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Sino-India ties: A love-hate relationship

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When Fa Hsien (Faxian), a Chinese Buddhist traveler and monk came to India in the 402 A.D, he was searching for answers to his religious questions in texts and tales. But instead, he found something greater. In his book ‘A record of Buddhist kingdoms’, Faxian mentions: “From here (i.e. Mathura) to the south, all is Middle India (Madhyade’sa). The inhabitants of Madhyade’sa dress and eat like people in China.” Travelers such as Xuanzang, Faxian and Yijing came to India centuries ago to not only to discover Buddhism first-hand, but also find out the similarities of socio-religious and cultural lifestyle among China and India. Indeed, Buddhism founded and continues to affect every nook and cranny of Chinese ideology.

The Indo-Chinese, or the Sino-Indian relations have flourished since time immemorial and only one phrase describes their monumental past, present and future – a ‘love-hate’ relationship. China and India are polar opposites in their viewpoints ever since the cold war, causing sharp turns to appear in the path of geo-strategic cooperation between the two Asian giants (Ravi Bhoothalingam in the book ‘BCIM Economic Corridor-The Road Ahead’). While China opposes the shelter India provides to the Dalai Lama, India votes for a ‘free Tibet’ even while respecting Chinese sovereignty over the region. While India undergoes traditional rivalry with Pakistan, China forges military co-operation with the latter. While United States relations with China carry on degrading, the former is increasingly supportive of India’s strategic and economic interests and shared democratic values. Not just this, both US and India believe that China’s ‘bad behaviour’ partly steers their relationship forward.

India and China are two of the world’s earliest civilisations, contributing significantly to each other’s cultural, artistic and scientific interests. However, a major setback appeared in these relations with China’s attack on Tibetan boundary in 1962. Ever since, border conflicts have been a bone of contention in the Sino-India relations, not to forget the issue of the Doklam plateau and the 72-day standoff that took place between the two countries in 2017. However, the two countries also participated in an informal Wuhan meet ahead of Doklam conflict. Even though the Wuhan summit was displayed as a “reset button” in the media and remained unsuccessful at many levels, it made the fervour to resolve the contention apparent. Besides, there is so much for both countries to learn from each other – while China must absorb from the largest democracy in the world, India must lean a thing or two about expansion of economy. While both countries grow their GDP at about 6% rate, China is a $12.24 Lakh crores economy, while India remains at a GDP of $2.6 Lakh crores.

China’s multi-national road projects also have history with India. India vehemently opposed the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) of China not only because it involved plans for a China-Pakistan corridor that passed through Kashmir under the Indian sovereign, but the initiative also threatened put those countries under debt that chose to seek loans from Beijing for the project. On the other hand, India is on board with the BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar) Corridor. If successful, in the long term, BCIM will be beneficial for supporting India’s North-Eastern Railway (NER) procurements, which could be directed to the region from Myanmar at cheaper rates. BCIM will also enhance regional co-operation and expand people-to-people ties, which are a direct form of communicative relation between two countries. As of now, the tourism and people-exchange numbers between India and China are minuscule – while 6,00,000 Indians travel to China annually, only 1,00,000 travel from China to India.

India and china constitute for one-third of the world. Constant rise of both economies over the past decades does not only threaten the fall of a western history of colonialism and the Unites States’ kingdom, but also opens doors for such opportunities as never seen before, globally. Moreover, commercial and trade relations between India and China have immense potential, which might be belittled by border issues and China’s protectionism and mercantilism. But the current trade poll cannot be undermined. At the 2018 eleventh session of the India-China Joint Group on Economic Relations, Trade, Science and Technology, the two countries discussed expansion of trade activities between and take measure to dissolve trade imbalances. In 2008, bilateral trade between the two countries reached US$ 51.8 billion with China replacing the United States as India’s largest “Goods trading partner. It is also a recent development that while Google and Amazon, two colossal MNCs may have had troubles in China, OYO, an Indian budget hospitality company is already breaking grounds worth millions, in China.

Sino-Indian relations have multifarious prospective for the two countries, Asia and the world. A need to strengthen these relations arises, especially with rising climate change and refugee crises and a need for multi-nationalism, co-operation and diplomacy.

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