Opinion » Lead

Updated: June 8, 2012 23:51 IST

Still seriously mismatched

    Howard Schaffer
Comment (28)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

India is taken more seriously now in China than before, but is still not seen as an equal

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna's visit to China is emphasising the prospects for India-China cooperation, in the aura of good feeling that high-level visits usually generate. A well-connected academic, Wang Dehua, in an interview about the visit, refers to India and China as “a rising and an emerging power.” He concludes that “India's interests lie in wider economic and cultural cooperation with China. This is China's opportunity to break up the U.S. intention to contain China.”

A recent visit to Beijing and Shanghai after a long absence gave us a more complicated picture of how the rise of India and China, so central to U.S. strategic thinking, looks from the east.

The India-China relationship is still asymmetrical. This theme ran through a dozen or so meetings with Chinese and some Indians who follow the relationship closely. One Chinese observer commented that neither country was top priority for the other. The disparity in their trade relations tells the story: China is India's largest partner for merchandise trade; India is China's 10th partner.

Respect and condescension

Despite this imbalance, Chinese thinkers, and apparently the Chinese government, take India far more seriously than they once did. Several observers commented that China had recently upgraded the rank of its ambassador in Delhi to the Vice-Minister level. India now ranks among China's largest economic partners, even if it is not at the top of that list. Reflecting on India's foreign policy, one Chinese veteran of India-China ties commented that its best feature was its independence. Another made an impassioned plea for China to “seize the moment” to work closely with India and together reshape the working of global institutions, an enterprise for which he clearly believed that India's participation was important. At least one observer spoke with real warmth about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whom he said the Chinese leadership admired for his realistic approach to India's economy and for his “kindness.”

But with this increased respect for India came more than a whiff of condescension. Several observers used phrases like “China is the big brother.” All argued that India's ambitions for a greater global role were “understandable,” in light of its improved economic performance, but in the end unrealistic. They felt India was not yet ready for a major global role. Almost all argued that China's Comprehensive National Power (CNP) exceeded India's by a factor of three or four, and that the gap was widening. Chinese commentators often cite this metric, which combines economic strength and military power and, in some versions, measures of cultural or other “soft” power. One observer argued that India's missile programme was 10 years behind China's.

Reaction from the U.S.

A particularly dismissive attitude was reserved for India's practice of equating itself with China — both its quest for an international status that matched China's and its reference to India and China as a matched pair, whether as the “two rising powers” or in other ways. One Indian observer commented that Chinese India-watchers were conscious that a few decades ago, Chinese and Indian per capita incomes were the same, whereas today, China's exceeds India's by a factor of between three and four. The Indian practice of bracketing the two countries, he felt, struck Chinese observers as “a B-plus student presenting himself as the equal of a straight-A student.”

This slightly jaundiced view dovetailed with a widespread comment that India routinely tried to negotiate outcomes beyond what its national power could justify. Some people referred to India's “arrogance,” or to the “unilateralism” or “self-righteousness” of Indian foreign policy. Commenting more specifically on India's negotiating style, the most common word was “tough.” Those we spoke to had considerable respect for India's diplomats, both for their diplomatic talents and for their linguistic skills and knowledge of China. They felt that the need to do business in English put China at a disadvantage.

For two visitors from the United States, perhaps the most arresting observation concerned the balance among bilateral, regional and global issues in the relationship. For the U.S., bilateral ties are the biggest success story, and this matches India's priorities. For China, on the other hand, the easiest arena for India-China collaboration is global, both their interactions at the United Nations and on such issues as climate change. Bilateral issues are much more difficult, and regional cooperation almost non-existent.

Bilateral, regional issues

In India-China bilateral relations, the oldest issue, and the one that still has pride of place, is the border. We found no one who expected this issue to be resolved within his professional lifetime; the best that could be hoped for was to manage it. We were given a succession of presentations on 1960s-era opportunities for solving the border that had been squandered by India's “excessive” ambitions. Solutions that might have worked in the 1960s, we heard repeatedly, were no longer possible in light of the two nations' power gap. On the growing list of other bilateral issues, notably trade, energy and water, Chinese observers often cited India's “toughness” in defending its interests.

