Tough balancing act
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s suggestion that ties between New-Delhi and Beijing could usher an ‘Asian Century’ has yet again brought focus to the delicate balancing act the present dispensation hopes to achieve in its foreign policy. On its part, Beijing acknowledged that relations with New Delhi had entered a new period of ‘major-country relations’. In fact a minister in the Chinese establishment has reinforced Beijing’s efforts to engage with New Delhi by inviting it to participate in the Silk Road Economic belt and the Maritime Silk Road. Both these projects, formulated by Chinese President Xi Jinping, seek to integrate national economies at various levels within the larger Eurasia region. Although a New York Times report on United States President Barack Obama’s visit claimed that concerns surrounding China’s growing regional presence dominated the first 45 minutes of discussions with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it would be foolish to suggest that New Delhi has put all its eggs in the American basket. New Delhi’s strategy has been to establish a greater role for itself across all major international economic forums. The one aspect of the Indo-US joint statement that must have got New Delhi most excited was Washington’s announcement that it would support India’s bid to join the Asia Pacific Economic Forum. Despite some of the pointed remarks that were made against China’s growing presence in the South China Sea in the Indo-US joint statement, it would wise to expect that New Delhi will continue to court investment from Beijing. In fact Modi has spent years developing his relationship with China, especially during his tenure as Gujarat chief minister. It is also important to note that unlike the Americans, the Chinese did not deny him a visa. How all this will pan out, however, is another concern. The success of Modi’s foreign policy push will depend on how his government negotiates with China over future conflagrations on the border and the South China Sea.