The refusal by India to be part of BRI will not derail bilateral relations. China needs India’s market. In China’s Foreign Ministry offices in Beijing’s Chaoyang District, there are many departments, including a few that deal with Chinese history, looking at historical treaties that predecessor states of the People’s Republic of China signed, whether it was the Qing dynasty or in Tibet. From historical border treaties and surrendering of land to demands for restitution from nations like Japan that colonised it, everything China does today has some sort of historical context. Few other foreign affairs ministries in any other nation have similarly dedicated units. And after China successfully enforced the treaty that the Qing dynasty had with the British over Hong Kong, they have become even more aggressive on this front under President Xi Jinping. The modern People’s Republic of China wants to return being the Middle Kingdom, a land between heaven and earth which has dominion over the rest of the planet. And while the ancient Middle Kingdom was built by conquest, the new one will be built on replicating history and by spending money. Thus the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a massive series of infrastructure projects, including building ports, high-speed railways and airports across the world, is funded by China and built by the Chinese. Huge, expensive projects such as Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka and the Lahore Metro have led to massive public debts in both nations. The BRI may not state this explicitly, but the subtext is one of Chinese economic conquest of nations and their resources aided by corrupt politicians.
But China has always had one painful neighbour, one from whom it has been separated by a massive Himalayan barrier. A neighbour with whom it has had cultural exchanges — after all Buddhism and martial arts were gifts from it — but geography has always meant that population exchanges and war, other than in modern times, have been limited. This has meant that there has always been an underlying distrust of each other in Beijing and New Delhi. But is the Indian government’s disapproval of the BRI just one of a jealous neighbour? That’s untrue. India knows that it has lost out to China economically over the past decade and it sees China’s BRI for what it is, an unbridled attempt at colonisation by economic means. Yet, India realises it has to live with China considering its investments here are extensive and we have become a major market for Chinese products. Our eastern neighbour’s interests are best served by a economically rising India in the medium-term because it will be forced to buy more Chinese products. Hence all talk of another Wuhan and sharing bilateral concerns. Yet, India’s next government should continue to be wary of China, which like a dragon has a forked tongue. It wants to keep India militarily weak and will continue to fund global terrorism through Pakistan. While the new Indian government should engage with China from a new perspective, it should remember that the latter considers everybody below it, including people beyond the mountains.
Courtesy: The Pioneer