The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation concluded successfully yesterday with fruitful results. As so many large delegations participated, including from the US, Japan and South Korea, the international community has shown a very positive response to the infrastructure-building initiative. However, India sent no official representatives. The country’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said Saturday that India cannot accept a project that violates its sovereignty and territorial integrity. India appears to be the only country that has expressed disapproval of the initiative in recent days.
New Delhi is primarily against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project along the Belt and Road (B&R) which goes through Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. Both India and Pakistan claim sovereignty over Kashmir, which is under the control of both sides. China insists the Kashmir dispute is between India and Pakistan and it has no intention of intervening. The CPEC is a cooperation project in a purely economic sense with no aim to stir up political trouble.
Rising nationalism has made Indian public opinion extremely sensitive on China-related issues. Indians are keen to compare themselves with China on development and international status, but meanwhile strongly object to China developing friendly cooperation with Pakistan, for fear that Sino-Pakistani ties are targeting India.
Indian’s objection to the B&R is partly a show for domestic politics, partly to pile pressure on China. However, the absence of New Delhi in the B&R has not affected the forum in Beijing, and it will exert even less effect on the progress the initiative will make in the world.
In recent years, old problems have remained in Sino-Indian relations while some new problems have surfaced. For instance, New Delhi hopes Beijing will support the UN Security Council blacklist on the leader of the Army of Mohammed, a Pakistan-based military group (SIC), and support India’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Overall, these new problems are caused by India’s requirements for China. However, China does not do as it wants.
India hopes that it can shape bilateral relations more actively, and expects China to give special attention to the interests of India. But this is not how countries interact.
If India sees itself as a big power, it should get accustomed to the many divergences with China, and try to manage these divergences with China. Big country diplomacy is mostly all-round. It is almost impossible that two big countries can reach agreements on all things. This can be proved by the many differences between China and the US. But China and the US have maintained smooth bilateral relations, from which New Delhi can learn.
Sino-Indian relations have not seen a serious downturn. The border of the two countries has been peaceful in these years, the most important force for stable bilateral relations. Both countries have prioritized economic and social development in their national strategies. Maintaining friendly ties conforms to the two countries’ fundamental interests. The specific frictions between Beijing and New Delhi should not be regarded as a signal for intense geopolitical competition.
It should be pointed out that some people in India, with the ability to influence public opinion, have a shallow analysis of state interests, and an outdated understanding of geopolitics. Their stereotyped view of China continues to spread to the whole of Indian society, which may have destructive power. India and China should be vigilant about this.