Rising Indo-China power and loopholes

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The world is transforming. A covert system is emerging; where the calculations based on balance of power and similar logics are clearly defining rules of the game. In short, rise of India and China is bringing great power politics back to South Asia.  Thus far, both India and China have balanced each other sufficiently. While there is still some room to argue if India is a great power as yet; it is largely conceded that China has successfully positioned itself as a great power and indicators such as economic growth make it even more evident. It has also been reported that China will overtake the US as world’s largest economy before 2030. China’s strengthening position can also be observed by other factors like enhancing influence in Global institutions, increasing assertiveness at home (against pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong) and abroad (against India in the recent border dispute).

Simultaneously, Chinese officials are also carrying out another crucial task which involves presenting softer image of China to the world. Arguments, in this regard, are shaped on cultural and historical grounds; it is claimed that China is a principled country with no greed for great power status and, therefore, will never bully weaker countries. Even Chinese president (Xi Jinping) confirmed this stance when he said, ‘No matter how strong its economy grows; China will never seek hegemony, expansion or sphere of influence.’ As a result, China is cautiously employing smart power measures to maintain its peaceful rise strategy. In contrast, India appears to have “great power” credentials and is growing in terms of power dynamics. India is virtually as big a market as China, because to its enormous and increasing population. In terms of population, it passed the ‘One billion milestone’ this year and could overtake China in the next two decades.  Aside from its people, India has a long history of civilization, which plays an important role both locally and worldwide in increasing its soft power. India is praised in the West for its democratic continuity and status as the “world’s largest democracy.”

It’s worth remembering that India has a very strong military (much like China) and was only second to the US and China in terms of military spending in 2019. Furthermore, the fact that India is currently the United States’ most trusted friend (in the South Asian region) demonstrates the success of Indian diplomacy. India was elected as a nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) without opposition, as well as a seat on the World Health Organization’s executive board in 2020. Apart from that, the Indo-US relationship has evolved to the point where it appears to be a natural alliance, with US leaders occasionally praising India. For instance, former U.S. President Barack Obama, when he visited India in 2010, said “India is not just a rising power; India has already risen.”

All these arguments suggest that India has the West by its side, when it comes to countering China but even Western support is not enough. India needs to strengthen its position in the region and for that India must, firstly, sort out all the outstanding issues with neighboring countries.  As yet, it is observable that Indian efforts are not enough and there are policies that require some revision.  Sino-Pak ties are now stronger than they have ever been. Both countries have similar aims and India is a common rival (if not enemy). Former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States (Hussain Haqqani) effectively defined the Sino-Pak relationship when he said, “Pakistan is a low-cost deterrent to India.” The importance of Pakistan is also shown in General Xiong Guangkai’s reference to Pakistan as China’s Israel. It has been noticed that Beijing sought to support Pakistan until 1990 in order to keep India off balance. Now that CPEC is in place, this connection has taken on much more significance, and both countries are looking forward to further cooperation and investment.

One reason for this is Washington’s indifference and diplomatic manipulation. China has obviously overtaken the US as Pakistan’s most favorite ally. This ensures that the ‘all-weather relationship’ rhetoric between China and Pakistan is more than just rhetoric, and that China’s importance as a financial backer and military partner has grown significantly. As a result, it is reasonable to assume that the Sino-Pak relationship has a bright future ahead of it, and that any further strengthening of bilateral ties would be damaging to India’s regional interests. For any state envisioning Primary, adoption of a posture of benevolence is absolutely essential. It is important for India to realize that envying Pakistan is hurting its posture as a benevolent regional power. Letting Pakistan tilt towards China is, also, not a wise policy option because China gets the opportunity to benefit from this in several ways. For instance, due to Indo-Pak rivalry, China gets a regional ally with nuclear capability and large military. China, also, benefits from a ‘bonus market’ where there is negligible presence of Indian goods and economic competition. In this context, improved Indo-Pak relations would immensely benefit India. Also, normalization of Indo-Pak relations would further free up some of the best armed forces in the world for the promotion of the collective good in the greater Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

India should, thus, normalize relations with Pakistan so that in future it can focus more on endeavors like infrastructural development and competition with China. It is still not late for India to realize that simultaneously competing Pakistan and China is not a feasible option. Hence, neutralization of Pakistan through accommodation is the best option for India as it would provide results that multiple wars and border skirmishes have been unable to produce. Lastly, once Indo-Pak state relations get improved; it would be very easy to establish people to people relationship.

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