India -China relationship on the mend?

India, China, bullet train, South China Sea, Vietnam, USA, Border

New Delhi, May 5, 2016: Han Zheng, Party Secretary of Shanghai and Member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China, met the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 5, 2016. During the meeting Narendra Modi recalled his meeting with Zheng in Shanghai when he visited China last year. Han Zheng also stressed that the Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Shanghai last year, and the resultant increased awareness about India, has led to an increase in the number of people from Shanghai visiting India.

The Prime Minister said that the Mumbai-Shanghai Sister City Agreement has laid the foundation for strong relations between the financial capitals of both the Asian countries. The Prime Minister added that the establishment of the India-China Provincial Leaders’ Forum was also a welcome step towards broadening and strengthening the bilateral relations between India and China.

Prime Minister Modi and Han Zheng discussed the current global economic scenario and noted that strong economic growth in India and China can act as an engine of growth for the global economy. Post meeting with the Prime Minister Zheng also met V.K. Singh.

But what makes this visit so important is that it took place right after India turned down Visa of prominent Uighur activist Dolkun Isa who is now extremely disappointed with India. Not just that, China’s activities in CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) and its backing Pakistan on the issue of Azhar Masood (China put technical hurdles when India tried to get UN sanctions committee to pronounce Masood Azhar as terrorist and put sanctions on him).

The very public spat and India’s retaliation by issuing visa to Dolkun Isa has done its job. India only wanted to show that it can reply back in the same coin and has given a good demonstration of what it would do if it is pushed a little too far.

Also, India and China in past 20 days have had a series of meetings starting with Sushma Swaraj who met the Chinese counterpart in the RIC (Russia India China) trilateral dialogue and then Manohar Parrikar gave a visit to the country right after he met US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter. Just a few days later National Security Advisor Ajit Doval visited China for border talks.

What is really interesting is that the border violation red flag is always raised by India and even videos have surfaced where Indian soldiers can be seen warning Chinese to leave.

Watch here, below:

Why is that it is always the Chinese? Why Indian soldiers are not accused of border violations by China? These are points that has made the Indian side earn its stripe as a power that uses reason as its weapon and not arm-twisting. In any case, arm twisting does not help; China tried that with Vietnam and as a result, in 2014,  anti-Chinese sentiments became so strong that some 25 people died, hundreds were injured as the angry Vietnamese chased down the Chinese workers. When police came to help the terrified Chinese people escape, the angry mob even beat them brutally. Similar strong anti-China sentiments exist in Philippines, and with Japan, China has successfully brutalized its relation all by itself.

With Masood Azhar, China again has played with Indian sentiments but it is not the government but the common Indians who are trying to hit where it hurts, in a completely peaceful way; boycotting Chinese goods. Social media is filled up with anti-China messages and calls for boycott of China are many. These may not hurt the country just now, but it would build up eventually and it is then when it would face the after-effects.

Although, India and China have lots of problems but what makes India optimistic about the relationship is that no shots have been fired at the India-China border while India-Pakistan border is the stuff that the nightmares are made of. India also stresses on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and has emerged as the benign power in the region as it today shares great relations with almost all ASEAN nations including Vietnam and Philippines. Indian presence is sought so heavily by ASEAN that even USA has grudgingly accepted the Asian country’s role in the region and even offered it the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA).

In fact, USA even wanted India to do joint patrols in the region and offered it to the nation several times, but it was the latter who declined the offer at least 2 times publicly including once by none other than Indian defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

USA is keen to have India as its partner and has relied on the country for shaping its approach on Maldives as well. Just recently, US Consul General in Kolkata Craig L Hall commented that his nation regards Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as Southern Tibet, as an integral part of India, leaving China angry.

There are several other developments between the two nations, some good, some bad and some plain ugly yet the two have refrained from any more hostility and the Indo-China border is largely peaceful.

Also, China’s stress on economic cooperation is great and it has shown interest in the bullet train projects that India wants at this stage.

The only problem which remains is the China’s action of putting Indo-China relations on stake for a terrorist like Masood Azhar. Its failure to understand that terrorism is a serious issue for India is something that it would understand after it would see that while all other countries including Japan happily join India’s growth story, it would simply lag behind all because it decided to burn its chances for a terrorist.