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How S. Jaishankar sees China and its power contest with India

As the Chinese Communist Party prepares to give President Xi Jinping an unprecedented third term as ruler of China, Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has offered his views of the contest between the two Asian rivals.

Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar speaks on how he sees the India-China relationship at an event recently in New Delhi.

Looking back at seven decades of engagement,it would be fair to state that India has essentially taken a determinedly bilateral approach to China.There are many reasons for this including a sense of Asian solidarity and a suspicion of third party interests that emanated from other experiences.

Indeed, Indian policy in the past has exhibited a remarkable degree of self-restraint that led to the expectation that others can have a veto over its choices. That period, however, is now behind us. The ‘new era’ is apparently not just for China.

While noting divergences between India and China, it is really their structural gaps that have developed over the last 60 years which present a challenge. These have two broad metrics: one, the Cumulative Border Balance (CBB) and the other, Comprehensive National Power (CNP). Any objective analysis of the relationship must necessarily, take both into account, recognizing that there is a linkage between them.

India’s search for a more balanced and stable relationship with China take it across multiple domains and many options. Given the developments of 2020, they obviously focus on an effective defence of the border. This was notably undertaken even in the midst of Covid.

Peace and tranquility in the border areas clearly remains the basis for normal relations. From time to time, this has been mischievously conflated with the sorting out of the boundary question.

The truth is that the prerequisite has been and remains one much more modest; and even that was breached in 2020. Economically, further progress in expanding manufacturing and promoting Atmanirbhar Bharat are key.

Internationally, building deeper relationships and promoting better understanding of its interests strengthens India. We [India] must prepare to compete more effectively, especially in our immediate periphery.

Establishing a modus vivendi between India and China after 2020 is not easy. Yet, it is a task that cannot be set aside. And this can only become sustainable on the basis of three mutuals: mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interest.

The last few years have been a period of serious challenge, both for the relationship and for the prospects of the continent. The continuation of the current impasse will not benefit either India or China. New normals of posture will inevitably lead to new normals of responses.

It is the willingness to take a long-term view of their ties that the two countries must display today.

(These points were tweeted out by Jaishankar from a keynote address he delivered on October 18, 2022 at a conference of Center for Contemporary China Studies (CCCS) on 'China’s Foreign Policy and International Relations in the New Era'.)

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