How fissures in ties with China are testing India's relations with other neighbours

India stands as a strategic deterrent to China in its attempt to ensnare smaller neighbours. To this, China responds by undermining India’s relation with her immediate neighbours



Bipul Nath


India-China relationship has seen a steep decline in recent months as compared to the period when former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had established collaborative bilateral relations between the two nations post 1962 war. The important factors, in this context, leading to deteriorating relations between the two countries can be seen as the subsequent rise of two unique political leaders Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who share similar ideas yet follow different principles. Both the leaders aspire to see their countries as a leading socio-political and economic powers internationally.


India-China are not just two emerging superpowers but also neighbours vying for the same platform to drive their national agendas. Amid ideological differences between the two nations, China’s predatory and aggressive attitude has washed away any scope of reconciliation. While considering India-China relations, one must also take into account the repercussions of this relationship. While bilateral relations may be restored to status quo ante, but it is advisable for India to remain cautious and secure a strong foothold along and around her home ground.

In addition to flexing its muscle across the South China sea, China has also added a new front to a prolonged dispute in India’s backyard, compelling India to re-think, even to re-negotiate, her relations with China. The recent Galwan clash came as a sneer that is part of a China’s larger trepidation against India. Where it shows China’s general assertive nature, it also shows China’s insecurity regarding India. It suggests that India has to not only be capable of winning such battles on the border, but take a decisive approach in order to win the whole war for Southeast Asia.

India stands as a strategic deterrent to China in its attempt to ensnare smaller neighbours. To this, China responds using various techniques, one of them being deteriorating India’s relation with her immediate neighbours. China is using proxy tactics to undermine India’s foreign affairs with its immediate neighbours. Chinese expansionism, bullying, intimidation, threats, predatory economic policies, debt-trap diplomacy has coiled the nations around India, which can be fatal to for India’s development prospects.

Besides aiding existing enemies like Pakistan, to undermine India’s security, China also uses unfair means of trade tactics to undermine India’s economy taking advantage of the neighbouring countries. In a report, a China expert Yun Sun argued that Beijing views India as a “lost cause”, conceding that,“if a strategic friendship with India is untenable, it frees up room for tactical gains.” No doubt such a statement is hypocritical. On one hand China uses double standard market tactics as “dumping” to undermine Indian local manufacturers, on the other it puts market access impediments to hamper the growth of Indian exports in China. China leaves no quarter to hamper India’s relations with her neighbours, be it by using strategies like ‘String of Pearls’ via Sri Lanka or by taking advantage of FTAs (Free Trade Agreement) with least developed countries like Bangladesh, to evade tax. A report by Standing Committee on Commerce points out that “Chinese fabric is manufactured into garments in Bangladesh, and imported at cheap rates into India.”

Southeast Asian politics can be seen as taking an atavistic turn, while democratic ideals face the ultimate test of time. Meanwhile China is recruiting heavily for its military, and putting every piece in place like dominoes - both at home and outside. China’s proxy politics has strained diplomatic relations between India and Nepal, a country that is both economically and militarily strategic for India. And as the West turned away from Myanmar in light of Rohingya crisis, China has dug its opportunistic roots deep within Mayanmar by both countries signing 33 bilateral agreements. Moving up the map, it is also evident, as countries like South Korea, the intimate ally of the US, is taking up its share in China’s BRI project. The repercussions of the deteriorating relationship between India and China has manifested itself in and around their foreign affairs, creating an environment of tit for tat diplomacy. If China uses ‘String of Pearls; Strategy', India responds by using ‘String of Flowers’ strategy. As soon as India tied her relations with Israel, China seized the opportunity to drop India out of the Chabahar agreement with Iran.

India has to choose her allies wisely. At a time like this, when like minded countries Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Tibet and Hong Kong face existential crisis, and strategic allies like the US, Japan face political crisis from China, India will have to emerge both economically, politically and militarily, as a beacon of democracy for the whole region.

(The author is an intern with Academics for Nation and is a student at Northeast Regional Institute of Education, NCERT, Shillong.)

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