Since PM Modi led NDA (National Democratic Alliance) came to power in 2014, Chinese strategists had favorable view about PM Modi as he expressed will to continue to engage wholeheartedly with China at economic front, as he did as Chief Minister of Gujarat while keeping aside other longstanding issues including disputed boundary issue. Modi government also diversified India’s foreign policy, which not only sought to expand its neighborhood under its ‘Act East Policy’ but also kept a check on China’s attempt to encircle India through influencing India’s neighboring countries and leverage their checkbook diplomacy.
Indeed, India had very sound relations with China at economic front as bilateral trade between China and India touched US$89.6 billion in 2017–18, with the trade deficit widening to US$62.9 billion in China’s favour. The period 2014-19 whitened huge unrestricted Chinese investment in India in various sectors.
Overwhelming majority of NDA government in 2019 General Elections gave Modi government mandate to implement reforms which were due since several decades including removing special status of Jammu & Kashmir. This moved by India irked China so much that Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed ‘serious concern’ and opposed Indian move. Indian government’s decision to abolish Article 370 is internal matter of India and Chinese reaction was unwanted.
Indian Government’s decision to expedite infrastructure development has been one of the major causes of concern among Chinese scholars. While China had already developed robust infrastructure along border, it objected India’s moves at several occasions.
The year 2020 saw a new low in India-China relations due to China’s unilateral move at border. The origins of the Galwan Valley clash is clear to international community as China has adopted expansionist policy at several fronts including at South China Sea to shift the international focus from pandemic which was a result of Chinese mishandling of virus.
India’s reaction to confront China was not reckless, India acted like a responsible power and complemented military counteractions with restrained economic sanctions on China, including banning of mobile apps and scrutiny of Chinese investments as well as unfair and illegal trade practices by Chinese enterprises and entrepreneurs, which were long overdue. The Chinese officials, diplomats and strategic thinkers were taken aback by India’s reaction and went in damage control by renewing calls for normalization of bilateral relations pending border dispute, but India remain resilient and maintains that peace at border is pre-requisite for normal relations.
Chinese media circles have consistently blamed India for abandoning its independent foreign policy and getting too close to US and effectively becoming an US ally. However, it may be mentioned that it was the Chinese aggression at various fronts that pushed US-India closer coupled with common shared values of both the countries. India continues to maintain closer relations with its traditional partner including
Russia and it did not abandon its independent foreign policy. Russian commitment to deal of air defence system S 400 even in the backdrop of border standoff is a testimony of special relationship.
Moreover, China is stumped by India’s recent stepping up of manufacturing Covid-19 vaccine and donating to neighboring countries, which checkmated China as it was pushing for its own vaccine, in a bid gain some lost ground as a result of negative view on China caused by mishandling of coronavirus.
2020 will be known as a year in which China spilled the biological virus as well as spitted venom in its periphery through its diplomatic and military aggression, and inner turmoil in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Inner Mongolia. In contrast, India has gained an image of a responsible healing power, standing with dignity, restrain and resilience, especially in its resolve to counter and stand tall against an irresponsible axis formed by its rogue neighbours – China and Pakistan.