India-China cooperation is a must for ushering in an Asian renaissance
Foreign minister S Jaishankar’s recent visit to Beijing came at a crucial time. It was just days after India decided to nullify Article 370 of its Constitution and convert Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh into two new Union territories. In fact, this saw Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi rush to Beijing just ahead of Jaishankar’s visit. Plus, China had also issued a stern statement vis-à-vis Ladakh’s new status since it sees itself as an interested party here. Against this backdrop, Jaishankar did well to deliver a plain message to his Chinese counterpart – that the recent constitutional changes were India’s internal matter.
Additionally, Jaishankar recognised that there were differences of opinion over what had happened. But he emphasised that differences should not be allowed to becomes disputes between New Delhi and Beijing. This is a responsible, constrictive position. There are two issues here between India and China – one relating to the status of J&K vis-à-vis Pakistan and the other relating to Ladakh and the impact of this on the India-China boundary question. First, on J&K India’s position has been consistent and clear that all of the territory, including the part under Pakistan’s occupation, belongs to India. Besides, Article 370 was meant to be a temporary constitutional measure and its nullification was always on the cards. And as Jaishankar has pointed out, the move has no bearing on Pakistan and did not impact the Line of Control.
In other words, India’s move reflects realities on the ground. The changes that India has effected will practically impact only that part of J&K which is rightly under Indian administration. Now, coming to Ladakh, as mentioned earlier, there are differences of opinion between India and China here. But as Jaishankar has pointed out, India has not raised any additional territorial claims and the constitutional move was aimed at promoting better governance and socio-economic development in Ladakh. Besides, as far as the India-China border question is concerned, both sides have already agreed to a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement. The Indian move does not affect this in any way.
Thus, both New Delhi and Beijing need to see things in the larger regional and geopolitical context. The boundary question can be resolved when there is more trust and development in the region. Actually, the only fair solution would be to settle the India-China border pretty much along the current Line of Actual Control with minor adjustments. But to arrive at that point, greater engagement between the two sides is required and the benefits of bilateral ties need to percolate down to the level of the people. Keeping this in mind, India and China should continue to focus on the positives and not get distracted by issues that make little difference in practical terms.
China has said that both India and Pakistan are its friendly neighbours. But it is the India-China partnership that has the potential to galvanise the region and beyond. Both countries must increase their cooperation to usher in an Asian renaissance. And the window is a short one which is only open till 2050. Beyond that the two countries’ demographic and economic advantages will plateau. Therefore, India and China must take this opportunity and forge ahead to foster regional prosperity. Asia’s time is now, and the heights that the region will reach will be largely determined by the growth of India and China.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.