Pressing Pause: India’s Absence at China’s Belt and Road Forum

Shyam Saran, Member, ICS Governing Council and former Indian Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy

The successful conclusion of the Belt and Road Forum (BARF) in Beijing, which India chose to stay away from, has led to a chorus of voices warning that in doing so, India has isolated itself both regionally and globally.

With the exception of Bhutan, all the South Asian neighbours of India participated, as did countries India regards as its partners in resisting the Chinese dominance of Asia; these include the US, Japan, Australia and Vietnam. Japan and Vietnam are also countries of South East Asia, which, like India, have territorial disputes with China, but they did not consider those disputes reason enough to stay away. It may also be argued that India itself has not let its territorial disputes with China stand in the way of cooperating with it on matters of mutual interest such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) or the BRICS Development Bank (DB).

India’s membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) will also present opportunities for regional cooperation with China and other member countries. These opportunities constituted a rationale for seeking membership in the organisation. So, did India make a wrong call in staying away from the BARF? Continue reading “Pressing Pause: India’s Absence at China’s Belt and Road Forum”

Economic Ties with China: India Needs to Look Beyond Politics

Alka Acharya, ICS Honorary Fellow and Professor, Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

There appears to be a world of difference between the images presented by India-China economic and commercial ties on the one hand and the politico-strategic on the other. Interactions and exchanges with representatives from both these domains are markedly different in tone and tenor—the former focus on the opportunities, openings, benefits and profits while the latter dwell more on the dangers, threats, challenges and disputes.

Prima facie, they appear to be working at different levels, according to their own—somewhat different—logic and rationale, and it does not look like they will converge any time soon in a more composite picture of this most critical of relationships in the world today. The political understanding at the highest level, which is committed to building a strategic and cooperative—and now more promisingly ‘developmental’—partnership, struggles with deep suspicion that runs through practically our entire strategic discourse. On the other hand, economic engagements have become the most dynamic and transformative aspects of the India-China relationship today. But this has to contend with the structural mismatch between the manufacturing strengths and industrial capacity of the two economies—and therefore, unsurprisingly, perceived by and large as a situation that works only to China’s advantage. The controversial and contentious political issues and the angry exchanges understandably garner greater attention.

Bigger Picture

And yet we must ask ourselves as to whether that is all there is to the overall picture. Continue reading “Economic Ties with China: India Needs to Look Beyond Politics”

Why China Cannot Replace the US

Shyam Saran, Member, ICS Governing Council and former Indian Foreign Secretary

We are currently at one of those rare inflexion points in history when an old and familiar order is passing but the emerging order is both fluid and uncertain. And yet it is this very fluidity which offers opportunities to countries like India to carve out an active role in shaping the new architecture of global governance.

The international landscape is becoming chaotic and unpredictable but this is a passing phase. Sooner or later, whether peacefully or violently, a more stable world order will be born, with a new guardian or set of guardians to uphold and maintain it. This could be a multipolar order with major powers, both old and new, putting in place an altered set of norms and rules of the game, anchored in new or modified institutions. Or, there could be a 21st century hegemon which could use its overwhelming economic and military power to construct a new international order, which others will have to acquiesce in, by choice or by compulsion. This was so with the U.S. in the post World War-II period, until its predominance began to be steadily eroded in recent decades.

As we look ahead, there are three possible scenarios which could emerge. Continue reading “Why China Cannot Replace the US”

China’s SAARC Bid and Implications for India

Gauri Agarwal, Research Intern, Institute of Chinese Studies 

Pakistan’s support to China for full membership to SAARC and India’s refusal to entertain the bid is a case of the use of geopolitics to pursue selfish aims. Whether China will be accepted or not remains to be seen, but what China brings to the table needs a careful cost-benefit analysis.

SAARC’s Shortcomings

The importance of SAARC as a regional organization is recognised by all leaders. But there is a frank acknowledgement that the organization has failed to live up to the hope and aspiration of one-fifth of humanity. Continue reading “China’s SAARC Bid and Implications for India”

White Papers: The Importance of Public Communication

Amb. Kishan S. Rana, Honorary Fellow & Tshering Chonzom Bhutia, PhD, Associate Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

Jabin T Jacob, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, recently shared the ‘India Network on China and East Asia’ Google Group (also known as the ICS-Delhi Group) a White paper published on 11 January 2017 by Beijing, entitled ‘China’s Policies on Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation’. As some newspaper comments in India have noted, India is ranked in importance at number three, after the US and Russia, but ahead of Japan; the references to India are positive, with no mention of points on which the two countries differ greatly.

China issues white papers from time-to-time on subjects such as family planning, human rights, environment, trade, development, space activities, labor, ecology, non-proliferation, mineral resources, social security, minority policy, gender, intellectual property, democracy, peaceful development, corruption, and so on; it also issues such papers on its declared ‘core issues’ such as Tibet, Taiwan, Xinjiang, and ‘Diaoyu Dao’. All these reflect the views of the country’s authoritarian regime, without any semblance of two-way communication with home publics. Continue reading “White Papers: The Importance of Public Communication”