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China a fan of India’s independent foreign policy but does it also respect India’s boundary? Building back the trust deficit is not easy

Source : Times Now

China a fan of India’s independent foreign policy but does it also respect India’s boundary? Building back the trust deficit is not easy
Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping (File Photo)



External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar became somewhat of a champion for Asian interests in China earlier in June when he put down Eurocentrism and said that India was “perfectly capable” of handling its difficult relationship with China.

The Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi also praised India’s “independent foreign policy” during Wednesday’s meeting with India’s new envoy to Beijing Pradeep Kumar Rawat. This was Rawat’s first in-person meeting with the Chinese minister since taking over in March.

At the meeting, Wang Yi also noted that “common interests between China and India far outweigh their differences.”

The Chinese foreign ministry statement read: “The two sides (India and China) should work together to cope with various global challenges, and safeguard the common interests of China, India, and the vast developing countries. Recently, External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar publicly expressed his disapproval of European centralism and objections to external forces meddling in China-India relations. That reflects India’s tradition of independence.”

To protect this tradition of independence, it would seem India insists on peace at the border it shares with China, where a bloody clash in 2020 quickly undid whatever bonds were forged between India and China following the two informal summits between PM Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the two years before.

India wants Chinese troops to completely withdraw to the positions they held in April 2020 before China tried to alter the status quo as a condition for normalisation of ties. However, to the Chinese, a status quo ante is unacceptable due to the advantages they gained from “shifting” the Line of Actual Control.When China praises Jaishankar’s independent and pragmatic thinking, it cannot de-link India’s territorial independence and the desire for economic self-dependence. These two issues have become a bone of contention between the neighbours in recent times.

Galwan deadlock

Already, Indian and Chinesesenior army commanders have held 15 rounds of talks to resolve “friction points” that remain in the Galwan valley which was the flashpoint in June 2020. Formal negotiations for disengagement began in July 2020 after a conversation between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi but the diplomatic and military meetings have dragged on due to deadlocks.

So far, the negotiations have led to the withdrawal of troops by both sides from Galwan, Pangong Lake, and Gogra/ Patrolling Point 17A even though this is not a return to status quo ante. Depsang plains, Hot Springs and Demchock are still contested by the Chinese.

Following the clashes, India matched China in its deployment along the border, moving troops and weapons systems to the frontiers in Ladakh. It was hoped that the disengagement process would also de-escalate tensions, but both sides remain on guard.

China’s buildup of military infrastructure is unabated on its side of the border – roads, living units, and even villages have sprung up in parts of the LAC. The People’s Liberation Army is building bridges in areas that could give it a strategic advantage in moving troops to thwart the Indian Army. India too is building road infrastructure on its side of the LAC.

Economic groupings

China also views India’s pragmatism and balancing act suspiciously when it comes to the economic groupings the country is part of, particularly because these exclude China.Stepping up engagement with Quad partners and joining the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Forum (IPEF), both groupings that see India as a counterweight to China have been in India’s interests but China pointedly left out, thinks that “a new Asian order” will lead to chaos.

India had imposed bans on several Chinese apps and restricted Chinese participation in the Indian economy in the wake of the Galwan clash. While the apps stay banned, trade between the neighbours has grown over the last two years.Chinese state-run Global Times reported that according to statistics from the General Administration of Customs, trade volume between China and India reached $125.66 billion in 2021. This was the first time that the number exceeded $100 billion.

Indian exports to China crossed $20 billion in 2020-21 as the government made efforts to achieve a more balanced trade with China, which remains the largest import source for India. Even as India attempts to close the trade deficit with China, the trust deficit at a tense border, Chinese hegemony in other spheres, and India’s ambition to be an alternative pole in Asia are conflicts in the neighbours’ “common interests” that do not have an easy solution.

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