The dialogue on regional issues is even more difficult, and is highly selective. The most obvious problem area is Pakistan, which China does not discuss with India. Chinese scholars either deflected our questions about the reported Chinese role in Gilgit and Baltistan, or dismissed the reports of a Chinese military role as misinterpretations of “workers who had military-like uniforms.” Nuclear questions are another no-no — whether or not they involve Pakistan. China is unwilling to enter into any discussion or multilateral forum that involves an implication of equal nuclear status between China and India.

Discussions on East Asia are also difficult. One observer noted that India treated China as an outsider in South Asia and the Indian Ocean; China did the same to India in East Asia. It was clear that China's India-watchers had noted India's “look East” policy but did not particularly welcome it. They predictably dismissed India's fears of Chinese military bases on the Indian Ocean rim. The South China Sea was a major preoccupation, and our Chinese interlocutors pointedly dismissed any notion that India (or indeed the U.S.) had legitimate interests there.

On global issues, the people we spoke with felt that India's and China's interests were much closer, and they had little difficulty agreeing on broad principles to guide their desired outcome in multilateral discussions. As a result, negotiations were much easier — although we heard from both Chinese and Indian observers that once one got into details, reaching agreement was harder. Both countries started from the premise that they needed to defend the rights of “large developing countries,” a phrase the Chinese seemed to prefer to “rising powers.” India often finds it easier to make common cause with China in forums like the United Nations Security Council. But one retired diplomat conceded that China had made good use of ambiguous but positive-sounding statements on such issues as India's quest for a permanent seat on the Security Council and its Nuclear Suppliers' Group waiver. They succeeded in sending visitors away with a warm feeling, without actually undertaking any real commitment on China's part.

Little about Delhi-Washington

We heard little about China's attitude toward India's relations with the United States, and were asked surprisingly few questions about this. China's apparent misgivings about Delhi-Washington ties, however, surfaced in one retired diplomat's comment that the U.S. was reinforcing India's unrealistic ambitions. The case he cited in particular was the statement by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2005 that the U.S. wanted to help India “become a great power in the 21st Century.”

It is noteworthy that Mr. Krishna's visit to Beijing coincided with U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta's visit to Delhi, and preceded by a week his own trip to Washington for the Strategic Dialogue. The U.S. believes that India will be one of the powers that shape the next century, and that its contribution to Asian security and prosperity will be vital. The bilateral U.S.-India relationship is vibrant and growing, with some predictable speed bumps reflecting both India's internal challenges and the difficulty of meshing two stubborn bureaucratic systems and our different foreign policy traditions. India-U.S. consultations on East Asia have become a dynamic part of this relationship in the last two years, and other regional dialogues are getting started; global cooperation, on the other hand, has lagged. China has not yet accepted India's global role, and has kept India at arm's length when it comes to regional issues. Cooperation on multilateral global issues is valued both in Beijing and in Delhi, but does not seem to touch the core issues of India's role as a world power.

(Teresita and Howard Schaffer are former U.S. ambassadors, with long years of service in South Asia. They are co-founders of Howard Schaffer teaches at Georgetown University; Teresita Schaffer is a non-resident senior fellow at Brookings Institution.)

