R. Venkataraman was the first President to visit China since the independence of the Republic of India.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited India in 1996, becoming the first Chinese head of state who visit India since the inception of bilateral ties. The Confidence Building Measures (CBM’s) in the military field along the Line of Actual Control at the India-China Border areas was signed by both Governments.
In the year 2000, on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of China India diplomatic ties, Indian President K R Narayanan visited China.
Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee visited China in 2003. The parties signed The Declaration on the Principles and Comprehensive Cooperation in China-India Relations and agreed to establish the unique representatives meeting mechanism on the India-China boundary question.
In 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, met twice at the SCO Summit in Astana and on the sidelines of the 9th BRICS Summit in Xiamen.
In 2018, the Chinese President held an informal meeting with the Indian Prime Minister in Wuhan, setting up a new exchange model between both the leaders. To attend the SCO Summit in Qingdao, the Indian Prime Minister visited China and met again on the sidelines of the 10th BRICS and the G20 Summit held in Buenos Aires.
The second informal meeting was held in Mahabalipuram, Chennai, in 2019, which reasserted the Wuhan consensus. China and India agreed to build a closer partnership for development, enhance in-depth strategic communication, promote mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields, and advance exchanges and mutual learning between the two civilizations. Both sides met on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Bishkek and the 11th BRICS Summit.
The 70th anniversary of the inception of diplomatic relations between China and India is in the year 2020. It is also the China-India Year of Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges. India and China agreed to hold 70 celebratory activities to demonstrate the historical connection between the two civilizations and their growing bilateral relationship.
Political or Diplomatic Relations
Since the inception of bilateral relations, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has maintained friendly ties with nine major political parties of India, including the BJP, Congress, and the left-wing parties. It has been 70 years in 2020 since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. It is also the China-India Year of Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges. The two countries agreed to hold 70 celebratory activities to demonstrate the historical connection between the two civilizations and their growing bilateral relationship. China and India have set up 20 Interparliamentary friendship groups. The two countries also have 50 dialogue mechanisms between each other. They exchange views on different topics in the areas of bilateral, regional, and global concerns. Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, and Xi Jinping, the President of China, have held 16 high-level exchanges or bilateral meetings since 2014, strengthening political mutual trust, managing differences reasonably, amplifying practical collaboration to help guide a stable and improved evolution of bilateral relations.
However, in a Doklam-likesituation in April 2020, a border stand-off at the LAC in Ladakh took place, putting strains between India and China. Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) turned down the offer of the United States President, Donald Trump, to mediate between the two countries and clarified that it will reconcile the border stand-off “peacefully through dialogue.”
Since 2007, To enhance mutual understanding and trust, India and China have taken part in “Exercise Hand-in-Hand” joint military exercises. These are exchange training experiences to improve anti-terrorism capabilities jointly. There have been eight editions of this exchange operation until 2019. The first was in 2007, followed by 2008, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, switching between training in India and China. India-China defence and security personnel participate in this operation to strengthen exchanges and cooperation in the defence area.
India and China have very limited or fewer defence-related partnerships because the disputes are numerous and diplomatic relations are weak. The alliance between the two nations has been at its lowest in a long time. To intercept the aggravations, both the nations must try and mend the relationship because it could very well be the most dangerous, essential, and feared duo in the world. Still, the countries have difficulties in reaching any compromise.
India has risen to a powerful position and is strategically a competition for China, engaged in a deep strategic parity with The United States of America. It was hoped that after the Modi-Xi understandings of 2018, they could have more stable relations with India.
In so far as China is concerned, according to them, India vandalized the relationship when it declared Ladakh (a disputed territory) a union territory of India in August of 2019 and the road-building activities in 2020. To restore the relationship with China, India must make a crucial move by moving back from Ladakh. Nevertheless, China believes that India, for domestic and national interest, will not retrograde on Ladakh.
India has a different perspective. China’s rapid growth in the recent decades and its superior military capabilities have led to an inherently unequal relationship. China is willing to accommodate India so far as it does not reduce its hold on the world.
E.g., China has accommodated India in the cases of oil exploration in Sudan and established the New Development Bank. India’s permanent membership in the Security Council and the Nuclear Suppliers Group are instances where China is unwilling to accommodate India.
A major strategic initiative by China to help develop the infrastructure of its partner countries, The Belt Road Initiative, has severed the relationship between the two countries.
It is clear that, unlike Doklam, the Ladakh confrontation between China and India has been based on strategic differences. The situation, therefore, remains frantic with the risk of escalation. Yet, being the leading rising powers of the twenty-first century, both sides also have much to gain from accommodation and collaboration. Leadership on both sides could help by focusing on the long-term gains in a spirit of give-and-take.
Economic and Trade Relations
The economy of the People’s Republic of China is a developing market-oriented economy incorporating economic planning through industrial policies and strategic five-year plans. Being dominated by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and mixed-ownership enterprises, China’s economy is described as a socialist market economy. The economy has been described as a “socialist market economy with Chinese Characteristics.” since the 12th National Congress of CCP in 1982. The economy of India is characterized as a middle-income developing market economy, and it is the world’s sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and third by purchasing power parity (PPP). India ranked 138th by nominal GDP and 122nd by purchasing power parity GDP in 2020 based on per capita income according to the International Monetary Fund.
Both countries are now global economic power. However, China has grown in double digits for almost ten years, coming second to just the USA.
China and India enjoy huge potential and broad prospects for economic and trade cooperation with a combined market of over 2.7 billion people and a GDP of 20% of the world’s total. Trade Relations saw meteoric growth in the last few years, and bilateral trade relations between both countries reached US$ 89.6 Billion during 2017-18.
