Progress and questions in Sino-India security relationship

By Ma Jiali
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, March 26, 2010
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Security, as a very sensitive issue in Sino-Indian relations, will influence the perception both countries have about each other and the political relationship between them.

Mr.Ma Jiali talked Sino-Indian security ties in an interview with [file photo]

The past decade has witnessed an improvement in Sino-India relations because of joint efforts. The improvement can be demonstrated as follows:

First, China and India have stated that they are not threats to each other. From China’s point of view, China has always adhered to a judgment that its main threat didn’t come from India. According to the official statement of India, India is willing to develop a good bilateral relationship with China and to strengthen cooperation and coordination with China on global issues.

Second, a number of bilateral military exchanges in recent years, including official visits, meetings on defense and security issues, and search and rescue maneuvers on the sea have taken place. In the 21st century, defense ministers of the two countries have exchanged frequent visits, and an agreement on defense cooperation was signed in 2006.

Third, efforts to build up mutual trust have been made at various levels. China and India have held joint military exercises, including naval exercises in the East China Sea and Indian Ocean and anti-terror exercises in both countries, while exploring possibilities for joint air force exercises.

But there are still some unresolved problems between the two countries.

First, border dispute is the root cause affecting bilateral ties. There has never been an official China-India border, which has resulted in a large disputed region. It is difficult to resolve this problem in a short time. India has been strengthening its military occupation over the disputed region by deploying more troops along the border and enhanced the effective control over the disputed area by encouraging people to inhabit it. In the last two years, India made China nervous by sending senior officials to inspect the disputed region.

Second, the lack of trust is an important factor affecting the bilateral ties. China and India are suspicious of their security environment, which has resulted in a lack of strategic trust. India is worried that China’s rise will be a threat to its security, and China’s relationships with other countries, Pakistan in particular, also upset India. Meanwhile, China thinks many Western countries, particularly the U.S., want India to act as a balance to China’s power in Asia and is using India as a pawn in their strategy to contain China.

Third, Chinese naval escorts in the Indian Ocean is an emerging factor affecting bilateral ties. Since last year, piracy has become intense in the Gulf of Aden, which is located in the Indian Ocean. To protect Chinese merchant vessels through the pirate-infested waters, the Chinese navy began to take over escort missions. But India, who has always taken Indian Ocean as its sphere of influence, considers this legitimate move a challenge.

There is fundamental clash of security concepts between China and India that is rooted in history, culture and geopolitics. But as the two largest developing countries in the world, China and India should handle security issues properly. Military trust between the two countries, which is beneficial to people’s interests and regional security, requires both sides to enhance communication and understanding, getting rid of fixed ways of thinking and showing great foresight.

Ma Jiali is a research fellow at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

(This article was translated by Xiang Bin)


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