A non-official interaction among China, India and the United States, with government officials listening in, is being planned by Peking University.

The move was outlined by a Chinese security expert in a conversation with The Hindu on the sidelines of the Singapore Air Show.

Zhu Feng, Deputy Director and Professor at the Peking University Centre for International & Strategic Studies, said preparations were under way to try and hold the dialogue by year-end. The exercise could be characterised as “Track One-and-a-Half Diplomacy.”

Prof. Zhu was here to take part in the Air Show-related Asia Pacific Security Conference, co-organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies here.

“The American factor in the India-China relations is very, very visible, and it is also very remarkable,” Prof. Zhu said. “You can imagine why the Bush Administration lifted the sanctions on India ... The main reason is China’s re-emergence. The U.S. would like to manipulate the balance-of-power system in entire Asia. ... China is not opposed to America’s regional preponderance. It is a reality. We don’t want to challenge the U.S. for its preponderance. But we want to challenge the U.S. for its misconstrued and mistaken behaviour. ... There is [also] a lot of space for India and China to reach out and cooperate.”

The key issue in U.S.-China relations “is the peer power [equation] between a dominant power and a rising power or a potential rising power. The prevention of [such] peer capability is the Americans’ leading strategic goal. That’s why China-U.S. relationship is different from India-U.S. relations.” In such a strategic landscape, the promise of trilateral interactions could be sought in a “win-win” fashion, Prof. Zhu emphasised.

On the current state of Beijing-New Delhi relations, he said: “Traditionally, China’s concern about India largely came from the lingering and daunting border issues and the India-Pakistan rivalry and Beijing’s insecurity in face of a dominance of Western power in Asia’s politics. But the problem [now] is: I see some sort of rampant nationalism on either side — India and China. .... [But] in our strategic thinking, India is truly not a threat.”

“For Beijing, what’s the leading strategic pressure? It is always U.S. It is always [U.S.] alliance politics [involving] Japan or Australia or South Korea. That’s why Chinese experts feel so frustrated [as to] why India [has] now taken a lead in the effort to assume that China is a threat. ... How to resolve it? China should take a look at India more seriously. India should also take a look at China more seriously. So, if they can cooperate, it is actually a guarantee of a secure and prosperous Asia. That’s why both sides need some sort of not just a policy reorientation; they need a new rationale, new passion to underscore a close contact-based relationship.”

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