A Nationalist’s Guide to Stepping Back From the Brink

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi demonstrates how to de-escalate a conflict while also saving face.

Yasmeen Serhan

July 8, 2020

Getty / Arsh Raziuddin / The Atlantic

When a deadly standoff on a disputed stretch of border between India and China resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers (and an unconfirmed number of Chinese casualties), a response from New Delhi seemed inevitable. It is the worst violence to take place between the two countries in nearly half a century—an incident that each side has since faulted the other for. It also comes at a time when the two countries are being led by strongmen who are under immense pressure not to lose face.

In the weeks since, though, no such response has materialized. Despite growing calls in India for a boycott of Chinese goods, Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping have focused on downplaying the situation, with the former opting thus far for symbolic retaliatory measures such as the recent ban on dozens of Chinese mobile apps, including WeChat and TikTok. De-escalation is easier for Xi, whose tight grip gives him greater control over the Chinese national narrative; it is less easy for Modi, whose population has begun to view China not only as India’s rival, but as its chief threat. Though recent polling shows that a majority of Indians trust the prime minister to safeguard their national security, they also expect him to take a harsher stance against Beijing. Some people have even taken to destroying Chinese-made products as a form of protest.

Modi’s efforts to reduce tensions while placating his voters expose something of a strongman paradox—one in which the prime minister, whose leadership has projected a hawkish and muscular image, must contend with the reality that India cannot afford a full-scale economic retaliation against China, let alone a military one. They also offer a case study for how nationalist leaders can back down from confrontation while still saving face.

Modi’s tenure as prime minister has largely been defined by hard-line politics reflective of his Hindu nationalist agenda. Though not all of his policies have been uniformly popular—his decisions to revoke the constitutional autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir and impose a religious test on those seeking a path to citizenship from three neighboring countries, for example, generated mass protests—he has nonetheless maintained a broad base of support. Even amid the health and economic uncertainties brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Modi’s approval rating has recently towered as high as 74 percent—a level of popularity that has eluded other nationalist leaders such as Donald Trump in the United States, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, and Vladimir Putin in Russia.

Yet as popular as Modi’s efforts have proved domestically, they haven’t necessarily helped him navigate India’s tense, albeit typically stable, relationship with its largest neighbor. Though India and China have enjoyed 70 years of diplomatic relations, they have also weathered a number of challenges—including a war over their disputed border in 1962 (which China won), their respective relationships with Pakistan (an adversary to New Delhi, but an ally to Beijing), and other long-standing issues such as the status of Kashmir (to which China lays some territorial claim). Last month’s face-off in the Himalayas, in which Indian and Chinese soldiers are believed to have engaged in hours of hand-to-hand combat using crude weapons such as stones and iron rods, occurred within the context of this longer history.

Popular sentiment in India now is more hostile to China than it’s been in a number of decades,” Michael Kugelman, a South Asia specialist at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, D.C., told me, noting that “there is a lot of pressure on the Modi government to respond, to retaliate, to avenge the deaths of the 20 soldiers.”

Still, the desire for revenge is dulled by political realities that even a hawkish leader such as Modi can’t ignore. For starters, China’s economy is nearly five times the size of India’s. An economic response could expose New Delhi to retaliation, which could be particularly dire given India’s sizable reliance on Chinese imports, including medical supplies. Militarily, India is largely outmatched. This kind of realpolitik “poses a bit of an inconvenient truth,” Kugelman said, “that, on many levels, the Indian government’s hands are tied.”

For all the limits to Modi’s apparent strength that this border standoff has exposed, though, it has also demonstrated the ways by which nationalist leaders can still attempt to save face, even as domestic pressures grow.

In the days following the clash, for example, Modi claimed in a televised address that no part of Indian territory had been occupied by Chinese soldiers, in contradiction with his own government’s findings and subsequent evidence. “He desperately wanted to de-escalate tensions for the simple reason [that] he recognizes that China has much more significant military capabilities that it can bring to bear against India,” Sumit Ganguly, a distinguished professor of political science at Indiana University Bloomington, told me. But it also signaled Modi’s desire to recast the narrative as one not of loss but defiance—one that would ostensibly help appease the nationalist fervor among his ardent supporters, even if his reframing was widely criticized by his political opponents as evidence of his government’s failures.