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India is still long a way to its realisation of its global role. Because its requirements of local role for local needs is tremendous. Indian elephant is taken less seriously by the Chinese dragon. China with its theory of 'String of Pearls' had cornered India in terms of increase in our defense budget year after year. India is still in a snail speed in converting the youth population into resource. The reality is still major portion of India's youth population is a pollution rather than resource. Whereas China has converted major portion of youth into real resources. This is where every Indian has to realise his/her responsibility to become a responsible and true citizen of this great nation, INDIA.

from:  Maria Ignatius
Posted on: Jun 11, 2012 at 20:39 IST

'Compare or not to compare' depends on the context.whenever an international issue demands a firm standing form India, India always lack guts to say whether it's a case of Sri Lanka or Supporting Iran. Indian lackadaisical foreign policy is beyond understanding to one, so it seems as China a lot of say in world affairs and India wants a share in the same, hence it need comparison with China. but respect is earned. India has not done anything to earn the respect it want in world affair. India need to refine its policy standing as well as its standing on economic and military so that it can get the position what it want to achieve.

from:  nitin verma
Posted on: Jun 8, 2012 at 14:36 IST

There is a basic differece between India's and China's growth which creates imbalances between two nations in each arena.While China's economy is manufacturing led economy on the ohter hand India's economy jumped to service led economy by escaping the step of maunufacturing.So we face problems whenever demand of services in Europe or in other nation is down due to slowdown; which is not a case with China.Due to lack of expertise in manufacturing sector we have been dependent on other nations for our arms supply and products which requires expertise. Any negotiation on border can happen between nations of equal status in military,technology and economy; and in each field we lag behind China, so why it would ready to negotiate with us.To overcome our north-eastern border we have to make ourselves self reliable in the manufacturing sector as what we had done in agriculture sector by Green Revolution.As far now a I.T. engineer can not fight with a trained and equipped commando.

from:  Abhay Vajpayee
Posted on: Jun 8, 2012 at 13:01 IST

Having visited China recently, I understand why they laugh at the comparison. We are way way behind them in almost every field. Let's stop kidding ourselves. We neither have the economic, international political or military clout. We are still comparable to Pakistan than China. Get real.

from:  SG
Posted on: Jun 8, 2012 at 11:35 IST

The real issue is not India, but China’s behaviour with the other Asian countries. In particular, we have to discuss whether China really has peaceful intentions, or is it trying to be a bully. India will grow at its own pace, and according to its own requirements. It does not seek specific approval or disapproval from anyone, and it has proved that it will always be a friend to one who needs her.
Except for a miniscule number of people, whose intention is to play diplomatic games, all that the rest of the people are concerned with is that India should be able to defend itself if China decides to use its force without India giving cause to China. The people of India are happy if the people of China prosper, nothing more and nothing less. All that the people of India ask of the people of China is to not to use its force to put any obstacle in their way.

from:  Ashok Chowgule
Posted on: Jun 8, 2012 at 09:00 IST

'There are no permanent friends, only permanent interests' ... don't remember who said that, but India got part of it right through its non alignment policies. What it has yet to develop is the art of playing off adversaries, one against the other while always getting a bigger bite at the pie.

from:  Ashok M
Posted on: Jun 8, 2012 at 06:55 IST

There are several streams of thought the article inspires:
ONE, Chinese arrogant machismo that seeks to undervalue Indian aspirations as they perceive them to be even if they acknowledge the skills of Indian diplomatic corps
TWO, China's distrust of countries that develop an alliance with the USA
THREE, China's insecurity in seeing India playing a prominent role internationally and that lies at the heart of its lack of support for India's entry into the UNSC
FOUR, it displays a Chinese zeitgeist that really fears India's soft power that China has not matched either in the past or now but is resentfully aware of it
FIVE, China resorts to bravado about military prowess but it knows that there is no military solution to differences that exist between the two countries because it is irrelevant who has greater nuclear capability as long as both have some
My conclusion? China is more afraid of India than the other way round

from:  sona
Posted on: Jun 8, 2012 at 06:04 IST

There is not an "either or" situation at hand. India, China, Russia, US, Europe, others, aer not drawing into separate camps like a new Cold War. Rather, by creating strong defense ties, stronger economic, cultural ties this works to make war all the harder to concieve. Of course India figures large in US policy goals as it is the largest democracy, has far more practice with elections than its neighbors, confronts internal problems openly, deals fairly with other nations in trade and diplomacy. At the same time, China is the factory floor of the world, so the US does a huge trade there, with reservations. The point of the article is that in matters of global decision-making between real equals, the US increasingly sees India as a partner, worthy of a UNSC seat, to be trusted with high dual-use technology; China's evolution towards this conclusion is far slower.

