China and India are two growing global giants in terms of economy, defence, technology, international trade and so on. The recent three-day diplomatic visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in China marked enormous concern for the regional as well as global communities. This visit has huge geopolitical implications for China and India because as neighbours, as trading partners, and as regional powers with conflicting geopolitical priorities, the Sino-India relationship is becoming increasingly complex. In recent times, these two countries reorientation towards mapping their sphere of influence and power projection within regional and global systems is clearly defining their future geopolitical ambitions to be one of the influential decision makers of the world society. For this reason the Indian PM before reaching China said that, "the 21st century will be Asia's".
However from 14-16 May 2015 visit, Modi signed 21 treaties with China to add new dimension of his 'Act East' policy. Basically Modi's focus was on engaging China economically to further India's developmental needs. Underscoring Indian openness for business, Modi encouraged China to invest in India and signed deals worth more than $22 billion. These treaties include investment in the telecom, steel, energy, film, housing, high-speed rail, metro, ports, and
Two leading dailies, The Hindu and China Daily, termed these Sino-India deals as 'New avenues of cooperation' and showed in several analyses that the recent visit is highly significant in many ways. First, China and India both are world's booming economies having rising GDP growth rate. The new dimension of this economic relation will bring mutual benefits for the both giants. Also these deals may promote 'win-win' political relations over time removing the mistrust between the two countries. Secondly, China is interested in investment to develop infrastructure around the world. Modi just took the opportunity to bind a tie with China for greater investment in India. Modi's strategy is that if India is able to develop itself infra-structurally then its rising economic growth will be sustained for a long term. On the other hand, China wants to build a strategic tie with India because its prime rival the USA that already launched its 'Asia Pivot or Rebalancing' policy strengthening relationship with India to balance the growing dominance of China in the Asia-Pacific region. China sees this diplomatic deal with India as one of the means to contain the US' influence in Asia. Thirdly, pending a resolution to their boundary dispute, India and China have decided to set up a hotline between the military headquarters of the two countries. Fourthly, in order to boost tourism and advance people to people ties, Modi decided to extend E-visa on arrival facility to Chinese people.
Even Modi signed these deals with China though he may have to face several challenges in the near future. First, Modi basically strengthens economic ties with China seeking a greater infrastructural investment in India. During the last decade, bilateral trade has increased notably and in 2014, the trade between two countries exceeded over $65 bn. But India has a trade deficit of over $36 bn with China. The recent treaties for investment might increase the trade deficit. In which way Modi will reduce the deficit is the major challenge of the BJP government. Second, China and India have a long-standing border dispute. In his diplomatic visit, Modi put less emphasis on this issue rather on developmental economies. It may lengthen a permanent settlement regarding border dispute between two countries. Third, until the signing day, Indian foreign policy dealt with anti-Chinese investment approach. India also makes itself as hindrance for the other South Asian countries to sign any investment related deals with China. Now these states will get diplomatic legitimacy to sign deals with China. If this will happen then the Indian sphere of influence will be reduced and China will be the real match maker in this region.
However Modi's China visit may significant in terms of strengthening bilateral economic ties of both countries but this diplomatic tour is signalling several geopolitical and geostrategic implications for the both states, the region as well as the world system. First, China is trying to invest in Asia in order to initiate its 'Silk Route' strategy. The master plan for this route is to develop connectivity infrastructure in this region. Even India is proposing its 'Cotton Route' though its recent deals with China might give several breakthroughs to China to launch its strategic land-route.
Second, Now China is eager to convert its economic power into political influence in terms of greater leverage against other states. With the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), New Development Bank and BRICS, China has taken a decisive lead in reshaping the global financial architecture by challenging the current US dominated version. India already joined as one of the founding members of the AIIB and the recent deals are showing that India is just trying to balance itself with China and the USA in order to initiate its Kautilyan diplomacy as to ensure maximum national interest.
Third, China tends to establish its dominance over the Indo-Pacific rim regions in order to signal its strategic existence boldly. India is also trying to retain its influence in the Indian Ocean rim because it seems the rim as its backyard of own strategic influence. For this reason India already joined in a strategic triangle including the USA and Japan to China. In reaction, China already made strong ties with Pakistan and Myanmar to get maritime corridor to enter in the Indian Ocean. So this China-India deal may give China more access to the littoral states of the Indian Ocean to invest for infrastructural development of sea ports. Here the USA will definitely take an initiative to
contain China but what will be that it is a matter of analysis.
Fourth, both China and India are increasing their defense and military expenditure having nuclear weapons. Their recent military cooperation deal between these two giants may be a threat for the US world order.
Fifth, China has a better relationship with Russia. On the other hand, the USA has a good relation with India and Japan to contain Sino-Russian tie. But this recent deal might rebalance the power projection of the super power politics and might give Russia much strategic advantage to take next steps in the world
Sixth, if India fails to get its expected outcome from this deal then China might be the hegemony of this region. If China fails then the situation might be vice versa.
Abu Sufian Shamrat is Research Assistant at Microgovernance Research Initiative (mgr). E-mail: [email protected]