Millennium Post

Climate change in Delhi and Beijing

On the second day of President’s Xi Jinping’s three-day visit to India, at least 12 pacts were inked, which showcased both statecraft and stagecraft on the part of the two seasoned leaders involved – not just Xi, but also Prime Minister Modi. Banquet diplomacy and walks by the Sabarmati river front later, Xi and Modi were clearly in the mood to pump up business, keeping mutual economic interests over and above the periodic frictions at the Line of Actual Control.

Cartographical impulse mustn’t supercede commercial instincts, the leaders demonstrated when China committed investments worth $ 20 billion over the next five years in India. Chinese FDI in infrastructure and manufacturing will be the fulcrum of this five-year economic plan, but the ambitions and desire for mutual cooperation clearly didn’t halt there.

An important and slightly overlooked point was the decision to initiate talks on civil nuclear cooperation, a commendable push on the part of Modi government to expand nuclear technology and trade horizons beyond the US and old ally Russia (also evident in the recently struck nuclear deal with Australia).

In addition, MoU on cooperation in space exploration somewhere attempts to even out the serrated edges of the stiff competition that India and China, the emerging space superpowers, have been engaged in for the past five years. Moreover, mirroring of cities continued with Mumbai and Shanghai now locked in an embrace of vision, exchanging investment, technology and infrastructure patterns as well as cultural trends to make the Sino-Indian ties more robustly dynamic.

But there are interesting manoeuvres to fuse hard power with soft power on the part of both New Delhi and Beijing. A carefully chalked out attempt to marry investment into strategic roadways with a mild appeasement of the BJP’s political Hindutva is the decision to open an additional route to Kailash Mansarovar via Nathu La. It’s a master stroke that would not only halve the difficulties undertaken during the arduous journey close to the hearts of Hindu believers, but would be a great international conduit with strong defence utility.

When read along with China’s proclamation that it would support India in gaining a bigger hold of the prestigious Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (which also has Russia as its member), it appears to be a concerted but balanced attempt to reconfigure Sino-Indian bilateral relationship. It’s important to remember that among the BRICS members, it was China that contributed the biggest share in the $100 billion fund of the New Development Bank, thereby doing its significant bit to tilt the axis of global economics, trade and finance in favour of Asia and Latin America. Hence, while China’s borderline belligerence along the LAC, its overtures to neighbouring nations, disputes overseas, and attempts to map Arunachal Pradesh in a different hue must not be ignored, the language Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi would like to speak is undoubtedly that of money.   

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