Analysis & Opinions - METRO U.N.

China vs. India

| June 12, 2019

Contemplating the array of conflict fronts that will define the world’s geopolitical future, the case of China vs. America is rightly at the center. But the Chinese-Indian relationship would occupy an important, if not a second place. Measured by global standards India will be a major power. In two decades it will become the globe’s most populous country; already today it has the fourth largest defense expenditures, the third biggest military force, possesses nuclear weapons, and as the fastest growing economy India is about to take the UK’s place as the fifth largest.

India’s direct relationship with China is characterized by both growing cooperation and competition, indeed rivalry. Trade and investment have increased significantly with China that is now India’s main trading partner. Both countries cooperate in numerous groupings such as BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, though the latter can also be seen as an attempt to draw India closer into a Beijing dominated orbit.

Bu the drivers of conflict are growing on both sides. China’s policy under President Xi has been characterized by nationalism and assertiveness, notably on territorial issues. In India Prime Minster Modi, re-elected with a strong majority, is likely to pursue a foreign policy based on religiously inspired nationalism. As a result, the unresolved border conflicts that led to several military clashes and one war, remain as relevant as ever as triggers to larger conflict. That is particularly true for a conflict involving Pakistan. During the electoral campaign Modi ordered an attack on Pakistan in response to terrorist violence which then lead to a serious military clash between both countries, and the world was reminded again that each of these incidents could lead to the use of nuclear weapons. Lurking behind any conflict with Pakistan is the possibility of Chinese involvement, given Beijing’s close alliance with Pakistan and support of its economy and security structure.

Though India continues to support bilateral trade and accepts the resulting dependence on China it is also deeply aware of and opposed to China’s growing political and economic encroachment into its surrounding region. It therefore did not join China’s Belt and Road Initiative but, on the contrary, is quietly trying to counteract it by a diplomacy of assistance to neighboring countries which are the object of Chinese overtures and by developing a network of partnerships with countries in the Asia-Pacific. China’s entry into the Indian Ocean by opening a military base in Djibouti, the first of its kind outside China, is no doubt a particular challenge in the emerging competition with China and is likely to affect a reassessment of India’s naval posture, if not more.

Apart from the growing direct competition with China, India will increasingly be drawn into the deepening American-Chinese rivalry. What is supposed to have been said by a Chinese scholar that in case of war with the US China hopes that Europe at least stays neutral also applies to India.  As it did in Europe, China invests considerable resources to steer India to its side. But the same is true for the US that for a number of years has made a special effort to develop its relations with an India that seeks reassurance by agreeing on a “strategic relationship” and granting India the status of a “Major Defense Partner” comparable to America’s closest allies, who for their part support such an attempt to forge a strong link between the world’s two largest democracies.

As the US-Chinese rivalry deepens, India’s importance will grow in world politics. But so will its responsibility for global stability by keeping its bilateral conflict with China peaceful.


  – Via the original publication source.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kaiser, Karl.“China vs. India.” METRO U.N., June 12, 2019.

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