India, China leaders move to ease new strains in ties

June 17, 2009

While Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Russia captured all the attention,  Singh’s talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao may turn out to be just as important in easing off renewed pressure on the complex relationship between the world’s rising powers.

India said this month it will bolster its defences on the unsettled China border, deploying up to 50,000 troops and its most latest Su-30 fighter aircraft at a base in the northeast.

While upgrading the defences has been a long-running objective, the timing seemed to suggest New Delhi’s renewed fears of “strategic encirclement” by China by deepening ties with all of its neighbours, not just Pakistan but also Sri Lanka and Nepal.

The chief of the Indian air force, reflecting the anxieties in the security establishment, said China was a far bigger threat than Pakistan because so little was known about Beijing’s combat capabilities.

Predictably enough, the Indian military moves and statements drew a strong response from China’s official media warning that New Delhi’s tough new posture was dangerous if it thought it would compel China to cave in. Beijing was in a different league, both in terms of national power, economic scale and global influence, the media said.

On Monday, Hu and Singh met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the BRIC meeting that followed in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg. Details from the meeting were sketchy, but the Press Trust of India said the two leaders supported an early meeting of a joint economic group to push trade ties. 

They also touched on the border dispute at the heart of the more than four decades of distrust, noting that top negotiators were due to meet in August. The People’s Daily said Hu stressed on expanding economic cooperation and investment flows and aims to take bilateral trade to $60 billion in 2010. It stood at $51.8 billion in 2008, the paper said.

India’s decision to attend the SCO, where it has observer status, was also a step forward. Since its inception the forum has been seen in India as China-centric with the main strategic objective of limiting U.S. dominance on China’s periphery and in that way prevent the hemming-in of both China and Russia.

By attending the summit is New Dehi signalling its intention to engage China on a broad front and not shy away?

And did Beijing shift ground a bit by acceding to the declaration by the BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India and China – calling for U.N. reform and saying that the grouping understood and supported India and Brazil’s aspirations to play a greater role in the United Nations.

Both Brazil and India are candidates for permanent members of the Security Council and Beijing has long been cold to the idea of at least its southern neighbour getting a place on the high table. It wasn’t a ringing endorsement at Yekaterinburg but perhaps the first shuffling of chairs?

[Manmohan Singh and Hu Jintao at the SCO summit and a Chinese soldier at the border]

23 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Its far better to ease the tension (although the arms industry might think differently) and to focus on developing the country instead of pumping billions into the army. The last thing this region needs is another cold war.

India and China need to build confidence and a relationship which can be trusted. India should go and learn “Lessons on how to succeed” from China.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

Would it be that easy to understand China for India ? China is a great superpower not understood by US even.

Posted by Raj | Report as abusive

China, for all of its “global power” and “lessons on how to succeed” really is just one big front. China has major problems; a huge discrepancy between income levels, people still in the same backwater condition they were hundreds of years ago, economic crisis (tons of money invested in the US that went down the tube), natural disasters, etc.

Indian is attempting to remake itself into a modern country (albeit still plagued by a medieval-esque caste system), and at least has a decently educated work force. China only shows so much of itself to the world; the parts you don’t see are rife with corruption, pollution, poverty, and an entire generation of young men who will NOT have enough women to go around (thank you cultural policy of only caring about male children). When these adolescents hit physical maturation, China will see its crime per capita EXPLODE. Given 10 years for each side, and I’m willing to bet what little money I have that India will end up on top.

Posted by Aaron | Report as abusive

In 1962, China invaded Indian border towns, killed more than 3000 Indian troops. China then touted as a swift victory. More than 30 years elapsed since then, still we heard no apology from the Chinese government. Now there are someone saying that “India should go and learn “Lessons on how to succeed” from China,” or “China is a great superpower not understood by US even.” What do you think about India? An underdog or what?

Posted by nguyen | Report as abusive

Aaron:
@thank you cultural policy of only caring about male children
-I thought Chinese cultural revolution of 60s-70s gave more rights to women–equal pay, abolishing prostitution and foot binding, allowing women to initiate divorce and inherit property. Chairman Mao (1962 back stabber) quote “Women hold up half the heavens”. Of course, there were cruelties and killings of liberals and intellectuals though.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Good to see they’re discussing issues that could come to a boil in 10-15 years, especially because better communication could have contributed to a lessening of tensions in the early 1960s between the two. But I’m interested to see how long a semi-”united” BRIC group will be able to maintain any sort of consensus. At the moment, its only consensus seems to be that US dollar reliance isn’t such a great thing going forward. Otherwise, it’s a mess of disparate nationalist tendencies and competitiveness — just look at the huge populations of China and India and their need for natural resources.

Although communication and BRIC meetings are nice and all, it will be interesting to see if they accomplish anything, or if in a few years it’ll just be the BRI countries and China doing its own thing.

So what now? China would make friends with its enemy India? China should by pass its enemy and not let the enemy of Pakistan and China in the middle. China is far bigger power then America now so China shouldn’t be making friends with terrorist states like India. Also India should pay attention inside where state terrorism is growing by the day. Deccan’s Muslim population rate in 1947 was 80 percent, now the total Muslim population rate is 60 percent. It is an alarming situation in Deccan state where daily killing s of Muslims taking place. Indian government is not taking up on its responsibility, which only suggests Indian government has no control on many parts in India and the terrorist crimes committed on local Muslim population are rising up dangerously.