According to the commerce ministry, $65.3 billion worth of goods were imported by India from China in March 2020, and India exported $16.6 billion. India is the 7th largest export destination for Chinese products and the 24th largest exporter to China.
Cotton yarn, diamonds, iron ore, copper, and organic chemical are the exports to China. India imports Electronic equipment, Organic Chemicals, Fertilizers, and Iron and steel from China. The Indo-China Economic and Commercial Relations are shaped via various economic dialogue mechanisms such as Strategic Economic Dialogues (SED) led by the NITI Aayog for cooperation on sustainable development, climate change, and food security.
Financial Dialogues are led by the Secretary Department of Economic Affairs of India and the Vice Minister, Ministry of Finance of PRC.
Several Indian Banks have representation in their branches in China, such as the State of India (Shanghai), Canara Bank, Bank of Baroda, and Bank of India. Similarly, many Chinese banks have a presence in India, such as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). Few other institutionalized dialogue mechanisms between these two countries include the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Trade, Skill development, Information and Communication Technology, and high-end technology, Agriculture, and Energy.
- BORDER DISPUTES
- Western Sector – China claims Aksai Chin to be part of its territory. Since the 1962 War, it has had control over the domain. Further, to aid China in helping road construction directly through PoK, Pakistan gifted them Shaksgam Valley, an Indian territory.
- Sikkim Sector – Although Sikkim is an Indian territory, China claims border discord. The DoklamChumbi Valley issue that concerns Bhutan also has some implications on Sikkim.
- Eastern Sector – China claims Arunachal Pradesh to be part of Southern Tibet and hence a Chinese territory. It was a ploy to bargain the Aksai Chin area in exchange for North-East.
- Strategic Issues – India’s Sabang Base in Indonesia is close to the Strait of Malacca. China is an aggressor, and it has border disputes with almost all its neighbors. China is a warning to regional peace and security as a growing economic and military power. In such a scenario, Japan, India and the USA will counter China’s aggression.India’s closeness to the USA and Japan naturally displeases China. China will suffer an economic disaster if Malacca Strait is choked. India has a base near Malacca Strait called Sabang in Indonesia. This is the reason why China is pursuing the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project. They want alternate trade routes.
- Water Disputes – China being the upper riparian, builds dams over the important rivers like Brahmaputra, Sutlej, and Indus since they enter India from China without consultations, and India, the lower riparian, has grave consequences on water security and ecology.
- Trade Relations – India-China bilateral trade volume was $92.7 billion in 2019. India’s import from China was worth $74.7 billion, while India’s export to China was worth $18 billion. Thus, India has a huge trade deficit of $56.7 billion. The problem is that India exports primarily raw materials like iron ore etc., to China and imports finished goods from them.
- China-Pak Axis – China and Pakistan came closer to each other after the 1962 Indo-China war. China has supplied nuclear technology to Pakistan and has defended Pak-based terrorists at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Pakistan has entered into a $65 billion worth CPEC Corridor pactwith China. This is a Chinese Debt Trap for Pakistan, and it will eventually make Pakistan an economic colony of China, which is dangerous for India’s security.
- Doklam Issue – In 2017, as part of its predatory ‘salami-slicing tactics, China entered the Doklam region into Bhutanese territory and started building roads. India is Bhutan’s ally, sent armed troops with bulldozers to demolish the construction and push them back. Finally, both the countries pulled out of the region to end the stand-off. Doklam is also important for India’s security, as it is close to the ‘chicken neck corridor.’
Chinese and Indian forces clashed at Nathu La, Sikkim (India), on May 10, 2020, with 11 Indian fatalities. After the Sikkim scuffles, tensions between the two countries rose in Ladakh, with a multi-place mobilization of troops.
The initial weeks of June 2020 saw a significant build-up of troops on both sides of the LAC, with strength matching between the Indian and Chinese armies.
After a high-level visit by commanding officers of both the Indian and Chinese armies, on June 9, 2020, the Chinese military agreed to withdraw from the disputed territories about 2-2,5 km away, with the Indian military also agreeing to disengage at certain places. Further disengagement talks are supposedly expected in the coming days.
On the evening of June 15, 2020. One commanding officer and two Indian Army jawans lost their lives during a violent face-off with Chinese troops in Eastern Ladakh’s Galwan district. These are the first deaths from the battle on the contested frontier since 1975.
On the night of June 17, during a violent clash with Chinese troops, a total of 20 Indian Army personnel, including a colonel, were killed in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, surging the already erratic border stand-off between the two sides.
On June 29, India banned 59 apps originating from China Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. This action, however, is more sweeping, impacts more apps, and has been taken in a specific strategic and national security context. It could act as a caution to bigger Chinese businesses in India and to China itself.
How to Overcome Differences
Today’s achievements of India-China relations embodied the tremendous efforts of several generations. India and China have to master the four keys:
- Leading: It means reaching a consensus and guiding the direction of developing bilateral relations under the guidance of leaders from both nations.
- Transmitting: It means communicating the leaders’ consensus to all levels and translating it into cooperation and outcomes of a substantial nature.
- Shaping: It means to go beyond the mode of managing differences, shape bilateral relations actively and accumulate positive momentum.
- Integrating: It means to strengthen exchanges and cooperation, promote convergence of interests and achieve joint development.
At this moment, it is imperative to revisit the original aspiration of establishing diplomatic relations 70 years ago and carry forward the spirit of good neighbourliness and friendship, unity, and cooperation.
India and China’s partnership would be one of the world’s most influential ones. We need to be able to put aside our differences and work together.