FEATURED | Is China Anguished, What For?
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FEATURED | Is China Anguished, What For?

By Dr. Sitakanta Mishra
Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University

FEATURED | Is China Anguished, What For?

Largely India’s every bid for a high table has been a casualty of China’s obstinacy. Beijing initially lashed out the Indo-US nuclear deal[1], and objected to the India-specific Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver;[2] a few months ago China blocked India’s attempt at UN to ban JeM chief Masood Azhar[3], and recently it succeeded in not letting India enter NSG.[4] Many assert that China’s defiant behavior is an offshoot of its containment strategy and the Sino-Pak strategic nexus. But one wonders, why would the land of Sun Tzu risk annoying a rising power in the backyard and at the behest of a failing and troubled state like Pakistan? Undoubtedly, China checkmates India at every forum but not for it is threatened by India’s rise. Is then China anguished and what for?  

Many would differ that China acknowledges India as a formidable power in Asia and expects New Delhi to be part of its effort in crafting an alternative world order through the process of building alternative institutions and alliance systems. Consider China’s support to invite India in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO),[5] India’s third largest share in Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and its election to the board of directors of AIIB,[6] China’s support and cooperation in the founding of the New Development Bank (BRICS Development Bank) proposed by India,[7] and its willingness to initiate civil nuclear cooperation with India.[8] Meanwhile, India has moved out from its non-alignment stance and allied fully with the USA; it seems not deciphering China’s game of evolving an alternative world order.   

The Chinese game of crafting an alternative world order not necessarily indicates the demise of the American world order in vogue. What China seems to propound is a parallel global governance system “not to allow US monopoly to write the rules of international order.”[9] The foundation of American world order in vogue is based on the Bretton Woods system (World Bank, IMF, etc), United Nations, and alliances crafted post-WWII, through which it could claim hegemony over redefining the rules of the international game. Certainly, China is a beneficiary of the “unilateral American military guarantee”[10] and expanded liberal global order. But in the decades ahead it is likely to marginalize the US in many other spheres[11] and with the ascendance as a major global player, it will strive to shape a world order of its own design by focusing mainly on three attributes.  

First, it will further insulate its own backyard from external intervention and at the same time ensure other regions of the world not being dominated by any other power. Second, it will enhance its power to reach every corner of the world at any point of time; in other words, it will acquire necessary capabilities to remain as a stakeholder in issues in every part of the world. China has embarked on the ‘strategic access’ strategy by building artificial islands, seaports connectivity, and alliances. Third, China has already set out to build multilateral institutions, like SCO, AIIB, BRICS, NDB, etc. by collaborating with like-minded countries, to provide alternative platforms for global governance and redefine the rules of the game.  

Understandably, if China, India, and Russia join together, the fulcrum of the American world order would shake. China certainly expects India to be an integral partner in all its efforts. Beijing’s obstinacy for India’s NSG membership is symbolic of Chinese rejection of India’s accommodation as a great power in the America-led world order.[12] India’s NSG candidature is “a contestation between the US and China to determine the future of the nuclear and world order”; not to allow the US to write the rules of international order according to its wishes. China’s effort “is more about keeping India out rather than bringing Pakistan in; it is more about securing the existing nuclear and world order rather than strengthening the non-proliferation regime; and, above all, it is a blatant challenge to Washington’s leadership in shaping the evolving world order.”[13]  

India though has larger stakes in China’s rise, remains attached to, and integrating more with, the American framework, even though the USA is still confused where to place India in its scheme. The US has not been able to completely de-hyphenate India from Pakistan; US is not enthusiastically forthcoming for India’s UNSC permanent membership. However, the notion that the USA is the only conduit to the global powerdom strongly persist in India’s strategic calculations. Consider the rationale behind Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s letter of justification to US President Bill Clinton in the aftermath of the nuclear test in 1998;[14] Manmohan Singh’s determination to sign the Indo-US nuclear deal even risking a Confidence Motion on July 21, 2008;[15] Narendra Modi’s “special friendship” with “a special wavelength” with President Obama and his visit to USA once in every six months.16 India seems not yet realized, or ready to accept, the fact that China can be an alternative power to nurture a special relationship for promoting India’s interests. Had India considered China’s formidable position and engaged it with an open mind the way it engages USA and others, NSG membership would not have been a distant dream.   

Almost a decade ago, former Chinese President Hu Jintao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to sign an atomic trade pact akin to Indo-US nuclear deal.[17] But nothing moved forwards. In September 2014, Narendra Modi said in a press statement after his summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping that “We will begin the process of discussions on civil nuclear energy cooperation that will bolster our broader cooperation on energy security.”[18] Not much is known about this pledge as well. Perceptibly, India’s nuclear energy expansion program has remained US centered, simply overlooking the potential benefits of dealing with China.  

India has balanced well its relations between USA and USSR to its advantage throughout the Cold War. Like it or not, China is another global power that India has to reckon with by sidelining the bitter past and all bilateral contentious issues. India has to prudently engage China as a major power along with the USA, certainly from the platform of strength. The “delusion” that world revolves around India and the “notion of self-important” lead to misreading of the hard realities of politics and global situation.[19]  

All South Asian countries, except India, are happy with China’s rise but are not comfortable with rising India. In fact, the “imports and impacts of the process China's ascent as a global power seem not fully mapped and grasped” by India yet.[20] An annoyed or anguished China is neither in India’s favor nor can India overcome the hurdles easily that China would create for India for only knocking the doors of USA. Two recent pronouncements by India’s highest authorities, though in different contexts, sent very positive signals. President Pranab Mukherjee said during his state visit to Papua New Guinea, the largest island in the Pacific region, that “India does not see itself as in competition with any country in this regard.”[21] Similarly, Vice President M. Hamid Ansari during his official visit to Morocco said in the context of China's increasing presence in Africa that “India does not see itself in competition with China”.[22]   

Both China and India must ventilate the hyperbole of Sino-Indian rivalry at the earliest to give way to negotiate for a mutually beneficial framework of global governance. If India doesn’t consider its scheme of an alternative world order ultimately, China will not only keep opposing India’s membership in multilateral organisations where the US has played a powerful role but also it will try to undermine India’s stakes in Chinese led initiatives such as One Belt One Road (OBOR), SCO and BRICS, in the years ahead.[23] Will India be a double loser?

