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Can India and China be Friends?

P.S. Deodhar, in his latest book, Cinasthana Today, suggests that both India and China must forge deeper economic relations to maintain the momentum of growth and make this an Asian century.

By Sameer Patil

Jul. 15 – India and China can join hands to emerge as “India plus China” rather than “India versus China,” P. S. Deodhar suggests in his recent book, ‘Cinasthana Today: Viewing China from India’. This is an interesting perspective in light of the incursion by the Chinese army in the Depsang area of eastern Ladakh in May this year. The incursion was a shock to policy-makers in India, coming as it did after relatively stable bilateral progress over the past few years; for some, it revived the memories of the war in 1962 between India and China.

The author, a former Electronic Technology Advisor to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, is currently President of the India-China Economic and Cultural Council in New Delhi. The book is largely based on observations during his numerous travels to China.

Over five sections in the book, Deodhar covers China’s current regional politics as well as the building blocks of Chinese superpower – education and infrastructure – which are very rarely covered by the media or scholars in India. Starting with a broad historical overview, the author then arrives at an account of contemporary China. Of particular significance are the sections on migration to urban China, which portray current social realities in China and the inexorable drive amongst young Chinese to acquire material wealth.

Deodhar suggests that as growing economies, both India and China must forge deeper economic relations to maintain the momentum of growth and make this an Asian century. The spectacular progress made by the Chinese, he says, can be a lesson for India. Both countries can promote greater people-to-people contact and India can learn from China’s development experience and decision-making strategies.

While Deodhar is correct in his assumption that India has a lot of catching up to do, he overstates the potential of cooperation between the two countries. Contrary to what he claims, greater collaboration in the socio-economic and cultural fields is unlikely to translate into closer cooperation between India and China in the political and strategic arenas. The reasons for this are the problem areas he too outlines, such as a festering border dispute, the growing assertiveness of the Chinese military in the Indian Ocean region, China’s “all-weather” relationship with Pakistan, the wide trust deficit between the two militaries, and disputes over water-sharing. All these are only symptoms of the underlying security competition between the two countries.

Continue reading this article on Gateway House

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One Response to Can India and China be Friends?

  1. Giri says:

    It’s a nice article displaying good intentions. China and India are great neighbors collaborating for about a millennium, but having quite a bit of recent political baggage to be resolved. Definitely, collaboration will bring a lot of benefits to the collaborators, but the outstanding issues are indeed quite a challenge. I believe the fundamental difference is that a multi party democratic India is dealing with a single party ruled PRC. So, the negotiations will revolve around this difference. The border disputes, I believe are symptoms of this fundamental difference. The visits by leaders, discussions etc., are a means to overcome this difference. I too hope that the two countries will get closer, but right now I’ll not bet on it. I believe they’ll not go to war, but will struggle for a long time to achieve the co-operation

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