Recasting the narrative isn’t the only thing that enables nationalist leaders to maintain their hawkish reputations. Modi has also proved the value of symbolic retaliatory steps, such as his ban on 59 Chinese apps, citing national-security concerns. Though banning an app such as TikTok is, on its face, a big deal—more than 200 million people use the video-sharing service in India, roughly a quarter of the app’s users worldwide—it doesn’t impose any economic or technological cost on China (as The Hindu’s Ananth Krishnan noted, TikTok’s profit in India amounted to only a fraction of its parent company’s total revenue last year). It merely gives an impression of retaliation, without the risk of severe Chinese reprisals.

And, symbolic or not, Modi’s tactics appear to be working. In the aftermath of the government’s announcement, a number of users began using the hashtag #ByeTikTok to direct their followers to join them on alternative platforms, such as Instagram and YouTube. Others opted to download Chingari, an Indian alternative to TikTok. “It’s very clear from the reviews … that this is an app with many flaws, and not comparable in the kind of efficiency and general workability as TikTok,” Prerna Singh, the Mahatma Gandhi associate professor of political science and international studies at Brown University, told me. “And yet it has seen a 400 percent increase in the number of downloads in the last few days.”

Modi’s efforts to downplay tensions with China without undermining his own strongman image have been so successful, in part, Singh said, because of the fact that Beijing isn’t India’s traditional foreign adversary, a role occupied by Pakistan. It also helps that, despite growing resentment toward Beijing, Indians are far less familiar with China than they are with Pakistan. “It’s difficult to whip up nationalist fervor because the memories of the ’62 war, except for the generation that lived through it, is kind of a fading memory,” Ganguly said. “It doesn’t have the same visceral quality … as, say, the relationship with Pakistan … There are limits to how you can play that with China, and Modi, I think, is more than well aware of it.”

But perhaps the greatest driver of Modi’s actions is that for all his strongman bravado, he is well aware of India’s limits, as well as his own. Recasting the narrative or imposing anodyne retaliatory measures allows him to subtly acknowledge those limitations without losing face. “Modi is astute enough to realize that if he fuels a nationalist fervor,” Ganguly said, “he may become trapped by his own rhetoric.”

Source: The Atlantic “A Nationalist’s Guide to Stepping Back From the Brink”

Note: This is The Atlantic’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.

Politically Scared by but Economically Want to Benefit from China’s Rise

That is why Japan and Australia join China-led RCEP though they are scared by China’s rise.

Former Australian PM Tony Abbott seems more scared by than desiring to benefit from China’s rise so that according to news 18.com’s report “RCEP ‘Looks Like Trade Arm’ of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Says Former Australian PM Tony Abbott”, he is unhappy that China’s success in forming RCEP supplements China’s Belt and Road initiative to facilitate China’s economic expansion in the areas to China’s west through win-win cooperation.

If he was Australian PM perhaps he would not allow Australia to join RCEP, however current Australian PM, though scared by China’s rise and wants to contain China along with the US and Japan, wants, on the other hand, to benefit from China’s rise so that Australia will willingly become a RCEP member.

Abbott could only call Indian PM Modi to tell India not to join RCEP. Modi has refused to join RCEP but not because of Abbott’s persuasion but out of India’s own interests. However, Modi is shortsighted as his refusal to join RCEP and BRI, in the long run, will make India unable benefit from the integration of Asian economy through BRI and RCEP.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on news 18.com’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.news18.com/news/world/rcep-looks-like-trade-arm-of-chinas-belt-and-road-initiative-says-former-australian-pm-2394459.html.

Russia-India-China grouping an interesting watershed in global politics: The Nation contributor

(From left) Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping pose for a picture during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan on June 28, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

Published Jul 22, 2019, 3:42 pm SGT

In his commentary, the writer says that India’s membership in both the Japan-US-India and Russia-India-China groupings reflects how Indian strategic thinking is straddling two conflicting ideas.

