Strengthening Sino-Indian ties for the 'Asian Century'
Emilia Fernandez
National flags of India and China. /CFP

National flags of India and China. /CFP

Editor's note: Emilia Fernandez, a security and political analyst with a focus on South Asian geopolitics, is a Ph.D. researcher at the University of Lucerne, Switzerland. The article reflects the author's views and not necessarily those of CGTN.

The "Asian Century" was coined by late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1988 in a meeting with then-Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He put forth this term to shed light on the importance of cooperation between China and India, Asia's two largest modern states, which together contain over a third of the world's population and account for more than half of Asia's GDP.

Now, there are around 70 joint activities between these countries intended to take existing cooperation to a new height, ranging from economic to academic and from social to cultural. Like every neighboring state, China and India have border disputes which can be resolved through peaceful talks.

Referring to the unresolved issues, critics raise a question: "Should Sino-Indian cooperation outweigh the bilateral discords to reap the benefits of the Asian Century?" At this moment, it is the most relevant question to be answered seriously to devise the future trajectory of Sino-Indian strategic engagement.

Recently, in response to a series of questions after delivering a lecture on "India's Vision of the Indo-Pacific" at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar remarked that the Asian Century would happen when China and India came together.

Later, Beijing concurred with Jaishankar's comment, provided that the two Asian neighbors cooperate with each other to bring Sino-Indian relations back on the right track ensuring sound development, upholding common interests, and reducing trust deficit. 

It is noteworthy that China and India were the joint proponents of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. They have similar stances on several global issues such as their position toward Syria, the Ukraine crisis, climate concerns, etc.

Moreover, their common membership in BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) clearly testifies to their growing convergence in regional and global issues. After Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to India in 2014 and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to China in 2015, their bilateral bond started taking new turns by enhancing cooperation and avoiding confrontation. 

The footprint of Indo-Chinese economic relations can be traced back to ancient times when bilateral trade was mainly facilitated through the Silk Road. Surprisingly, cross-border trade between these countries has boomed even amid worldwide economic fallout triggered by COVID-19.

From almost nothing in 1960, two-way trade between China and India crossed $125 billion in 2021, making China the largest trading partner of India. This figure portrays the broad prospect for bilateral trade between the two most populous countries, the essence of which will be mutually beneficial.

Experts opine that sustainable economic interactions could transform bilateral relations into the most important partnership of the century. This is why Beijing and Delhi should consider their economic bond as the backbone of improving bilateral relations by intertwining their economy and boosting economic synergy.

China-India cultural exchanges activities held in Kunming, China's Yunnan Province, June 21, 2022. /CFP

China-India cultural exchanges activities held in Kunming, China's Yunnan Province, June 21, 2022. /CFP

In Asia, the power struggle between India and China is viewed through the prism of triangular relations. The U.S. and Russia have long been playing a consistent role in depicting the direction of China-India relations.

Also, Japan has become a part of Sino-Indian ties with different initiatives such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. In order to contain China's growing influence in the region, the U.S. has been trying to divide Asia through a number of initiatives, i.e. IPEF, by offering binary options to India.

Apparently, such moves will instigate a "new Cold War'' centered on Asia. As Asian nations, especially India and China, will be the direct victims of the U.S.-backed bloc politics, they should be aware of the traps set by external powers.

The "Dragon-Elephant Tango'' has become the only path for bilateral ties which can be achieved through enhancing mutual trust, promoting common interests, bolstering cooperation, burying differences and fostering socio-economic development.

There are some strategic discords, i.e. boundary disputes, economic nationalism, security ties with global powers and regional actors – Pakistan and the U.S. – that challenge stable bilateral relationships and the peaceful rise of China and India on the global stage.

Standing at this critical juncture of bilateral relations, Beijing and New Delhi should revisit the original aspiration of establishing diplomatic relations for peaceful coexistence to ensure the dominant role that China and India are expected to play in the Asian century with their growing demographic trends and burgeoning economy.        

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