from:  Ed H
Posted on: Jun 8, 2012 at 03:54 IST

I think India should start doing things rather than passing extravagant
exaggerated statements.A Super power is never created by other super
power.India should avoid their (US and China) obsequious assurance and
should focus on its domestic problems.India should not join any of
these fronts and should make itself strong enough to solve its own
problems and support other suffering countries also.A time will come
when India will become a country it was known for in the past and will
be accepted as World power not because of its military strength but for
its ability to guide other countries.

from:  Shantanu
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 22:37 IST

Though I believe India's interests will be best served by maintaining
cordial relations with regional countries, powers or not, big or
small, I think close cooperation with the United states is also
necessary. When I say cooperation I don't mean India should act as a
US proxy in the South Asia and further its interest of containing
China. Close relations should be built on the plank of mutual give and
take without yielding to unjustified arm-twisting. But the reason why
India's foreign policy appears to be more tilted towards the USA is
because our neighbours, namely China and Pakistan have all along been
hostile to India. Far from working with India, China patronizes
Pakistan and help them in their mission to destabilize India. They
don't discuss Pakistan with us, as I learn, nor are they willing to
work with us to resolve regional issues. China has been quite firm in
its resolve to deny India any say in important issues that will in
other words mean recognizing India's growing power.

from:  M. K. Dutta
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 20:05 IST

The Bilateral ties between india and china has improved a lot in UPA-II regime, but India should tread with caution while pursuing its foreign policy against China. Time and again china claimed its rights over Arunachal pradesh and so far consider India held Kashmir as a disputed territory. We can no longer afford to be a soft nation when it comes to our own interests.

from:  abhilasha mandeliya
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 18:05 IST

I agree 100% with above article, our leaders squandered opportunity to solve boundry dispute with China in 1960s before 1962 China war, where Nehru's arrogance did not solve this problem, and we stuck with a angry neighbour forever,but to negotiate with China,we will have to wait untill we match China economicaly and militaryly ,and it is quite possible in near future, if we rid curruption from our country and make use of American interest in India as did other countries after second world war and cold war era such as Singapore, south Koria,Japan,Taiwan,Thailand etc etc and many western countries,

from:  Navin Tewari
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 17:07 IST

I am afraid we are always in the catch-up game, never leading the pack. We are followers (quite a way behind), never leaders. As a consequence, we are effectively inconsequential on most fronts in the international arena, if not all fronts. At home, Indian politicians have become very populist. Where is the leadership? What we do at home simply translates into our performance "shortfall" on the international front. How will this populist behaviour change, particularly if we have Mamtas holding power beyond their national remit. Is it time for a fundamental re-think? Should we have American style federalism with a President in-charge? because what we have currently has not been working for a long while. It is this policy paralyis in particular, that has led to India's lack of performance. India needs to do some smart thinking and get the economy powering again. It will be painful, but it is a price worth paying for the overall good of all the people and therefore India.

from:  Anil
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 15:14 IST

Venkat, Do you think Hindu went around soliciting Ms. Schaffer to write this article ignoring desis? I don't think so. It is just an article showing things from an American perspective. If it matches what you observed, then it means the Americans are not fooling us and people here who look at China thru pink hued glasses should rethink.
India indeed does not need reassurance from the sahibs. On the contrary, the sahibs (Schaffers) appear to want to keep us in the loop by this public exchange of notes.

