Thawing of Sino-Indian ties will benefit region and the world

The nations have ever-growing economic and technological clout, and resources that can help resolve regional and global challenges

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 August, 2018, 9:26pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 August, 2018, 9:57pm

The diplomatic turnaround of China and India since a military stand-off on their disputed border last year proves the resolve of both nations to avoid conflict. Defence Minister Wei Fenghe’s talks in New Delhi with officials including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart, Nirmala Sitharaman, were friendly, capped by pledges to keep the peace and stability. There is good reason for such cordiality; the interests of Chinese and Indians far outweigh the differences. Through further high-level meetings, both governments can build on the trust and understanding that has been created to improve communication and cooperation for greater shared benefit.

Circumstances are a far cry from this time last year, when hundreds of soldiers from both nations were staring each other down for 73 days in the disputed border region of Doklam. The stand-off, in an area claimed by China and India’s ally, Bhutan, was sparked by New Delhi’s objections to Chinese construction of a road. Not since the Sino-Indian war in 1962 had there been so serious a confrontation and fears were rife that the militaries of the world’s two most populous countries would again clash. But cool heads prevailed and diplomatic intervention kept the armies apart.

China and India promise to keep peace on their border after last year’s Doklam stand-off

Wei’s visit was a continuation of the communication that is necessary to ensure peace prevails. The 3,500km stretch of border that is disputed (Doklam is only a small part) is a legacy of history that requires adept handling through steady negotiation and careful management. As the first defence minister to go to India in six years, Wei’s trip was symbolically significant. But there was also a practical achievement, an agreement being made between the armed forces to expand engagement in areas including training and joint exercises.

Managing and settling the border dispute is only a foundation for better relations. The improvement in ties was given impetus by an informal summit between President Xi Jinping and Modi in Wuhan last April and they met again on the sidelines of the annual gathering of the BRICS grouping of developing nations in Johannesburg last month. There is a possibility of furthering the leaders’ good relationship during the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in November. They have much to discuss, an especially contentious matter being China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, perceived by New Delhi as a threat to its development and diplomatic alliances.

But India should see the project as an opportunity, not a threat. The nations have ever-growing economic and technological clout, and resources that can help resolve regional and global challenges. They can be tapped only through friendlier ties that can resolve disputes and improve communication and cooperation.