A crucial relation
Author- Jagannath P Panda
Publisher- Routledge, Rs 995
A very important factor in India-China relations is the fact that both parties regularly ‘engage’, despite the serious differences of views. This book about the association between the two countries should be seen in this perspective, writes CLAUDE ARPI
Though the present scenario of the relations between India and China is rather grim due to several factors, it is rejoicing to find more and more studies being undertaken in India on the Middle Kingdom, while more Indian experts have started ‘watching’ China. It is certainly a positive sign for the future of the bilateral relations as to know the ‘other’ is undoubtedly the first step to find mutually acceptable solutions to issues impeding the improvement of the relations.
The latest book of Dr Jagannath Panda, India-China Relations — Politics of Resources, Identity and Authority in a Multipolar World Order should be seen in the perspective.
Panda, a Research Fellow at the prestigious Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) is one of the dedicated ‘China watchers’ in the country.
In his Introduction, Jayant Prasad, a former Ambassador to Nepal and now IDSA’s Director General, rightly says, “The dynamic of these relations are likely to impact significantly on the evolving world order, given that the two countries account for one-third of the global population, and their economies have been growing in recent decades at a pace faster than that of any other country or region in the world.”
A very important factor in India-China relations is the fact that both parties regularly ‘engage’, despite the serious differences of views.
During the recent Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping met, though there are divergences on several issues such as a seat for India in the UN Security Council or the Nuclear Supplier Group, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor running through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir or the refusal by China to condemn terrorists such Masood Azhar.
According to Reuters, after the meeting, President Xi admitted that the two countries worked ‘appropriately’ to manage their differences, while calling for increasing trade and investment cooperation.
A leading daily quoted an Indian source saying: “Both leaders noted that in a multi-polar world, and at a time of global uncertainty, India-China relations are a factor of stability, and it is important for both countries to work together.” Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar summed up the present state of the relations by saying, “There was an understanding that where we have differences, it is important that differences should not become dispute.”
Due to its seriousness and scholarly approach, Panda’s new book is a welcome addition to the still-meager literature on the Indo-Chinese relations.
The author writes: “India-China relations continue to capture attention in international relations politics…India-China relations are distinctive, given the two countries’ primacy as ‘emerging and enduring powers’. They represent two modes of civilisation, demographically strong societies…bringing cooperation and collaboration, coexistence and convergence, and competition and conflict on a single platform, signifying the most complex and dynamic relationship in world politics.”
Both nations have indeed a complex rapport.
As an academic, Panda sees foreign relations through three mainstream prisms — realism, idealism and constructivism: “Most scholars and experts have also seen the India-China dynamism through these three prisms…But they ignore that India-China relations are much more complicated than coming under the canvas of the defined theoretical prism.”
According to Panda, his book “shuns these mainstream theoretical prisms, and seeks to illuminate the underlying complications characterising this bilateral relationship…through a methodological, orderly and structural analysis.”
Constructivism “does offer a nuanced and constructive explanation of India-China ties, following a mid-course, and accepts that cooperation and conflict in these ties are concurrent”, writes Panda, who cautions the reader that this theory “overlooks that in a complex relationship such as that between India and China, traditional realities like history, culture and social constructs often play a strong role in state politics along with contemporary realities of present-century world politics.”
Through the different chapters, the author takes the reader through ‘The Bilateral Course’, studying the ‘enduring dispute’, (from boundary to bordering territory), Tibet and the post Dalai contingencies and the water resource conflict; then he studies the ‘Sub-Regional Crescendo’, i.e. the relations through different groupings such as SCO, ASEAN, SAARC, South Asia, etc, which have the advantage to force nations to learn to ‘share’.
The research continues on the ‘Cross-Continental Contemporaries’ such as the BRICS, Climate Politics or the African Reach, to conclude on the possibility of a more global relationship.
One of China’s dimensions is missing, probably because it was not the purpose of Panda’s research. Can China be considered a ‘normal’ state?
On the occasion of the opening of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) Forum in Beijing, President Xi Jinping urged countries across the globe to join hands with China in pursuit of globalisation: ‘We have no intention to form a small group detrimental to stability. What we hope to create is a big family of harmonious co-existence.”
One could however ask: What about the ‘big family’ at home where more and more restrictions are imposed, not only on China’s minorities, like the Uyghurs and the Tibetans, but also on foreign businesses wanting to invest in China or on the population in general.
Whether in Beijing or Davos or earlier in Lima, Xi Jinping has started preaching ‘globalisation’, but China is less and less ‘global’; the dominance of the Party has reached levels rarely witnessed before.
As the Literature Nobel Prize laureate once sang, ‘The times they are a-changin’, lately, they have been changing even faster. Realignments are swiftly taking place, creating a sense of planetary incertitude. To become truly a big family is vital; in fact, it would be a stabilising factor for China to follow the same democratic rules than others States. Unfortunately, this may not be for some time.
Panda’s book remains a good addition to the scholarly studies of the bilateral relations, which will play such a crucial role in tomorrow’s world.
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