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INFOCUS|INDIA-CHINA|SOUTH ASIA

Minister Modi’s invitation to all the South Asian leaders explained the case that India wants serious engagement with its neighbours, where Mr. Modi wants to carry forward more “positive and respectful relationsâ€? with India’s South Asian neighbours. His travel to %KXWDQ LQ KLV ÂżUVW RYHUVHDV WULS DIWHU DVVXPLQJ RIÂżFH DQG WKHUHDIWHU DQ RIÂżFLDO YLVLW WR 1HSDO LQ $XJXVW  further emphasise this sentiment. The Bhutan visit was seen as an “unconventional policyâ€? choice which carried the message that India wants to FDSLWDOLVH ÂżUVW RQ LWV QHLJKERXUKRRG policy. This perception got further strengthened when External Affairs Minister Ms Sushma Swaraj visited Nepal and Bangladesh. Third, the NDA government’s South Asia policy factors in China. A FOHDUUHĂ€HFWLRQRIWKLVZDV0U0RGLÂśV invitation to the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile (TGIE), Lobsang Sangay, to attend his swearing-in ceremony. This gesture was clearly intended as a strategic signal to China that India valued the cause of Tibet and the Tibetan community. The Chinese government took up this message and sent a demarche to India protesting this move. Although India does not have any diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the new government invited Taiwan’s Economic and Cultural Council (TECC) representative in New Delhi, seating him with other ambassadors. It may be recalled that Mr. Modi had criticised China on his election campaign trail for its “expansionistâ€? policy and mindset. Ms Swaraj has gone on record stating that China must appreciate “One-Indiaâ€? policy and that “for India to agree to a One-China policy, China VKRXOG UHDIÂżUP D 2QH,QGLD SROLF\´ and that “China should appreciate and understand India’s sensitivities on Arunachal Pradesh while raising issues like Tibet and Taiwanâ€?. China’s South Asia Policy under Xi Jinping In recent times, South Asia has acquired a new “strategic focusâ€? in the Chinese power building dialogue. This |14| India-China Chronicle ƒ May-June 2015 5

is partly because most of the South Asian states share land with China. In addition, in the recent Chinese foreign policy understanding, the strategic milieu of South Asia as a region and the standing of the countries in this region have increased in regional politics. The Chinese strategic community foresees the region of South Asia as vital in the overall regional stratagem of power politics and neighbourhood politics where Beijing must aim to have a strong position. SAARC member countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are catalogued as important in China’s transnational projects under a “neighbourhood strategy�. A number of other factors that have shaped China’s South Asia outlook in the process are: strategic and economic standing of South Asia in today’s context; connections between China’s two arduous regions – Xinjiang and Tibet – with the South Asian region; tactical dynamism of Pakistan and India in its strategic interests; and the vitality of infrastructural linkages along with economic tie-ups with the South Asian countries. The principal objective of China’s South Asia policy is to expand “multi-dimensional strategic cooperation� with the region that is the key to the successful pursuit of Beijing’s overall regional strategic interests.

THE CRUX OF THE DEBATE FOR INDIA IS HOW TO MANAGE CHINA’S EVENTUAL ENTRY INTO SAARC BY ENGAGING WITH THE ISSUE OF RATIONALLY. BEIJING EVEN WITHOUT SAARC MEMBERSHIP, IS A POWERFUL PRESENCE IN SOUTH ASIA, A FACT INDIA CANNOT REALISTICALLY IGNORE Compared with China’s conventional outlook vis-Ă -vis South Asia, has a new policy evolved under the leadership of Xi Jinping? It would appear that neither China has an entirely new South Asia policy nor is China’s strategic thrust on India in its South Asia policy has anything new. The newness seems to be only in the strategic focus, the mode of contacts and the channels of understanding. Essentially, China has always pursued its South Asia policy under two broad terminologies: through a dialogue of “good neighbour diplomacyâ€? (mulinwaijiao) and through a dialogue of “peripheral or regional diplomacyâ€? (zhoubianwaijiao). Both essentially imply a similar approach: take your neighbours serious-

ly. In both these constructs, India has been a factor in China’s overall South Asia outlook. Policymakers in Beijing have mostly seen India as a regional power in the South Asian context. At the same time, China’s current South Asia policy is distinguished by the fact that Beijing accommodates India under its great-power diplomacy (daguowaijiao), partly because India has emerged as a power both at the regional and the global levels. China’s QHZ,QGLDIRFXVDOVRVLJQLÂżHVDPRGLÂżHG DQG UHQHZHG 6RXWK $VLD SROLF\ this is not entirely different from China’s traditional approach. For some time, China has visualised South Asia within its broader construct of world order, where having a nuanced foothold in South Asian affairs is a core aspect of its strategic outlook. Conventionally, China viewed South Asia more as part of its conformist security perspective, with secondary emphasis on its economic interests. Today, China sees South Asia as an economic opportunity concurrently with its strategic intents and security interests. President Xi has invested strong focus on “neighbourhoodâ€? or “peripheralâ€? diplomacy in his endeavour to establish a “prosperous, strong, democratic and culturally advanced, harmonious and modern socialist country by 2049â€?, as set out by the 18th CPC

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