China denied accusations that its military helicopters had violated India’s airspace on Monday. Reports from India claimed that the Chinese aircraft had been seen hovering over the “Barahoti sector” of the China-India boundary. China’s foreign ministry responded to the reports, saying they were “regular border patrols” on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control.
Indian media has no need to make a fuss over China’s routine military activities. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi commented at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum that “It is true that we have a border dispute with China. But in the last 40 years, not a single bullet has been fired because of [the] border dispute.”
China welcomes Modi’s remarks. Beijing and New Delhi have been exercising restraint over the border issue. A number of dialogue mechanisms, at governmental and non-governmental level, have been established to strengthen communications. The Sino-Indian Nathula Border trade channel was opened to boost bilateral trade, and meanwhile, China has put forward the Belt and Road initiative to aid regional connectivity. Beijing sincerely hopes that New Delhi can play a part in and benefit from the infrastructure initiative.
However, New Delhi is over-concerned about Beijing’s intentions, and there are even critical voices in India against Modi’s China-friendly remarks. It is because New Delhi still views the bilateral relationship with China from the lens of geopolitics and regards Beijing as a strategic rival. Every time China reaches out to strengthen cooperation with countries regarded by India as within its sphere of influence, India worries the cooperation is deliberately targeting it.
The reality is China’s expanding cooperation is driven by China’s economic growth. In fact, more and more Chinese enterprises are interested in investing in India. If New Delhi can understand China’s connectivity initiative from the perspective of regional development, this will help enhance mutual trust between the two countries.
Beijing’s infrastructure initiative aims to promote the global economy by enhancing regional connectivity and building cohesive trade networks, and does not target any third party. An increasing number of countries welcome the Belt and Road initiative and are willing to hitch a ride on China’s rise.
Strengthening mutual trust, a prerequisite to deepened cooperation, is a priority at present. More consultations are needed to handle border disputes, and Indian media outlets should avoid misinterpreting China’s regular activities. The two sides can cooperate on projects that are not sensitive if historical issues cannot be immediately solved. The steady and sound development of China-India relations will benefit not only the two countries and peoples, but also the region and beyond.