70th Anniversary

India and China are in a unique position to celebrate 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations. The Chinese think 2019 has been a year of remarkable progress in India-China bilateral ties, albeit the ground reality speaks otherwise. Hand-shake diplomacy ends in hand-shake. Informal Summit, not official dialogue, between Indian and Chinese leaders, seems to have acquired special significance in enhancing India-China understanding. The second informal summit between Modi and Xi Jinping in Chennai marked a reaffirmation of Wuhan consensus and helped a lot in steering the India-China relations onto a higher trajectory. Informal summit apart, both Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping met many a time on the margins of multilateral conclaves, including SCO and BRICS. For the people of India it is encouraging to see both New Delhi and Beijing have come a long way to recognise the importance of changing narrative of India-China relations in the region.

Informal mechanism, informal encounter with a purpose, in all likelihood is going to strengthen practical cooperation in trade and investment. For both India and China population is a crucial factor that demands special attention—a population of over one billion—and no major can ignore this factor while India and China are equally poised to harvest demographic dividends. Two Asian giants are gearing up at the moment, to mark 70th year of establishment of diplomatic ties with 70 events spanning cultural exchanges, media, academic, music, and dance. In view of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties the two sides agreed to continue high level dialogues which may deepen practical cooperation and promote meaningful activities so as to ensure that the India- China relationship can move forward in real terms on the right track.

During the 22nd meeting of Special Representatives held in New Delhi both India and China discussed the vexed question of boundary negotiations. No doubt that a stable and balanced development of India-China relations is a positive factor for peace and prosperity in the region and the world as well. Meanwhile two governments have further "agreed to strengthen communication and exchanges between the border forces of the two countries and set up hot lines between the relevant departments of the two armed forces, add border meeting points, expand border trade and personal exchanges. Intention is good but whether it will work is open to question. The border-dispute related animosity is so deep rooted that all negotiations finally lead to nowhere. Every round of high-level diplomatic parley they go back to square one.

For one thing China has not budged an inch from their stated position on the Himalayan boundary issue. No doubt 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties has opened up an opportunity to improve mutually beneficial cooperation and people-to people exchanges, so as to consolidate the social foundation of the friendship between the two countries.

America apart India is now figures very much in China's strategic defence partnership. Of late Indian and Chinese troops held their 8th "hand in hand" counter terrorism exercise in the north eastern state of Meghalaya which the morale and trust between the militaries of the two countries. It is in reality a UN mandated programme to fight terrorism globally. How far this kind of exercise is effective against suicide bombing is anybody's guess.

But at the end what matters most in the way of smooth sailing of Indo-China relations is the border dispute a legacy left by history which has been continuing to haunt them since 1962 and it will continue to haunt them for decades to come despite periodic hand-shake diplomacy. People managing government affairs in New Delhi hope somewhat against hope that they will be able to accelerate efforts to seek a fair reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the boundary question and maintain peace and tranquility along the border area. But border dialogue always remains elusive and inconclusive. What is good for both India and China is to improve bilateral trade and commerce while going slow on border niceties? This dispute is unlikely to be resolved in any foreseeable future. That they celebrating 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations is itself a big event, demanding all round participation of peoples of the two countries. How they progress in making friendship a buzz word depends on whether they show willingness not to allow differences to become disputes.

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Vol. 52, No. 36, Mar 8 - 14, 2020