About the Author:     

Dr. Sitakanta Mishra, is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Liberal Studies at Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University teaches International Relation. He can be reached via his Linkedin profile or via email.     

Cite This Article:     

Mishra, S "OPINION | Is China Anguished, What For?" IndraStra Global, Vol. 002, Issue No:07 (2016) , 0006   http://www.indrastra.com/2016/07/FEATURED-Is-China-Anguished-What-For-002-07-2016-0006.html | ISSN 2381-3652 / https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.3470504


[1].  “China state paper lashes India-U.S. nuclear deal”, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-nuclear-india-china-idUKPEK7195620080901, September 1, 2008.

[2]  “Nuclear Supplier Group gives India unique “waiver,” but only after row between Delhi and Beijing”, https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2008/09/nucl-s17.html

[3] “14 out of 15 nations back India’s bid at UN to ban JeM chief Masood Azhar, China blocks it again”, http://zeenews.india.com/news/india/14-out-of-15-nations-back-india-s-bid-at-un-to-ban-jem-chief-masood-azhar-china-blocks-it-again_1871281.html, 01 April 2016

[4] “India’s NSG bid opposed by China on ‘principle’: Pakistan Foreign Secretary”, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/indias-nsg-bid-opposed-by-china-on-principle-pakistan-foreign-secretary-2876786/, June 26, 2016.

[5]  “China says it supports membership of India, Pakistan in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation,” http://www.financialexpress.com/article/economy/china-says-it-supports-membership-of-india-pakistan-in-shanghai-cooperation-organisation/258970/, May 18, 2016.

[6] “China, India, Russia largest shareholders in China-led bank”, http://thebricspost.com/china-india-russia-largest-shareholders-in-china-led-bank/#.V3jhMNJ94dU, June 29, 2015; “India elected to Board of Directors of China-backed AIIB”, http://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/india-elected-to-board-of-directors-of-chinabacked-aiib/article8116850.ece, January 17, 2016.

[7]  http://www.affairscloud.com/new-development-bank-brics/

[8] “India, China to Start Talks on Civil Nuclear Cooperation”, http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/India-China-to-Start-Talks-on-Civil-Nuclear-Cooperation/2014/09/18/article2437597.ece, 18 September 2014

[9] Pratap Bhanu Mehta, “The great delusion”, The Indian Express, 29 June 2016.

[10] Henry Kissinger, World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History, London: Allen Lane, 2014, p. 362.

[11] Ashley J. Tellis, Travis Tanner, and Jessica Keough, Strategi Asia 2011-12: Asia Responds to its Rising Powers, China and India, The National Bureau of Asian Research, 2012.

[12] “Destination NSG: PM Modi seeks China's support as members differ on India's entry”, http://www.firstpost.com/world/destination-nsg-pm-modi-seeks-chinas-support-as-members-differ-on-indias-entry-2852692.html

[13] W.P.S. Sidhu, “India’s NSG prospects not so good”, http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/iICavq2BmCjyXz00vFpqPK/Indias-NSG-prospects-not-so-good.html

[14] “NUCLEAR ANXIETY; Indian's Letter to Clinton On the Nuclear Testing”, http://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/13/world/nuclear-anxiety-indian-s-letter-to-clinton-on-the-nuclear-testing.html, May 13, 1998.

[15] “PM moves confidence motion in Lok Sabha”, http://www.livemint.com/Politics/5h9LYq88UsI3YaKuV8aHFO/PM-moves-confidence-motion-in-Lok-Sabha.html, July 21, 2008.

[16] “President Obama and India’s Modi Forge an Unlikely Friendship”, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/06/world/asia/india-narendra-modi-obama.html?_r=0

[17] “China, India Agree on Nuclear Cooperation”, http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/china-india-agree-on-nuclear-cooperation/, 22 November 2006.

[18] “India, China to Start Talks on Civil Nuclear Cooperation”, http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/India-China-to-Start-Talks-on-Civil-Nuclear-Cooperation/2014/09/18/article2437597.ece, 18 September 2014.

[19] Pratap Bhanu Mehta, The great delusion”, The Indian Express, 29 June 2016.

[20] SD Muni and Tan Tai Yong, eds. A Resurgent China: South Asian Perspectives (New Delhi: Routledge, 2012).

[21] India calls for sea lanes free of 'tension and rivalry', http://www.deccanherald.com/content/543196/india-calls-sea-lanes-free.html, 28 April 2016.

[22] “India does not see itself in competition with China: Ansari in Morocco”, http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/National/2016-05-31/India-does-not-see-itself-in-competition-with-China-Ansari-in-Morocco/231717, 31 May 2016.

[23]  Pranay Kotasthane, “Why is India unable to ‘swing’?, http://logos.nationalinterest.in/2016/06/why-is-india-unable-to-swing/, June 27, 2016.

AIDN0020720160006 - FEATURED | Is China Anguished, What For?