Author : Samir Saran

Originally Published 2013-10-31 07:18:01 Published on Oct 31, 2013
For those who see the India-China relationship as one of the key partnerships of this century, what is most disappointing is the lack of ambition in the agenda for the conversations. The two countries now need to be bold and creative in what they do together.
Time to rethink differences between neighbours across Himalayas
"The recently concluded India-China summit meeting may have, at the very least, established a new tone and tenor in the relationship between the two Himalayan neighbours.

The Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, the new communication mechanism on water, the thrust on exchanging experiences and expertise on road and highways, and cooperation on an "Asian knowledge system" through the Nalanda University project are all important and substantial steps to take this partnership forward.

There was some useful progress on economic cooperation as well, although more was expected from the two leaders to facilitate greater two-way trade, business exchanges and Chinese investments in India's infrastructure projects. And there was disappointment in some quarters when bilateral rigidity ensured lack of movement in liberalizing the visa regime.

But for those who see the India-China relationship as one of the key partnerships of this century, what is most disappointing is the lack of ambition in the agenda for the conversations. The two countries now need to be bold and creative in what they do together.

The two must seek to finalise a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. This gives China a credible financial stake in the Indian civil nuclear sector and the motivation to reject its dogma of "capping and rolling back" India's nuclear program. This would also potentially facilitate India's entry into the global nuclear order.

India is concerned about the opacity of China's interests in the Indian Ocean. The two need to proactively engage instead of producing alarmist literature. Their naval and strategic leaderships need to commence frank discussions on common approaches and discover synergies in protecting the sea lines of communication.

India and China have piggybacked on US capabilities in the past, and may have to soon develop and deploy their own capacities.

Be it in anti-piracy operations or humanitarian evacuation, there is ample scope for coordination and cooperation.

Both nations have large diasporas in Africa and West Asia. In Libya, for example, both countries sent their ships to evacuate their citizens. Such coincidence of interests and needs must be mapped, and actions synchronised.

The two countries need to thrash out a common understanding on cyber governance. China seeks to be a stakeholder in India's communication sector, for which the level of trust between the two countries needs to be enhanced.

A significant share of the world's commerce has become dependent on the digital realm. This commerce is the key to prosperity of both countries, and yet much of the discourse on cyber management emanates from, and key infrastructure resides in, the Atlantic countries.

Bilateral cooperation on the ongoing international dialogue on Internet governance and on issues relating to development of related infrastructure and connectivity is essential.

China and India must realize that a strong and stable Afghanistan and Pakistan are in their interest and vital for the stability of the region.

For far too long, India and China have allowed the situation to drift out of strategic or other considerations. A dialogue on aiding the development and growth of these countries must commence between the Asian giants.

China, as a trusted ally of Pakistan, and India, as a friend of the Afghan people, can together help in rebuilding and reintegrating these parts into the Asian economic mainstream.

Both countries also have similar interests and stakes in outer space and ocean governance. They are handicapped by the fact that they are new voices in the normative debates on these subjects.

This is the moment to evolve a common position before entering larger negotiations with an individual weak hand.

The two countries need to come up with tangible alternatives in what is today a one-way norm setting exercise in these new arenas of governance, with the opposition too divided to have any impact.

Ultimately, we may find that our converging interests bind us more closely than we would have imagined or, for some, liked.

Dealing with this will require bold political leadership on both sides and a pragmatic desire to integrate our largely coincident aspirations.

(Samir Saran is a Vice President and Abhijit Iyer-Mitra Programme Coordinator at Observer Research Foundation, a premier public policy think tank in India)

Courtesy: Global Times, Beijing, October 31.

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Samir Saran

Samir Saran

Samir Saran is the President of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), India’s premier think tank, headquartered in New Delhi with affiliates in North America and ...

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