M K Bhadrakumar, Apr 1, 2013 :
The two countries have began realising their shared interests and common concerns in the emerging world order.
The meeting between prime minister Manmohan Singh and the Chinese president Xi Jinping turned out to be, inevitably, the highlight of last week’s BRICS summit in Durban from the Indian viewpoint. This was the first meeting between the two leaders and to the extent that personalities matter in diplomacy, a good chemistry with the new leader in Beijing becomes an asset while navigating the relationship with China forward. And, this is more so because Xi is destined to leave his mark in restructuring the Chinese policies, internally and externally through a formative period in that country’s modern history.
The India-China relations are at a turning point. Looking back, 2012 was a transformative year insofar as the two countries began acknowledging that their shared interests and common concerns in the emerging world order. There was added poignancy in that 2012 was also the fiftieth ‘anniversary’ of the war. Despite the unresolved border dispute, the two countries have shown the political will to advance the bilateral cooperation. High-level meetings are frequent, peace and tranquility prevail on the Line of Actual Control and trade and economic ties are on upward curve. There is growing coordination and cooperation on international issues.
The meeting in Durban took place against a challenging regional and international backdrop. China’s reach and influence in the South Asian region is expanding and India has special interests in its region. Specifically, China-Pakistan strategic ties are acquiring new directions different from their past ‘India-centric’ approach. The Afghan war is getting over but uncertainties lie ahead and India and China are stakeholders in regional stability.
Again, the US’ ‘rebalancing’ policy has not buffeted the India-China relations and the two countries have a manifest desire to keep things that way. Paradoxically, the tensions in the Asia-Pacific following the US’ ‘pivot to Asia’ may even have given an impetus toward preserving a tension-free atmosphere in the China-Indian relationship. Least of all, both India and China are entering a new phase of reform and both have grave internal problems to tackle. All in all, therefore, the balance has tilted in favour of cooperation rather than competition.
The meeting in Durban was not expected to produce results. Yet it exceeded expectations. It needs to be noted that whereas Indian officials were coy about divulging details, the Chinese side came out with a fairly detailed account. It reflects, arguably, Beijing’s sense of satisfaction with the Durban talks as much as underscores the degree of transparency that already characterises the high-level exchanges.
From the Chinese and Indian accounts, it is at once obvious that Manmohan Singh had a substantive discussion with Xi regarding the future trajectory of the bilateral relationship. The prime minister stressed the four main templates – respect for each other’s core interests and major concerns, deepening of mutual strategic trust, greater coordination and cooperation on international affairs and pursuit of policies conducive to peace and stability. He also specifically addressed the issues that come within the ambit of “core interests and major concerns.”