Analysis: China Welcomes Narendra Modi
China aims at strengthening ties with India
The largest and the most contested neighbour of India, China is welcoming the new Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and has conveyed that it wants to strengthen ties with India. Premier Li Keqiang had sent Modi a message of congratulations, saying maintaining strong relations with India was a top foreign policy priority.
Top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi met with India’s ambassador to Beijing on June 3, 2014 to assure him of the “high importance” China attaches to ties, the official Xinhua News agency reported.
Until recently, China often refrained from being speculative about the Indian elections. Neither Chinese Communist Party leaders nor the researchers opted to comment upon the results of Indian parliamentary elections. But their interest in the 16th General Elections is a welcoming sign of China wanting to improve ties with India.
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As generally assumed by the political parties in India, China is the contested neighbour of India and there should be no surprise why China is treating the 16th General Elections so special. To list a few of the prominent reasons, China, in the history of bilateral relations, always favoured the right wing of the Indian political stream. Secondly, China is looking for a breakthrough in some of the contentious bilateral issues between India and China, including border dispute, trade restrictions and investment opportunities in India and given Modi’s investor-friendly image, Chinese will not wish things to go out of bounds. Third, the change of power at the centre may give China options to engage with India in a larger ‘Asian’ regional context. And lastly, at a more metamorphic level, China wants to make more China-friends in India by getting in tune with regional parties and sub-national rhetoric of development. Given such prominent reasons, there is no surprise that Chinese get out of their practised silence and walk in the Indian mood of elections.
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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visit to India
The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to India will be the first diplomatic visit Modi government will be prepared for, and PM’s past visit to China may provide background to start with a positive reverberation. China always looked at Modi for more serious businesses and gave immense importance for trade opportunities. To note, when U.S. and U.K. government showed less interest towards Gujarat under Modi’s rule, Chinese opted for capturing more business and did not take any repulsive stand against Modi. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit will be more of a courteous than the strategic one but it will emphasise the impending challenges for both neighbours. The first diplomatic visit by the Chinese minister highlights what the change of guards in India means to Chinese top guns.
China’s expectations from India appreciated right after BJP graduated to a majority party in India’s ceremonial parliamentary elections. Where the Modi government is facing pressure to quell the Chinese pressure covering sensitive issues such as boundary dispute, border intrusions, and China’s assertiveness in the neighbouring countries, trade deficits etc; The Chinese side have their own set of apprehensions including Tibet, boundary dispute and business prospects. The first meeting of Wang Yi aims to re-assure China that the new
Indian leadership will be proactive
like that of Vajpayee’s.
So far the new millennia has witnessed three full term governments in India, and the recently elected one, with its majority in house, may rule the full term. China therefore cannot undervalue the significance of the Modi government as it has enough numbers to stand tall and read aloud its terms. With BJP’s approach to deal the national interests with nationalistic fervour and path-breaking initiatives (Vajpayee’s visit to China in 1979 and 2003), new changeovers in the external policy formulations may come across. Hence, the present government under Modi will play a crucial role in foreign policy making as India is struggling to shape up its economy and diplomacy in the coming course of time. For sure, Wang Yi will start his message with economic prosperities and opportunities.
China being India’s largest trading partner is facing highest number of anti-dumping duties on Chinese goods, hence, Wang Yi’s job would be to convince India that the trade is in mutual favour. Modi-Gujarat combination has already fascinated the Chinese investors and Chinese see huge potential in bilateral business in coming times.
On the strategic front, China wants to realise the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor and stress the urgency to resolve the boundary dispute. Although, the meeting will be part of the courtesy and no major deliberations will take place, Chinese side would avoid brining in troubled topics on to the discussion table. But the issues on varied matters might be brought into the circle when the leaders of both the countries meet in Brazil in July 2014.
– Aravind Yelery (The writer is visiting Associate Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies) [email protected]