from:  Yogesh P
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 14:46 IST

it is true that both countries are on the way to make global
presence,but in the process some points need to very transparent
1-local issues between India and China which includes border issues
,water issues must be resolve .Because these are the issues which
china never wants to resolve and always tries to take the benefits of
these disputes.
2-Role of US must be very clear ,because US always wanted to keep
himself at bay and when everything happens US comes and start blaming
others.Either US should not poke his nose in internal matters of these
two very countries or Both countries should define the role of the US
in dialogue process.
3-India should take a very step on the relation of china and Pakistan.Because china, favors those which can be stumbling blocks for Indian growth globally.

from:  shadman ansari
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 14:17 IST

If India was a communist nation, we could have become like China. Together we could have dominated Asia and given stiff competition to EU and USA. We would have been two superpowers of Asia . Though there could be many reasons for us lagging China, one reason that stands out , in my opinion, is that We are not United. We are divided in so many ways. We are shackled by religion,caste, language and color. A communist society would have eliminated these obstacles and replaced this with the concept of "INDIAN".

And We as Indian would have the singular aim of becoming world super-power .

Alas! India can never be a communist state and the dream of a prosperous India remains unfulfilled.

from:  aatifanjum
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 12:28 IST

we have a government in place in Delhi.We have a good opposition party leaders who have also governed this country earlier.We have top class judges in supreme and other high courts.we have a good set of TV experts and news editors.We have senior experienced government servants and above all good captains of industries and also intelligent citizens old and young outside these sections.While all of them wasting their time in discussing cricket and films most of the time,why not they get involved in the area of realtionship with other countries neighbours or far away.We could be able to join together and offer a right not neccessarily neutral to the problems in the world.Politicians should lead us since they are holding the power to execute these decisions through sittings in the both houses of the parliament.

from:  doodu
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 12:00 IST

India must extricate its foreign policy from USA's grip. Both Bush and Obama have dangled the carrot of a UN high table seat in return for carrying out its diktat and we have been bending over backwards to do so vide our unwarranted involvement in Afghanistan, our anti Iran stance, and our antagonising China. Thank God we have realised our anti China folly to some extent and have pulled out from our oil exploration gimmick ex Viet Nam's coastline in the highly sensitive South China Sea. Leon Panetta wants India to again adopt a pro USA - anti China posture, a dangerous venture that New Delhi must tactfully circumvent. I consider India's relations with China as the most important and vital one in the world, of far greater value than that with USA. Our principal term of reference in current International Relations must be to keep away from USA/China face offs and remain neutral. We should also try to fructify the dormant Russia-China-India triad into an effective global power centre.

from:  JK Dutt
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 11:18 IST

It's time when India should change its stand towards China and make a
firm standing, initially it could start with supporting Taiwan and
recognize it as an independent nation and not a part of mainland China.

from:  Sapan Shrivastava
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 11:16 IST

It is quite normal everywhere that when one sees a good relationship
blooming between two people, there would be someone who'd be jealous
of it. I think this would be the same in Indo-Sina relation, while we
both are coming together, small issues are blown out of proportion to jeopardize the good will and is thus broken.
India instead of comparing itself with China, must rather see that it
sustain itself and satisfy its people than running around for 1st
rank, 2nd rank. Competition is good, though it should not be obsessive. Both US and China are important partners, but the first
priority must be given to China as it is our neighbor and has many
ties from ancient ages.
It would be fascinating to know that ancient China considered India a
divine place, centre of heaven, and named it "Tianzu" and hailed it as
a most developed nation in the world. Though India is far better off
than China in one category, i.e maintaining its culture, instead
running behind money, lets preserve it.

from:  Rakesh
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 11:17 IST

By considering the presented facts in the article what we indians should focus on is to struck a chord of balance in tis foreign and domestic attention. It is true that no one will listen to us if we do not have a good domestic coditions like at par living standard, good per capita income, well developed infrastructure etc. As per the given situation of India where we still have 40% population below poverty line, more than half of population illeterate we need to keep our focus on domestic condition without loosing the sight of foreign developments. But sadly india seems to be overengaged in its foreign activities.

from:  sonu kumar
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 11:11 IST

