A historic opportunity

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:28 pm IST

Published - September 17, 2014 12:27 am IST

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in India under extraordinary circumstances, when the political and economic dimensions of the international system are undergoing a profound transformation. There are distinct indicators that the era of a unipolar world, led by the United States following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, is giving way to multipolarity, anchored also by countries that are part of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping and the G-20. Both President Xi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are fully aware of the larger geopolitical context, where emerging powers have a first-rate chance of reshaping the global political and economic architecture in more equitable terms. The two had worked closely during the BRICS summit in Brazil; their “chemistry” playing its part in pragmatic negotiations that resulted in the formation of the BRICS Bank.

Hemmed in by the Pivot to Asia led by Washington and its allies, including Japan, Australia and the Philippines, to contain the perceived rise of an aggressive China, Beijing has responded with its bold home-grown riposte — the Silk Road initiatives, that include the proposal to form the Maritime Silk Road (MSR). The Chinese are bending over backwards to assign a benign role to the MSR based on trade and investment as well as physical and cyber-connectivity among a large number of countries belonging to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Asia, including India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. India has already supported China’s initiative on the formation of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor, but would have to take a call on the MSR, at a time when China’s detractors are slamming Beijing for its alleged India-containment strategy, borrowing from the “string of pearls” theory. With its enhanced strategic autonomy, New Delhi is now well-placed to positively and deeply engage with China with confidence on a bilateral platform or within the larger collective folds of the MSR initiative and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). As President Xi arrives, Mr. Modi has a rare chance to seize the moment by stating India’s political intent of solving the border row between the two countries, beginning with solid and measurable steps to clarify the Line of Actual Control, and to root out distracting and headline-grabbing border incidents. With the two countries accounting for a collective population of 2.5 billion, Sino-Indian cooperation is based on hard-headed realism and goodwill. It can have a major impact on shifting the global balance of power, as well as on the realisation of an “Asian century” visualised ahead of Independence by Jawaharlal Nehru, during the historic Asian Relations Conference.

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