Posted by Sean Preston | Report as abusive

Word of advice for India; stop comparing yourself with China. India making itself looks out of place. India should work hard to work well on Kashmir issue with Pakistan and should stop sending terrorists over to Afghanistan and in Pakistan. India is involved in state terrorism internally too where terrorist groups been formed and supported by the local extremists and by people who had been trying to push forward a plan to have India for Hindu population only and therefore, these terrorist groups are targeting innocent people of different backgrounds. Yet the Indian government is failing to provide protection to people on target lists of these terrorists inside India.

Posted by Sean Preston | Report as abusive

Sean Preston:
– India-China are doing just fine If you educate yourself about the size of India-China trade. Or do you know better than Wen Jiabao. Think about it: perhaps Pakistan is getting Chinese aid due to chinese profitting from India-China trade.
@It is an alarming situation in Deccan state where daily killing s of Muslims taking place.
-Really! Which propaganda media tells you that Muslims are dying everyday in India? Indian Muslims are doing as fine as any other Indian is doing. Last time Muslims died in India was 26/11 Mumbai terrorism where 40 Muslims died and you know who did that. I wonder why you did not mention a word about the documented stats about the dipping numbers and second citizen status of the minorities including Hindus, Sikhs and Christians in Pakistan. In any case it is time Pakistan tackles practices like Karo kari, Watta Satta, Swara, Vani, Pait Likkhi.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Some interesting points in the comments thread so far: is this BRIC grouping really going to work or will it in a few years look more like BRI, (Brazil, Russia, India) with China doing its own thing.
David Shambaugh had an interesting piece in the IHT around the time of the BRIC meeting, which said that while it was all very good that the leaders of the major economies were assembled under one roof, there was plenty that divided them. He focuses on China and Russia saying there were signs that the 20-year honeymoon may be ending, with the neighbours reverting to their traditional suspicion and competition. here is the link to it :http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/16/opini on/16iht-edshambaugh.html

Posted by Sanjeev Miglani | Report as abusive

India and China had to sit together and find an amicable solution to the border problem which is haunting both countries for decades.Once the border problem is sorted out all other issues can be settled peacefully which will be better for both India and China.

Posted by Kiran | Report as abusive

What divides China and India pales compared to what already binds them: trade. With a combined 2.5 billion citizens both countries have the potential to sustain one another economically, and the rest falls into place from there. And unlike China’s relation with the US, India-China has not been written yet and therefore doesn’t have to be one of massive deficit vs. massive surplus. Rather than fearing a future problem we should feel positive about this potentially huge solution. Go India, go China!

Posted by Marc | Report as abusive

It will be interesting to see how relations between these to powers develope. Lets face it India and China are both moveing in higher gear than the rest of the world and we will see more and more weight thrown about by them. After all their huge populations make them a worthwhile ally not to mention a huge market for the capitalist west..

[...] a “farce”, citing issues as varied as Russia’s horrendous economic state and disputes between China and India over controversial tariffs.  Meanwhile, the US seemed largely unmoved by the summits, with the [...]

I finished the movie Slumdog Millionaire Scripts yesterday, and was shocked by the tragic fate of muslims. I donot understand why countries emphasize their strenth on the more inportant and more merciful aspects….

Posted by Cindy | Report as abusive

sorry, i missed a word: not

Posted by Cindy | Report as abusive

Cindy:

How would you report a news about hooligans from India belonging to a certain religion (assume Muslims) against a mixed croud of Indians (belonging to all religions). would you say Muslims did it or hooligans did it? Religion does not matter here. There is no cunning plan by the Indian govt in place against the the Muslims citizens of India? or for that matter against any other religion.

Need to scratch the surafce since the problems are much complex and deserve a separate thread.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Cindy

easy..you are misreading the movie characters. All religions contribute to the slumdog numbers directly proportional to religion strengths in the country.Its just that the author took muslim names. Poverty spares none.See somemore Indian movies and you will be more (pleasantly)shocked. All the popular billionaire indian actors are muslims.

Cindy!
I believe west believe blindly on media reports !
A Movie on Poors in India sold in West by Danny Boyle doesn’t says much about India. First thing you should note is that movie was for profit not for a cause !

Second, if it was reality , then why Slumdog didn’t worked well in Indin Cinema Halls.

in 1947, India not only inherited Britain’s occupation of parts of Chinese territories, but also further encroached northward and pushed its borderline to the McMahon Line in 1953, as a result, invaded and occupied 90,000 square kms of Chinese territories. At western sector, in 1959, India voiced its claim to the Aksai Chin areas, counted 33,000 s.kms, of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China. In April 1960, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai went to New Delhi to hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Nehru, no agreements were reached due to India’s insistence on its unreasonable stand. The ensuing meetings between the officials of the two countries also produced no results.

FROM bbc REPORT

Posted by Samdra | Report as abusive

With all of the chatter about China’s emerging economic power and influence, it seems easy to forget that it is still a Communist Country with an unelected Government.

China’s Government demands democracy for it’s vote at the U.N. and it’s veto power as a member of the security council. Now it demands a new financial order with a new, international currency based on five national currencies including it’s own Renmimbi.

Why does China even get a vote at the U.N. or even a seat on the security council, when it denies it’s own citizens the right to vote, or take part in the governing of their own country?

India, on the other hand, is the largest democracy in the world. It deserves our support. Our encouragement and our friendship.

David Shambaugh had an interesting piece in the IHT around the time of the BRIC meeting, which said that while it was all very good that the leaders of the major economies were assembled under one roof, there was plenty that divided them.

How would you report a news about hooligans from India belonging to a certain religion (assume Muslims) against a mixed croud of Indians (belonging to all religions). would you say Muslims did it or hooligans did it? Religion does not matter here. There is no cunning plan by the Indian govt in place against the the Muslims citizens of India? or for that matter against any other religion.

Posted by monstrum | Report as abusive