Preechapak Tekasuk

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Other than the trade tensions between Japan and South Korea, there was another absorbing development at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, a few weeks ago: the emergence of a Russia-India-China (RIC) grouping, three leading regional powers in Asia that used to be spearheaded by Russia in the late 20th century.

Russia is starting to envision the prospect of itself, along with India and China, leading the region, bringing about a revision from a US-led regional order to a more multilateral one.

Both Russia and China are pushing the RIC regional grouping to emphasise the importance of a multi-polar Asia with focus on multilateralism, free and open markets and sidelining the Donald Trump-led US.

China and Russia in particular perceive the US as a threat to the regional and world order.

This was the second RIC meeting within one month, the first one being held during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Kyrgyzstan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be supportive of the RIC initiative going by the past two summits and he has also welcomed the next meeting.

His speeches during the summits were quite positive, and implied that the RIC will be a crucial driver for development, politics, economy, environment, security and anti-terrorism based on their strategic partnership.

The emergence of the RIC is a watershed event in global politics.

In the global geopolitical landscape in which major powers like Russia, China and the US jostle for influence, India has a pivotal role to play in South Asia.

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This has created a situation where India is being wooed by all sides, because of its sphere of influence. Moreover, India’s vision from both summits raised questions about whether New Delhi was inclining towards a more authoritarian order or trying to establish itself as the sole regional power.

It is understandable for some states to be cautious of India’s strategic shift, but only if they apply a US-centred logic that sees every possibility of overshadowing the US as a threat.

India’s strategic thinking and foreign policy is undergoing changes that are in line with the vision it has for its future.

Modi was not just present at the RIC meeting, he was also a part of another three-nation grouping – JAI (Japan-US-India) – as part of an Indo-Pacific regional grouping masterminded by Trump during the G20 summit.

To be clear, JAI is a trilateral grouping that was created to establish a balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region, and to contain China’s influence from spreading authoritarianism abroad.

So, the JAI is focused mainly on security and is China-centred. Besides, the JAI basically lays the foundation of the quadrilateral arrangement for Free and Open Indo-Pacific Region (FOIP), which also includes Australia.

Its membership of the JAI and the RIC, which are odds with each other, reflects how Indian strategic thinking is straddling two conflicting ideas, exploiting the tensions between the West and authoritarian forces.

India has found itself with a better bargaining chip than those who are struggling to emerge as regional leaders.

This consequently gives India a wild card in the world’s geopolitics, opening the doors of the JAI and the RIC at the same time. In the current situation, these groupings are strategically the ones who need to have India on their side.

There might be an inherent contradiction in India’s behaviour, as the JAI and the RIC are on opposing sides of the divide.

The question remains how India can fit in comfortably when these two alignments are meant to counter each other’s influence and what is India’s strategic imperative in these groupings.

Actually, it reflects two strands in India’s strategic and foreign policy thinking.

The first is that India is uncomfortable with China exerting inordinate influence southward towards the Indian Ocean Region, meddling with Pakistan, and employing debt-trap diplomacy with India’s neighbours.

This has made India insecure about the region where it holds primacy, and that has given it reasons to align itself with the JAI led by the US.

On the other hand, the current situation between the US and India is also not that stable due to the tariff war and the curbs imposed on India’s dealings with Russia and Iran.

India has the challenge of finding a strategic balance that won’t hurt its interests. Since the RIC also views India as an asset, it is geopolitical development that India can exploit and use as a negotiating power in its bargaining with the US and the West.

As an independent factor and a wild card, India can use the RIC as a vehicle to turn the situation upside down and thereby shift itself to be on a higher ground than the US.

Democratic India’s decision may not be a proof of its leaning towards authoritarian forces, but it points to India’s motivation being based on its national interest.

Source: defense.pk “Russia-India-China grouping an interesting watershed in global politics: The Nation contributor”

Note: This is defense.pk’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.

China says ties with India insulated from differences on Belt and Road Initiative

Atul Aneja Beijing, April 19, 2019 11:24 IST
Updated: April 19, 2019 17:22 IST

Chinese foreign minister and state councillor Wang Yi says both nations were limiting the threshold of their differences so that overall development of ties remained unhampered.

