◆View: Don't be so deferential to China; leverage conciliatory mood to correct imbalances
【New Delhi】Parliament's standing committee on external affairs has expressed concern that the Indian gover nment's "conventionally deferential foreign policy" towards China is not being reciprocated. This is a rather late realisation.
In the 1950s, China took full advantage of India's refusal to oppose its territorial expansion and annexed Tibet without any opposition. Its current aggrandisement continues to be matched by India's reticence.
But China has been careful not to antagonise India too much. It has selectively followed its calculated policy of 'hide your strength and bide your time' so as not to open too many fronts at the same time.
China, in fact, has been assiduously cultivating India ever since US President Donald Trump rattled it with his unpredictability and a trade war. Faced with this threat, China swiftly abandoned its Doklam-style confrontation with India and replaced it with wooing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leading to the two-day summit with President Xi Jinping at Wuhan.
In an article in an Indian daily last Thursday Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, laid down a five-point vision for 2019 that would do the framers of Panchsheel proud. He has talked of strengthening political trust with neighbours, safeguarding regional peace, and promoting domestic reform. More worrisome is his insistence on ensuring the success of yidai yilu, China's cherished – but now increasingly controversial – Belt and Road strategy for expanding its global reach.
China's economic slowdown is quite evident even from its own statistics. There are also reports of questions being raised among the ruling elite about Xi's leadership style. In such an environment, it appears to have decided that it would be best to make concessions to the US on trade and prevent a full-blown trade war with its largest market.
India would do well to not lose such an opportunity for rebalancing its relations with its northern neighbour. The parliamentary committee has recommended adopting a "flexible approach" using all options, including its relations with Taiwan, but avoiding "adversarial posturing". This is sound advice.
India should, indeed, loosen its self-imposed shackles in relations with China, especially on the three troublesome subjects – trade, Taiwan and Tibet. China's current conciliatory mood is a good time to press for immediate steps to correct the imbalance in bilateral trade and make relations with Taiwan more formal. It is also time to push the envelope on Tibet. The writer (Dilip Sinha) is a former diplomat
View: Don’t be so deferential to China; leverage conciliatory mood to correct imbalances
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