China and India are the two most populous countries and fastest growing major economies in the world. Last month India-China marked 70 years of diplomatic relations on April 1, 2020. India was the first non-communist country in Asia to establish diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China on April 1, 1950. Despite the fact, India was one of the first countries to recognize Mao Zedong’s communist regime, India-China relations have seen its ups and downs.
Contemporary Relations between India and China
Relations between contemporary China and India have been characterised by border disputes, resulting in Sino-Indian war of 1962 and couple of smaller military conflicts in 1967 and 1987 respectively. However, since the late 1980s, both countries have successfully rebuilt diplomatic and economic ties. In 2008, China became India’s largest trading partner and the two countries have also extended their strategic and military relations. Despite growing economic and strategic ties, there are several hurdles for India and China which include global economic competition and resolving the border disputes.
In recent times, especially after the outbreak of global pandemic of COVID-19, Beijing’s open intimidation of those pointing out its duplicity has unmasked its true character. The world has suddenly woken up to the threat Chinese regime poses to the world, including India.
Future Outlook of India China Relations
China, since last few decades, following Deng Xiaoping’s policy, has been silently building their capacities both economically and militarily. Soon after, Xi Jinping became the president; China started asserting their economic and military prowess to project themselves as next super power. China aims to change the status quo of world being uni-polar where USA is the sole super power to being bi-polar where China is the other super power. China is projecting power by intimidating smaller countries and USA equally in South China Sea, trade disputes have come up between China and USA; coercive activities to influence smaller nations caught in its debt trap. And China has up these ante’s in the since the outbreak of COVID-19
India is not only a competitor to China on global stage also a rival in the regional space. India poses one of the biggest threats to China’s emerging supremacy. Since the COVID-19 outbreak most global companies are looking for an alternate to China for their supply chain. India seems to be the prime candidate. This does not go well with China. On diplomatic front, India and USA have strengthened their relations in last few years. India has also developed strong strategic relations with regional powers like Japan and Australia. Increasing support from all these countries to India to contain China is not hidden from Chinese regime. The balance of power between China and India, which is tilted heavily in favour of China, could shift to become less uneven if the Chinese economy takes a bad knock as a fallout of COVID and India gains.
These aspects will add to the existing complexity between India and China. Although Covid-19 may not have had an immediate and direct impact on India-China ties, it has the potential to create incremental damage to China-India relations. With the growing uncertainty, New Delhi-Beijing ties will only get more strained. Further discord is expected amid heated dynamics over decoupling between the US and China, given the position of India as a US ally and a stakeholder to possible movements of global supply chains. As it moves past 70, India-China ties will see more flux and be under greater strain, even as the two countries seek to maintain peaceful coexistence.