The checklist for making India's 'Chennai Connect' spirit with China a success
Andrew Korybko
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi continue their informal meeting in Chennai, India, October 12, 2019. /Xinhua Photo

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi continue their informal meeting in Chennai, India, October 12, 2019. /Xinhua Photo

Editor's note: Andrew Korybko is a Moscow-based American political analyst. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated his recent informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping by saying how the "Chennai Connect" between them heralds a new era of cooperation, which has infused their bilateral relationship with a fresh sense of optimism during these turbulent international times.

For this friendly spirit to remain strong, however, India should adhere to the following checklist of priorities for expanding the progress that was just made on improving relations with China:

Refrain from provocative actions along the Lines of Control:

India should stop conducting military exercises and building military facilities along the Lines Of Control in Kashmir and South Tibet as well as freezing the deployment of its military forces there instead of gradually increasing them.

Engage in more trust-building activities with the Chinese military along the Lines of Control:

In parallel with the above, India should consider carrying out more joint military exercises with China, especially those of an anti-terrorist nature in line with the principles of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and propose other creative outreach efforts between their servicemen to build more trust between them.

Re-evaluate the wisdom of participating in the U.S.' "Indo-Pacific" strategy:

The U.S.' "Indo-Pacific" strategy carries with it extremely strong hints of an unstated intent to "contain" China, something that isn't in India's interests nor alignment with its publicly proclaimed policy towards the People's Republic, so New Delhi should reconsider the wisdom of participating in this provocative venture.

Lift the newly imposed restrictions on academic collaborations with China:

India's newly imposed restrictions on academic cooperation with Chinese educational institutions worryingly imply that the government officially views them as a security threat, which clashes with the "Chennai Connect" spirit and serves as an obstacle to the comprehensive improvement of trust between policy influencers on both sides.

Set aside suspicions about the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI):

India has hitherto refused to participate in the BRI mostly because of doubts about China's long-term "strategic" intentions with this initiative, but such fears are fundamentally flawed because they don't reflect the publicly reiterated reality by Beijing's representatives that the BRI is based on win-win outcomes between all partners.

A bird's-eye-view of Gwadar port. /VCG Photo

A bird's-eye-view of Gwadar port. /VCG Photo

Refuse to allow developments in third-party countries to negatively influence bilateral relations:

A common criticism made by Indian decision-makers about the BRI is that its flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is "illegal" because it transits through Pakistani-controlled territory that New Delhi claims as its own, but this position shouldn't negatively influence bilateral relations with Beijing.

Embody the "Chennai Connect" concept by physically connecting both economies through trade corridors:

China and India both have extremely close relations with Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, so New Delhi should revive its dormant interest in the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor as well as explore the potential for replicating this multilateral trade framework with Kathmandu.

Encourage the media to be more responsible with its rhetoric about China:

Indian media has a reputation for occasionally employing provocative rhetoric about China that adversely influences its population's perceptions towards the People's Republic, so it should be gently encouraged by the authorities to behave more responsibility if the "Chennai Connect" spirit is to be shared by all its citizens.

Commit to holding yearly informal summits with China:

The informal Wuhan and Chennai summits between the Chinese and Indian leaderships could become a tradition if New Delhi commits to holding them every year, which would greatly help to work out the kinks in their relationship and therefore continue to keep ties on the right track.

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