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Redefining the ties

Dr. Sujit Dutta is Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi. Presently he is on lien from IDSA and Professor at Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
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  • April 26, 2005

    Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to India would be noted for three landmark steps: The establishment of a strategic and cooperative partnership, the agreement on the political parameters and guidelines for settling the territorial/boundary issue, and the decision on a comprehensive economic partnership and regional trading arrangement.

    All the three steps seek not only to qualitatively upgrade bilateral relationship but also to shape the larger strategic environment of Asia. The rise of China, the resurgence of nationalism in Japan and the US's desire to maintain its predominance in the Asia Pacific region, along with the rise of India in the Indian Ocean and the Southern Asia region have created a new Asian security atmosphere leading to a tussle for a new balance of power. China's rising concerns about US and Japan have forced it to rethink its Asia policy and its approach towards India. It is keen to mitigate the problems and build a secure partnership.

    What are the chances that such a partnership will become a reality over the next few years? Or that the boundary issue will be fairly and satisfactorily resolved and the security dilemma flowing from China's regional military ties mitigated? The joint statement commits both sides to respect each other's security concerns and interests, but the issues are still there and would have to be tackled for mutual gain and in a fair manner. Too much power bargaining, especially by China, may have negative results.

    Today, India-China relations are better than at any time in the past 55 years. Both are in the midst of a major internal transition. They also need each other for their large markets, and for overcoming serious external security challenges and for cooperating on common global and regional aspirations. As the two principal rising powers of Asia, their bilateral relationship and ability to coexist peacefully through a period of rapid power shift and huge domestic transition are of great strategic significance. Expanded economic and trade ties and more frequent high-level political and institutionalised strategic dialogue are, therefore, being perceived as being the bedrock of relations in this new stage. Trade is expected to touch $20 billion in three years and $30 billion in five years. Mutual investments are set to rise.

    Besides the larger issues, there have been other gains during the summit. The Sikkim issue has been settled and China has backed India's representation in the UN Security Council; a protocol to strengthen the confidence building agreements of 1996 has been adopted. In addition, the expansion in air travel will facilitate trade and tourism. Asia's largest emerging powers are in the midst of redefining their relationship with an orientation towards a new and yet uncertain Asian future.