Unhappy tidings in China-India ties
As two of the fastest growing countries in the world, China and India have not only been hogging the headlines in Asia but across the world. However, Sino-Indian ties have seen a rollercoaster ride in recent years with tensions on the political front and remarkable progress on the economic front.
In the recent months, there has been a series of incidents which have highlighted the rifts between the two Asian behemoths. In one of these incidents, two Indian traders, Deepak Raheja and Shyamsundar Agarwal, were taken hostage by Chinese businessmen on Dec. 14 in the Chinese city of Yiwu, a trading hub.
The locals wanted the Indian duo to pay what was owed to them by their firm but in reality the owner of the company had already fled by then and these two Indians were only employees. After a long and tense stand-off, the two Indians were escorted away from Yiwu on Jan. 4 to Shanghai.
In the meantime, on Dec. 31, an Indian diplomat fainted in a Chinese court while trying to secure the release of the detained Indian businessmen. The authorities had to intervene in the matter and had to summon the deputy chief of the Chinese mission in New Delhi after the Indian traders were allowed to be taken to Shanghai.
Another row broke out when the visit of an Indian defense delegation to China was almost cancelled following the denial of a Chinese visa to one of its members, Group Captain M. Panging from the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. China claims the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and has in the past denied Chinese visas to Indian citizens from there.
The defense exchanges between the two neighbours had been suspended for almost a year after China had refused to issue a visa to the then General Officer Commanding of Indian Army’s Northern Command Lt. Gen. B. S. Jaswal as he had served in the Indian border province of Jammu and Kashmir (abutting China). Finally, the Indian government decided to go ahead with the visit but sent a pared-down 15-member delegation from the original 30.
On the other hand, on Dec. 19, the first India-Japan-U.S. trilateral dialogue was held in Washington, D.C. While the American delegation was led by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell and Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Bob Blake, Koji Tsuruoka, deputy vice minister for foreign policy, represented Japan and India was represented by two high officials in the Ministry of External Affairs, Joint Secretary (Americas Division) Jawed Ashraf and Joint Secretary (East Asia Division) Gautam Bambawale.
The three nations have shared interests in the safety and security of Afghanistan, in ensuring stability and freedom of navigation in the Asia-Pacific region, the East Asia Summit and lately in Myanmar (where India as a neighboring country has immense influence).
Meanwhile, relations between India and Japan have seen remarkable progress in the last few years. The Japanese prime minister paid a visit to India in late December for the annual summit. Among the many major outcomes of the meeting, the joint production and exploration of rare-earth metals merits special mention.
At present, China is the world’s largest producer of rare-earth metals which find application in electronics items, lasers, wind turbines, automobile motors besides in the defense industry like in missile-guidance systems. China and Japan have had tensions over the Senkaku Islands and in the aftermath of the incident of a Chinese fishing trawler ramming into Japanese Coast Guard vessels in September 2010, China unofficially stopped the export of these rare-earth metals to Japan, where they are in high-demand by Japanese companies.
Though India and China have had some major run-ins in the recent past, trade relations between the two have developed at a tremendous pace. India-China trade stood at over $67 billion as of November 2011 and China has been India’s largest trading partner in goods for many years now. China and India have taken similar stands at many international forums, most notably at the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009.
The political side of the relationship is a different story altogether. The boundary issue has still not been resolved while China has also been issuing stapled-visas to Indian citizens from the province of Jammu and Kashmir which has had the Indian government up in arms.
On the other hand, earlier in November last year, China asked India to cancel a Buddhist conference in the Indian capital of New Delhi which was to be addressed by the Dalai Lama, but India refused. China then cancelled the boundary talks between Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo and India’s National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon.
As India and China get ready to play a bigger role in Asia and the global arena, tensions between the two Asian giants is inevitable. However it seems highly unlikely that either India or China will allow the tensions to completely derail their relationship.
Dr. Rupakjyoti Borah is currently a visiting research fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs, Tokyo, and assistant professor of International Relations at Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Gujarat, India. The views expressed are personal. Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.