China on Friday said its ties with India had a “bright future” and they were preparing for a summit between their leaders as a follow-up to last year’s two-day across-the board Wuhan informal summit between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

At a press conference on a three-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that begins on May 25, Chinese foreign minister and state councillor Wang Yi was emphatic that ties between India and China were insulated from their differences on the Beijing-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Thirty-seven heads of state or heads of government, including leaders from Russia, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Malaysia and Singapore, as well as high level representatives from France, Germany, UK, Spain the European Union and Republic of Korea, will attend the mega event.

Mr. Wang said, “The two leaders [President Xi and Prime Minister Modi] had a very successful meeting in Wuhan. Particularly, they established mutual trust and they jointly planned for the future of improvement and the strengthening of the China-India relationship. After the Wuhan summit, we see progress in all areas of cooperation.”

Mr. Wang pointed out that India and China were limiting the threshold of their differences so that overall development of ties remained unhampered. “China and India are two major countries and neighbouring countries to each other. It is natural for us to have differences…I remember Prime Minister Modi has mentioned many times that [we] cannot escalate our differences into disputes,” he said.

“The Indian side wants to put our differences at a proper level in order not to interfere in the proper development of our relations. This is in fundamental interest of the people of two countries and China is happy to see [that],” he noted.

China, he said, understood India’s “concerns” about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), but counselled New Delhi not to view the project—a flagship of the BRI—as an infringement of its “sovereignty”.

Mr. Wang said, “One of our fundamental differences is how to look at the Belt and Road Initiative. The Indian side has their concerns. We understand that and that’s why we stated clearly on various occasions that the Belt and Road Initiative, including the CPEC, is only an economic initiative.” CPEC should be de-linked from a territorial dispute that was rooted in history.

India’s stance on CPEC

India has slammed CPEC, stating that it was an affront to its sovereignty as it passes through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Mr. Wang contended that the CPEC did not “target any third country” and had “nothing to do with sovereign and territorial dispute left over from history between the two countries.

He said, “Of course, India has its basic position on these disputes. Our cooperation will not undermine any party’s position on those issues. Those issues left over from the history must be separated from our efforts in this area. I think such cooperation will not undermine the basic position on sovereignty and territorial integrity and at the same time will provide you more opportunity of development and help India in modernisation endeavour. I believe this is a good option and good choice for India.”

The Chinese top diplomat rubbished accusations that BRI projects were “debt traps”. Instead, he said, the mega-connectivity project to revive the ancient Silk Road had generated benefits. The total trade volume between China and participating countries had surpassed 6 trillion dollars and investments had scaled 80 billion dollars, generating 300,000 jobs, he pointed out.

In a veiled reference to the United States, he said, “Some country when it cannot succeed, it doesn’t want other countries to succeed either. And this sour grape mentality is in no one’s benefit.”

An “advisory council”, comprising eminent international personalities, had been formed to impart “high quality” to projects under the BRI banner. “To my knowledge, the advisory council will submit a policy suggestion report to the second forum, which contains many good suggestions. We welcome more constructive voices to the Belt and Road,” Mr. Wang observed.

Source: The Hindu “China says ties with India insulated from differences on Belt and Road Initiative”

Note: This is The Hindu’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

China looking to boost agricultural exports to India, President Xi tells PM Modi

December 1, 2018

MUMBAI (Reuters) – China was looking to boost agricultural exports to India while increasing imports of rapeseed and soymeal from the country, President Xi Jinping told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G20 meeting on Friday.

China’s Xi also indicated greater trade in the pharmaceuticals sector between the two nations, India’s foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, who was traveling with Modi, said, detailing the deliberations between the two leaders.

“On the economic side, President Xi Jinping referred to enhanced imports of rice and sugar from India and spoke of possibility of greater imports of soymeal and rapeseed,” he said.

The meeting at the G20 summit was the fourth between Xi and Modi this year as the leaders looked to build on a thaw in ties between the two countries after a military standoff on their disputed border last year, officials told Reuters on Thursday.

India’s commerce ministry and a six-member Chinese delegation signed an agreement on Wednesday allowing Beijing to inspect imports of Indian fish meal and fish oil in an effort to ease market access for exports of various farm products.

