By Kanan Shah
India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj just got back from a three day visit to China. PM Modi’s visit later this May is expected to strengthen economic ties and improve security measures. The Chinese media has interpreted this recent meeting as a gesture from China leading to Beijing having deeper ties with India, claiming that “[i]n a rare meeting with a visiting foreign minister, the Chinese President has demonstrated the importance he attaches to Sino-Indian relations (Modi’s Beijing visit could be the “opportunity of the century,” The Hindu).
Since investible funds from the West are shrinking, Modi’s “Make in India” campaign heavily depends on China’s investments to revive India’s job-creating manufacturing sector. During the visit, the Chinese strongly indicated they would follow up on their commitments to invest in India. President Xi said, during his meeting with Swaraj, “Both sides should grab the opportunity of the century and work together on their development strategies. China and India should continue their cooperation in various fields, including industrial parks and the railway project, to benefit the 2.5 billion people of the two countries and the global economy” (The Hindu).
Another significant part of Swaraj’s visit was Russia and China’s endorsement of India’s membership of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). APEC membership could open new doors for New Delhi’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific theatre, expanding India’s strategic bandwidth. In addition, at the end of the Russia-India-China visit, Swaraj signed the Joint Communique, reassuring China that rather than pursuing a Western-type China-containment policy, India is backing new, inclusive security architecture in the Asia-Pacific.
This may be explained by China’s Maritime Silk Road (MSR) initiative, which aims to develop deep-water ports in the Indian Ocean to connect with the mainland through a string of road and railway corridors. This leaves Modi with no choice but to push for strategic dialogue with China so as to avoid the militarization of the Indian Ocean waters and preserve sea-based commerce. As one Peking University Scholar stated, “India still has concerns over China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative. Given India’s enormous influence in South Asia, especially over countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, it would be wise for China to dispel such doubts during Modi’s visit and show India that the initiative is really meant to benefit both countries” (The Hindu).
In regards to ever-present tensions on the India-China border, President Xi stated, “the two sides should patiently control and manage disputes to prevent them from affecting the overall relationship.” He counseled “sincerity and willingness to pursue a gradual and appropriate resolution of disputes.”
Only time will show what is to come of the border disputes, Indian policies with China in relation to the MSR versus Western containment approaches, the APEC, and the “Make in India” campaign.
Kanan Shah ’18 is in Davenport College. Contact her at email@example.com.