While the recent troop standoff in a remote Himalayan desert spotlights a long-running border dispute between China and India, the two emerging giants are engaged in a rivalry for global influence that spreads much farther afield.
From Africa to the Arctic, the world’s two most populous countries are bumping up against each other in their search for resources and new markets. Their rivalry is spilling over into global diplomacy and international institutions where Beijing and Delhi have elbow-jabbed over development loans and a seat for India on the U.N. Security Council.
It is visible in the building of infrastructure in nations like Ghana, which is rich in gold, cocoa and timber and is a new oil producer. Ghana’s government moved into a presidential palace financed by India in February. A month later, China handed over a new foreign ministry building.
An outright clash between the two remains unlikely. But bickering on the global stage could make bodies such as the World Bank and the United Nations less efficient, and send ripples through institutions that are increasingly important in guiding global trade, commerce and diplomacy and influence policies that affect people around the world.
“They have their tentacles throughout this global infrastructure,” said Ashwin Kaja, an American lawyer leading an initiative to establish a China-India institute at Beijing’s Renmin University and Jindal University in Sonipat, India. “If they start fighting, the threat becomes bigger and bigger as their influence grows. They are one third of humanity; it’s not a small figure. They are not just countries.”Though the two nations once celebrated a shared vision as leaders of developing nations in the 1950s, that amity was shredded by a 1962 border war that still clouds relations. The recent crisis began on April 15 when about 50 Chinese soldiers pitched tents on territory that both countries claim and set off finger-pointing about territorial grabs.
On Monday, Beijing and New Delhi announced an end to the three-week standoff, agreeing for troops on both sides to pull back before the fracas threatened several high-level meetings.
The two governments are publicly trying to put the best face on relations, accentuating the positive benefits of trade and diplomatic cooperation.
The Indian foreign minister travels to Beijing on Thursday to prepare for a visit to Delhi later this month by Li Keqiang, his first overseas trip since becoming Chinese premier in March.
Neither country wants to threaten booming business ties. China became India’s biggest trading partner in 2011 when two-way trade hit nearly $75 billion. It declined slightly last year because of the global economic downturn, and it is also heavily skewed in China’s favour. AP