The 21st meeting of the Special Representative s of China and India on border issues was held in Chengdu on the 24th. A Press Release on the subject stated that the meeting reached important agreement: “the tone is positive, constructive and forward-looking.” Public opinion has noticed that compared with the brief news (releases) of the past, which consisted of mostly polite nothings, the content of this Release is relatively large and new.
Quite obviously, the atmospherics of the meeting were good and fruitful. The Sino-Indian boundary talks were launched in 2003 and 15 years have passed by since. Overall progress cannot be considered to be much. However, it is of great practical and symbolic significance that the most complicated and sensitive dispute in Sino-Indian relations — the boundary dispute — has been put on the table. With such a mechanism in place, the Chinese and Indian soldiers on the border will also exercise restraint when dealing with differences in the front line, so as to avoid fire. This is no small matter for two large neighbouring countries like China and India.
The Chengdu meeting were the first Sino-Indian boundary talks after the Doklam confrontation and the first negotiation after the leaders of the two sides met in Wuhan. During the daggers drawn Doklam confrontation, Indian public opinion vent much spleen; so also China. Imagine what kind of situation China-India relations would be in today if they had actually come to blows? Facts show that policy makers in China and India are quite sober in formulating strategy. This is the good fortune of the two countries and of the region.
China and India’s relative dependence on each other in economic and trade exchanges has not been high; there are gaps (barriers) in culture; there are festivals in history and there is the boundary dispute in reality. Mutual trust between the two sides is weak, and there are many forces in the outside world that wish to see discord between China and India. Under these circumstances, it is not difficult to imagine whipping up of contradictions between the two countries and peaceful coexistence in absolute terms is not easy to achieve.
Because of this, it is vital for China and India to remain calm and rational. Indian public opinion has always been more prone to excitement, which in turn rouses Chinese public opinion and creates a harmful atmosphere of negative vibes, inevitably putting both sides under pressure and raising the cost of rational decision-making. In the face of (such) direct differences, how to ensure that the tempers don’t get frayed is definitely not a matter for the decision-making circles of China and India only. Soldiers on the border, media persons of both countries and everyone involved in China-India relations would need to bear this in mind.
Second, China and India need to always persist in their independent judgment. Especially, the external environment of China-Indian relations is at present extremely complicated and European and American mentality (perception) of China and India is extremely nuanced. Both China and India are big countries but they are also developing countries. They are latecomers in this round of modernization. The basic power structure of the global discourse is such that the West is strong and the East weak. Western public opinion possesses the will and ability to imperceptibly shape social cognition in non-Western countries.
For example, the rather hot topic in recent years of the so-called “Dragon Elephant fight” is an obvious orientation concocted by the West. China and India must maintain a high degree of vigilance and steer clear of provocation and not fall into traps set by others in their minds.
Third, China and India must have patience and wisdom in dealing with difficult issues. Just like the two countries have talked about 21 times in 15 years in the boundary talks. Today, we have reached an important agreement, but it can only be considered as phased (step by step) advance. We are still far from accomplishing a settlement of the boundary dispute. We have to eschew the psychology of wanting to achieving this at one go.
China-India relations need to be viewed strategically, with a futuristic perspective. We will properly control and manage direct disputes, strengthen confidence-building measures, and work to develop bilateral relations at the political level. China and India will achieve mutual win-win in all fields and grow quickly like seeds sprouting speedily in Sunlight and rain. A “dance of the Dragon and Elephant” can definitely be anticipated. in the coming time.