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Will Mr. Modi’s Visit to China Make any Difference?

N.S. Venkataraman for BeyondHeadlines

In the last one year since assuming power, Indian Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi has been making frequent visits abroad. He is now making one more visit , this time to China. The promotion of bilateral relationships as well as seeking investment in India from abroad have been stated as the objectives of such frequent visits. While the earlier visits of Mr. Modi created considerable interest in India as well as amongst thousands of Indians living in the countries he visited, one gets an impression that the overseas visits are now becoming too frequent to sustain such continued interests in the visits amongst Indians.

However, one cannot miss the fact that Mr. Modi’s present visit to China is somewhat different from the visits he has made to several other countries including USA, Canada, Australia, Japan , Singapore, SriLanka and others.

The ground reality is that there is considerable concern in India that thousands of kilometres of Indian land are still occupied by China , which China forcibly annexed during 1962 war between India and China which India lost heavily. While China claims that the land belongs to it , India firmly rejects this and Indians are deeply conscious about such area being under the control of China. Further, to add salt to the wound, China claims that Arunachal Pradesh in north eastern India belongs to it and China went to the extent of refusing to provide visa to China in normal format for those living in Arunachal Pradesh in India.

China’s occupation of Tibet is still frequently discussed in India and there is swell of sympathy and support for the Dalai Lama in the country.

It can, therefore, be clearly seen that there is underlying suspicion and misgivings in India about China’s role and intentions.

Given such circumstances, many suspect that while Mr. Narendra Modi is trying to build strong bilateral relationships and industrial / economic cooperation with China, he is indifferent to the potential friction in relationship between both the countries. The critics question the political wisdom of such approach.

Further, in the last few decades, China’s industrial and economic growth has increased by leaps and bounds, leaving India far behind. While both India and China remain as two large and highly populous countries in the world , the similarity seem to end there.

While it is well known that government of China is particularly focussed on sustaining it’s economic growth by continuing to lay strong thrust in export market and it would view India as the strong market for China’s products, it is not clear as to what extent China would go in strengthening the industrial cooperation between both the countries. While China would be keen to strengthen its trade relationship with India, it is highly doubtful as to whether China would be willing to negotiate the border with India and give up it’s claim on Indian territory , for the sake of strengthening the trade relationship.

During his China visit, Mr. Modi has the unenviable task of ignoring China’s claims on Indian territory and keeping his eyes closed to the border issue for the sake of boosting economic and industrial cooperation with China.

While India’s troublesome relationship with Pakistan creates considerable emotional reactions in both the countries, India’s troublesome relationship with China does not cause such emotional reactions with the same intensity. Therefore, Mr. Modi will have less problems in strengthening trade and economic cooperation with China compared to any such efforts that he may initiate with Pakistan. However, Mr. Modi will have to keep in mind that in the event of uneasy relationship developing, China can be a more difficult adversary than Pakistan.

Many in India believe that while India has several things to learn from China particularly with regard to China’s technological advancement in recent years and trade policies abroad, there is no way that India can have a smooth relationship with China in the manner that it can hope to have with America, Russia and Europe. Mr. Modi, perhaps ,is trying to build strong relationship with China on weak foundation.

(N.S.Venkataraman is a Chemical Engineer from Annamalai University in Tamil Nadu and Director of Nandini Consultancy Centre. He can be reached at nsvenkatchennai@gmail.com)

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