The Sino-Indian relationship experienced major developments in 2015, with high-level exchanges, military mutual trust and trade ties between the two steadily growing. Yet given the two sides’ political and economic scales and global status, there is greater potential of development in the bilateral relations. In 2016, the security obstacles and trust deficit between Beijing and New Delhi need to be overcome, while intervention from third parties should be prevented.
In 2015, high-level interactions, such as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hometown diplomacy toward China, have created new vitality into the long history of bilateral relations between the two old civilizations. As Chinese President Xi Jinping and Modi’s visit to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda become precious memories, the China-India strategic and cooperative partnership has also reached a new stage heading toward common prosperity.
Face-to-face communications between leaders from the two countries have already become an important part of multilateral mechanisms including BRICS Summit, G20 Summit, East Asia Summit, and the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The Beijing-New Delhi political coordination and cooperation is obviously more frequent than before, this is also an inevitable phenomenon of the rise of China and India. Such high-level exchanges will be in favor of boosting mutual trust, expanding collaboration, resolving divergences, and navigating the bilateral ties to the right direction.
Sino-Indian security mutual trust has also been consolidated and improved. Military exchanges and the consensus to not let the border issues disrupt the development of bilateral relations have been increased. In 2015, General Zhang Youxia, director of PLA’s General Armament Department, Liu Yuan, political commissar of PLA’s General Logistics Department, and leaders from both Chengdu and Tibetan Military Region paid visits to India. The Chinese warship Jinan docked at the port of Mumbai. In addition, Indian Minister of Home Affairs, Rajnath Singh, and Indian Northern Army Commander, Lieutenant General DS Hooda, have also visited China. The Sino-Indian Hand-in-Hand 2015 joint military exercise was successfully held in October.
China’s Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Fan Changlong’s tour in India by the end of 2015 was the highest-level visit of military personnel in 10 years, and marked that the military relationship between the two sides has moved to a new phase of frequent interactions with increased mutual trust.
A “China fever” and “India fever” have emerged and heated up in the two countries. Bilateral economic and trade investment, regional cooperation, cultural exchanges have started to show some vigor. Nevertheless, the scale of bilateral communication and potential of cooperation between the two are still unable to match their economic volume and international status.
Certain new issues might turn into obstacles that block bilateral ties from taking further steps forward.
First of all, Sino-Indian economic and trade cooperation is not highly merged with shared interests. The trade imbalance has become a new issue in the bilateral economic relations. Resolving it requires the two nations to fully exploit their potential as emerging markets, while making decisions from the perspective of each country’s national rejuvenation, in order to promote a shared concept, resource complementarities, connection of the two’s development strategies, and a closer partnership.
In addition, the basis of Sino-Indian security mutual trust is still not solid. Beijing and New Delhi should properly manage and control their divergences, and accumulate strategic mutual trust step by step. Since development is the priority of both nations, a peaceful and stable neighborhood is needed. In this process, maintaining strategic composure as well as promoting bilateral understanding is very significant. Neither side should wreck the current foundation over a single incident.
Last but not least, the two countries should overcome any possible distraction from third parties. India is now worried that China’s development plans in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and with other South Asian countries are aimed at India. In China, many also believe that New Delhi’s military and defense collaboration with Washington and Tokyo might counter Beijing. If there is no communication and attempt to resolve the issues, these factors might easily jeopardize the big picture of the bilateral cooperation. China and India should join each other’s initiatives of connectivity and trilateral projects, seeking answers from practical actions.