“Misunderstandings have harmed India-China relations”. Former Indian Ambassador to China, Gokhale, recently argued in an article reported in The Hindu on 10 March. that Sino-Indian relations had been steadily declining before the bloody conflict erupted between India and China in the border region last year, due to misperceptions and misunderstandings about each other, which led to a lack of trust between the two sides. “The most fundamental misunderstanding between the two countries is their inability to understand each other’s international ambitions, which makes them fear that the other’s foreign policy is directed against them”.
Gokhale, who served as India’s Ambassador to China from 2016 to 2017, was a key interlocutor during the 2017 India-China “Doklam standoff” before retiring as India’s Foreign Secretary last year, according to the report. In a 10th March article on the Carnegie India Center website, he traces the impact of misunderstandings on China-India relations through three different stages. The first stage of mistrust between India and China came after the 2008 financial crisis, when China began to expand its global role, which raised concerns in New Delhi that China was trying to undermine Indian interests. “In turn, New Delhi’s opposition to these policies triggered a hostile reaction in Beijing”. The second phase was marked by “intensified mutual suspicion” between the leadership of the two countries, with China taking a negative view of the Modi government’s “Neighbors First” policy and close ties with the United States, and India perceiving China as insensitive to India’s international interests. In the final stage, policymakers in Beijing reacted strongly to U.S.-India cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region as “containment” or an attempt to limit China’s status as an emerging power. According to the article, misplaced expectations and misunderstandings between India and China, especially India’s concerns about China’s Belt and Road Initiative and China’s perception of India-US relations, are at the root of the deterioration in relations between India and China.
(The full text of the article by former Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale referred to in this item can be seen here.)