Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi waxed eloquent following talks with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar in Dushanbe, claiming the two countries are “partners, not enemies” and Sino-Indian relations should be guided by “mutual respect”. He added for good measure that border disputes should not affect bilateral ties, while conveniently blaming India for the crisis at the Line of Actual Control. He offered advice too—India should take a long-term view from emergency to normal border management.
His words must be taken with a pinch of salt, which was what Jaishankar did, making it clear that LAC tensions will affect bilateral ties. Going by Beijing’s behaviour, one can safely assume it means exactly the opposite of what it says. It is true the LAC is not clearly agreed upon but talks to resolve it have been going on and on since the 1980s. This marathon exposes Communist China’s strategy vis-a-vis India. It views Delhi with suspicion for various reasons, prominent being its patronage of the Dalai Lama, increasing proximity to the US and its economic potential. Add to this the fact that India is the only country in Asia that could stand up to the Dragon with its nuclear and military capabilities. What incentive does Beijing have to solve the LAC issue for good? As of now, none. It can tie India down at the borders to deter it from extending its influence elsewhere. Besides, trade with India is booming. China’s exports and imports with India grew sharply to $57.48 billion in the first half of this fiscal alone, not to speak of the overall trade deficit. In other words, it is not even paying the economic cost for its belligerence.
India has banned Chinese apps and sought to keep Beijing away from the telecom sector. Further restrictions on non-essential trade may bring some economic pain but must be considered. This doesn’t mean confrontation. The need of the hour is to promote local manufacturing, generate jobs and revive the economy while staying firm on the borders. India’s foreign policy is one of Middle Path—neither confrontation nor self-abnegation. It is not pacifism. China must realise the same for which Delhi must mean what it says.