I have no problem at all digesting that India wields lesser military and economic power that both the US & China. But I have few reservations about the Chinese claims that issues concerning border, water, energy and trade haven't been trimmed to perfection because of India's toughness. Geographically China is at advantage because they major rivers foray into India only after they travel in china. Taking the advantage they erected Zangmu dam on Brahamputra. Why They didn't talk to you about issues relating Pakistan? Why they keep on claiming that some of Arunachal is their territory and not discuss the issue with India? Who is stubborn? Given that they wield slightly greater military and economic power compared to us nobody would believe that its India's stubbornness that has kept the conflicts from resolving. Their respect towards India is not voluntary its compulsive given the increasing Indo-US ties. You must have visited New Delhi to take our version before writing the article. `

from:  Ajeet Tiwari
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 09:22 IST

It is obvious. India is no match for China in economic and military might. Only similarity is that the both commenced their independent journey at the same point of time in history. Thereafter the paths have been divergent. China has consciously chosen a path of a command economy and results are there to be seen. This also shows that development and progress don't depend on the type of political system you choose but on the stability of that system and the quality of leadership. In this, Den Xiao Ping and his successors have decidedly scored over their Indian counterparts. China has moved to an higher orbit and is now competing with superpowers like the USA. That is why USA the wants to use India to counter the Chinese threat.

from:  Pramod Patil
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 09:01 IST

Prime-fascia Until India & China solve their bilateral issues, and then it's difficult to see beef up stand by both the countries against each one. Indeed, both should bask each one co-operation. Globe is running under an ambivalent economy cloud, so India and China has to zoom at each one best and conclude a stronger relationship, which was bleak to other, and nurture & help develop underdeveloped nations. Keeping aside regional imbalance, India should widened its trade field, where India lag. Joint venture power project would be more profitable, as both have enough resource and fund to manage it. Moreover China should not undermine ability India pose. It's against any nation sovereignty.

from:  Prasannajeet Mohanty
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 08:45 IST

Every time President Obama brackets India with China, to soften the blow on China, one wonders where the generality is. China is the express and India is the mail.

from:  Raja
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 08:29 IST

Ummm. Am wondering why someone -- any one -- in one of the big-name think tanks, or India's large pool of ex-Foreign Service Officials, or ex-ministers from within India could not have penned this article.

I've gone to China on work -- not Beijing or Shanghai, but seconed tier cities -- and talked to people in companies. And I have heard the same points expressed in the abover article, which I readily shared with my buddies and relatives in India, much to their discomfort and annoyance.

Even after 65 years of unyoking itself from its Caucasian colonial rulers, India still needs reassureance from EU or North American political appointees on simple political and diplomatic observations.

Kollengode S Venkataraman

from:  Kollengode S Venkataraman
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 06:27 IST

The comment is not worth the reading. It is a comparative statement of opinions. It is true that India is no match to China. Yet the fact should not be lost that China is a preponderant one party system, with a MNF status since 1973, permanent member of UNSC and a prison labour system by which productivity and profits are manipulated. If democracy were to take roots in China, they would fare no better than India. Hence any comparison is waste of time. But what India needs to learn from China is to manage it economy in a balanced manner which will not allow awkward balance of payments and of course no recourse to any involvement of China in any infrastructure project in India. Indian manufacturing firms in India need to be consumer oriented in both price and quality to win over hearts and minds and this will in a long way go to solve many of the issues.

from:  Swapan Chakravarthy
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 03:45 IST

This is a nice article. Just like US doesnt treat India as equal, China doesnt. India need to know what is at its stake, what is its real capacity and what is potential capacity. If it can realize and reconcile India can put the right bargain at the table with any country.

India need to carry unique weight by its history, experience, size,multi-lingo/cultural/religion/values background and use the softer-angle as a strength to compensate for relative economic/military position. This is exactly like a corporate which is not brick and mortar but technology or mobile that makes it higher priced in market.

from:  ram iyer
Posted on: Jun 7, 2012 at 02:35 IST
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