Millennium Post

Asian giants can set a precedent

Can India and China leave behind a chequered past and weave together a new loom of camaraderie? If the energy and synergy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping could be mapped on various axes of cooperation and friction, it does seem to be a distinct possibility. Inking major deals on the first day of his visit, pledging $ 100 billion over the next five years and hardselling bullet train technology and investment promises to an FDI-hungry India, President Xi has cut a fine figure sauntering with a statesman-like Modi on the banks of the historic Sabarmati, in Ahmedabad.

In an editorial in a prominent national daily, Xi yesterday had charted out his India agenda and had dubbed the 21st century an Asian period of mutual prosperity. Sweet talk notwithstanding, Xi’s eagerness to please India comes in the heels of Modi’s Japan visit and President Pranab Mukherjee’s Vietnam trip, both of which have been very successful. Evidently, with Japan promising $ 35 billion and Vietnam opening new air route and signing an oil exploration pact in South China Sea, some Chinese feathers have been ruffled, as is apparent in the latest incursions along the Line of Actual Control on the very day of Xi’s visit. However, caveats aside, economic and geostrategic interests are enough to not just prop up but actually catapult Sino-Indian ties to a whole new level.
Silk route dreams reincarnated, inch and miles terminologies reinvented, a smorgasbord of agreements in industrial parks in Gujarat and Maharashtra, sister cities, extensive mutual banking with Bank of China to be brought to India, pumping in billions of dollars to spruce up the ragtag Indian railways – Xi’s promises have been aplenty. The investment in railways is particularly important since the figures are rather shameful: India has added just 11,000 km of rail network in the 67 years since independence, whereas China added 14,000 km only during 2006-11.

Institutional inaptitude aside, there’s a technocratic push meeting a diplomatic pull that’s working in favour of Modi’s excursions on foreign shores, or in his warm rendezvous with top global leaders. With eye on mutual cooperation, pledges to develop parallel industrial hubs in Ahmedabad, Gujarat resembling Guangzhou, and envisioning new international roadways and bypasses along Kailash Mansarovar, it is obvious that Beijing and New Delhi have much to look ahead. Celebrations notwithstanding, let euphoria not cloud our judgement and let’s not forget China’s overtures to both Sri Lanka and Maldives in recent times, as well as its permanent stamp on the Pakistani military establishment. Hence, economic and financial packages must be weighed alongside geostrategic considerations, which are likely to hang like Damocles’ sword over the minds of both Modi and Xi.    

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