Reporting by Nidhi Verma and Abhirup Roy, editing by Louise Heavens

Source: Reuters “China looking to boost agricultural exports to India, President Xi tells PM Modi”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

India, China launch joint training for Afghanistan, plan more projects

Sanjeev Miglani October 15, 2018

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India and China launched a program on Monday to train Afghan diplomats and China’s ambassador said it would likely be followed by joint programs in other fields to help war-torn Afghanistan.

Such cooperation is the first by the two Asian giants which have long been locked in a tussle for influence in a region stretching from Nepal to Sri Lanka and the island chain of the Maldives.

Within Afghanistan, India and the China have been on opposite sides with China relying on its old ally Pakistan as it seeks to stabilize Afghanistan by various means, including brokering talks to end the Taliban insurgency.

India, on the other hand, has invested billions of dollars in economic projects and training of military officers to strengthen the Afghan government in its fight against the Taliban.

For its part, Pakistan sees the expansive diplomacy in Afghanistan by its old rival, India, as a way to encircle it.

China’s ambassador to India said the joint training of 10 Afghan diplomats at the Indian Foreign Service Institute was the first step in China-India-Afghanistan cooperation that was agreed at a summit between President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this year.

“This is just the beginning. China and India have respective advantages. For example, India has remarkable edge in agriculture and medical services, and China in hybrid rice and poverty reduction,” the ambassador, Luo Zhaohui, said in a speech.

“I am sure that in the future days China-India cooperation in Afghanistan will span from training program to more concrete projects.”

Modi and Xi agreed to handle long-standing political differences peacefully at their summit in China, just months after a dispute over a stretch of their Himalayan border near the tiny state of Bhutan rekindled fears of war.

Luo said India-China cooperation in Afghanistan should be extended to countries such as Bhutan, Nepal, the Maldives, Myanmar and even Iran.

In many of these countries, China is helping to build infrastructure as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, which India sees as a bid by China to expand its influence.

China’s call for partnership comes just a week after its embassy in New Delhi said India and China must deepen their cooperation to fight trade protectionism, as it criticized the United States for what it termed provoking disputes.

Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Robert Birsel

Source: Reuters “India, China launch joint training for Afghanistan, plan more projects”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

India strikes river, rice deals with China as relations thaw

Reuters Staff June 9, 2018

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – China and India on Saturday settled a dispute over the flood-prone Brahmaputra river that flows from Tibet to Bangladesh in a sign of growing cooperation between them.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed the agreement as they began the two-day Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit.

“Our talks will add further vigour to the India-China friendship,” Modi said on Twitter, as the two countries try to reset troubled ties months after a border standoff.

The SCO, launched in 2001 mainly to combat radical Islam and other security concerns across Central Asia, added traditional rivals India and Pakistan as members last year.

Under two deals signed on the sidelines of the SCO summit on Saturday, China will share hydrological data on the Brahmaputra river and amend certain requirements on Indian exports of rice other than the premium Basmati variety to China, India’s foreign ministry spokesman, Raveesh Kumar, said on Twitter.

India said last year that China had not stuck to an agreement to share hydrological data, or scientific information on the movement, distribution and quality of water for the Brahmaputra river. China had cited “technological” reasons.

New Delhi has also been concerned about the rising trade deficit with China, and has sought greater access to the world’s second-largest economy for products such as rice, rapeseed, soybeans and sugar.

India’s trade gap with China has widened to $51 billion, a nine-fold increase over the past decade.

The rice deal should help India finally crack the market in China, the world’s biggest buyer of the commodity, traders said.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that China will buy 6.4 million tonnes of rice in 2018, while India will export a total of 11.9 million tonnes.

“Despite competitive prices, India was unable to export rice to China due to their phytosanitary norms,” said a New Delhi based dealer with a global trading firm, referring to food standards as well as animal and plant hygiene.

“As the norms are going to change, India can easily export more than 1 million tonnes rice every year to China.”

Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Alexander Smith

Source: Reuters “India strikes river, rice deals with China as relations thaw”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

India Unwilling to Confront China for US, US Has to Do So Itself

Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had a shrewd scheme to contain China with the Quad to push India to the forefront to counter China.

Indian Prime Minister, however, is shrewder. He simply wants no part in the Quad, especially no role as the vanguard to confront China for US interests.

Being obsessed with hegemony, the US views India in its own perspective and believes that India will confront China as India is pursuing regional hegemony in South Asia. On the other hand, out of its own perspective, the US believes that China is also pursuing regional Asian and even world hegemony so that the two countries are bond to fight each other.

Modi’s surprise visit to China must be quite enough to break US dream about the Quad, but US still has the dream that India will finally seek hegemony and pull the chestnut out of fire for it.

In fact, India’s participation in the Russia- and China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) must be a clear sign that India wants cooperation instead of confrontation with China.

SCMP says in its report “Indian leader Modi wants no part of China-US rivalry, but still manages to keep Beijing happy” on June 5, “Asia and the world ‘have a better future when India and China work together’, prime minister says.”

SCMP says that due to Modi’s keynote speech at Shangri-la Dialogue on June 1. In the speech, Modi did not even mention the Quad (the “quadrilateral strategic dialogue” – a US-led grouping of four regional powers including Australia, Japan and India) that the US has been eager to form to contain China and wants India to play the major role in confronting China.

Regarding to the Indo-Pacific region, the term that the US has invented for the Quad to contain China, SCMP quotes Modi as saying,“India does not see the Indo-Pacific region as a strategy or as a club of limited members, nor as a grouping that seeks to dominate. And by no means do we consider it as directed against any country. A geographical definition, as such, cannot be.”

SCMP says in the report, “Modi said that India’s relations with China had ‘many layers’. And despite their months-long military stand-off on the Doklam plateau last summer, ‘Asia and the world will have a better future when India and China work together in trust and confidence, sensitive to each other’s interests’.”

US Defense Secretary’s dream of China-India confrontation has been thoroughly broken by Modi’s speech. He realized that to stop China’s rise, the US shall come out in the forefront to confront China. That was why he attacked China so fiercely in his speech the day after Modi’s speech.

There is the saying: “It takes two to tango”. If China does not respond so strongly as the head of its delegation to Shangri-la Dialogue did, there will not be such high tension that may trigger a war now. China’s strong response may well cause the US to attack China as deep in Thucydides Trap, quite a few US politicians and media do want such a war to put an end to China’s rise. South China Sea (SCS) is not a good excuse for war as the US has no interests there, but the US only wants an excuse acceptable by its people while its media has done a lot to demonize China on the SCS issue.

As US media has already pit American people against China, to avoid the war, China had better keep a low profile instead of responding strongly because the best the US can do is but to carry out some freedom of navigation operations, which can only hurt China’s dignity instead of its interests there.

China’s hardline response has raised the questions: Is a war with the US acceptable to China? Why?

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2149237/indian-leader-modi-wants-no-part-china-us-rivalry-still.

Water, India Has No Choice But Avoid Confrontation with China

Last year, former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began to form a quad of India, Japan, Australia and the US to counter China with India at the forefront to confront China.

Tillerson’s quad was based on the “the structural factors in the relationship suggest that the rivalry will intensify in the long run” as described in Stratfor’s April-27 article “India and China’s Rapprochement Extends Only Skin Deep”.

Yes, China’s iron brotherhood with India’s most implacable enemy Pakistan is an insurmountable obstacle and China’s Belt-and-Road economic expansion in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Maldives constitutes an even more painful headache. Compared with those two problems the border disputes between the two countries are negligible issues. The disputed areas, though big, are but poor barren land with little population.

That was why the Stratfor article believes that the leaders of the two countries Modi and Xi Jiping’s efforts to improve bilateral relations are doomed to failure in the long run.

However, Stratfor fails to see a vital issue that forces India to avoid confrontation with China – water: water from China’s Yarlung Zangpo River, major source of water for India’s Ganges. China is drawing plans for diverting water from Yarlung Zangpo to its desert in Xinjiang. The project may greatly reduce Ganges’ water if diverted through open water channels due to lost into soil and air in the way. The water reduction may be much smaller if the water is diverted through pipelines that will cost a lot more to build.

