What should India’s conduct with China look like? This question is on the minds of a lot of people in India’s foreign policy circles. I currently have a two-part answer to this question:
Part 1: Assuming that yogakshema for all Indians is defined as the national interest, India’s asks from China would be: peace on the borders and investments in the Indian economy. From a Chinese perspective, these asks are extremely beneficial too. Peace on the Indian border allows them to concentrate their efforts towards challenging the US in the South China Sea. And India is perhaps the only market with the scale and the stability to promise returns on Chinese capital currently flowing to weaker economies.
Part 2: Part 1 is insufficient because China’s recent movements – in Maldives, Nepal, and Doklam – are indicative of its tendency to eschew a mutually beneficial path and pick an openly hostile front instead. To prevent this switch, India needs to invest in I call an Aggressive China Insurance Policy. The motive of this policy is simple: should Xi Jinping’s China get aggressive with India, India should have readily available capacity to inflict significant pain to China in return. The insurance “premium” for this policy includes a variety of measures:
- Establish contacts with the key members of World Uyghur Congress and other such organisations.
- Shift the focus of “Act East/Look East” to one country — Vietnam.
- Offer Trump deals that can deepen the US-India engagement.
- Sponsor studies that puncture the “Chinese Leaders Do No Wrong” narrative.
This two-part policy can help India modulate its relationship with China.