In military confrontation, India is still scared by China due to the memory of its sad defeat in the 1960s. Chinese military is much stronger now, but China need not use its military to subdue India. Cutting the water source is just enough.

Before the Hong Kong issue was solved by the Sino-British Joint Declaration, I discussed the issue with some British people in Hong Kong. I said that if China sent PLA to take Hong Kong, Britain simply could not defend Hong Kong. The British people said, “No need to send PLA. Switch off water tap, we surrender.” Most of the fresh water Hong Kong used came from China.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Stratfor’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-navy-exercises/india-wont-include-australia-in-naval-drills-fears-china-backlash-idUSKBN18Q1VD.

China’s Xi, India’s Modi seek new relationship after summit

Chinese President Xi Jinping and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi walk along the East Lake in Wuhan, China, April 28, 2018. India’s Press Information Bureau/Handout via REUTERS

Sue-Lin Wong April 28, 2018

WUHAN, China (Reuters) – The leaders of China and India agreed to open a new chapter in their relationship on Saturday after an informal summit, just months after a dispute over a stretch of their high-altitude Himalayan border rekindled fears of war.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent around 24 hours in the central Chinese city of Wuhan for meetings with President Xi Jinping, an ice-breaking trip both hoped would allow candour and nurture trust.

Billed as an informal get-together rather than a summit, the two men held talks on Friday that lasted far longer than expected, and on Saturday chatted over tea on a boat trip round a scenic lake.

“President Xi stressed that the issues between China and India are of a limited, temporary nature but the relationship between the two countries is extensive and ongoing,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou told reporters in Wuhan.
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Their differences are significant: as well as disputes over stretches of a 3,500 km (2,200 miles) border – the two fought a brief border war in 1962 – the Asian giants have squabbled over Xi’s signature Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

India signalled as recently as Tuesday its opposition to the grand trade and transport plan because one of its branches runs through Pakistani-administered Kashmir, which India claims.

Xi and Modi agreed their problems would be resolved with time.

China’s Foreign Ministry, in a separate statement, cited Xi as telling Modi their nations were major drivers of world economic growth and a good relationship would be positive for global stability.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said both leaders had agreed they could handle their differences peacefully.

“On the issue of the India-China boundary question, the two leaders endorsed the work of the special representatives in their efforts to find a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement,” he said.

“And the two leaders also underscored that in the meantime it is important to maintain peace and tranquility in all areas of the India-China border region,” Gokhale said.

Kong said Modi and Xi did not discuss last summer’s border flare-up, although they agreed to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement to the boundary problem.

“The biggest takeaway was that we have to increase mutual trust,” he said. “The reason that we had this dispute was because we were both mistrustful of each other.”


Chinese state media praised the tone of the trip.

The overseas edition of the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said in a front page commentary on Saturday “two great countries ought to have great co-operation”. It published a large photo of the two leaders shaking hands.

The official China Daily said in an editorial there was no denying mutual suspicion was keeping the two countries from working together.

“Yet neither Beijing nor New Delhi calls the other an enemy, which means both expect bilateral ties to improve. Indeed, China and India are natural partners,” it said.

Despite the upbeat statements, which on Friday included Modi inviting Xi to India for a similar informal summit next year, there were no concrete agreements reached.

Still, Kong said there are a number of projects China and India can cooperate on in the spirit of Belt and Road.

“We won’t force them to do something they don’t want to do,” he said.

India has long been apprehensive about China’s traditionally close ties with Pakistan.

For its part, China has been concerned about U.S. efforts to draw India into a maritime “quad” of democracies, including Japan and Australia.
China is also suspicious of India’s hosting of the Dalai Lama and other exiled Tibetans.

Kong said China did not believe India had changed its official position that Tibet is part of China.

Modi and Xi are set to meet again soon, when Modi visits China in June for a summit of the China and Russia-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation security bloc.

Additional reporting by Neha Dasgupta in NEW DELHI; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait and Neil Fullick

Source: Reuters “China’s Xi, India’s Modi seek new relationship after summit”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.