Washington: Relations between India and China have deteriorated in last 18 months and is unlikely to get better, a former US ambassador to India has said and he shared the perception of many Indian strategic thinkers that Beijing is using Pakistan to slow India’s rise.
“I think it’s fair to say now that China-India relations are not very good and in fact have been deteriorating for about last 18 months,” Robert Blackwill, former US ambassador to India said in a conference call with reporters in a briefing on Obama’s India visit.
“The Indians have a long list of Chinese transgressions, which in my judgment are accurate, having to do with Chinese policy on Kashmir and on the border dispute between the two countries and the so-called ‘ring of pearls’ of Chinese quasi-military installations in Bangladesh and in Sri Lanka and in Pakistan and so forth,” he said.
Blackwill is currently the Henry Kissinger Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, a prestigious US-based think tank.
“So the relations aren’t very good between the two. The Prime Minister keeps saying, and I think deeply believes, that there’s no reason why India and China could not have a good long-term relationship. But it isn’t clear that same degree of enthusiasm for that end state is felt in Beijing,” he said.
Many Indian strategists think that think there’s some evidence that China’s preoccupation with Pakistan and its long-time close links is closely connected to the Chinese realisation that if India is preoccupied, if not pinned down by cross-border terrorism from Pakistan and problems in the India-Pakistan relation, that it will slow the rise of India as a great power.
“In other words, China using Pakistan to slow India’s rise,” Blackwill said.
“So China-India relations are not good, and I myself don’t think they’re going to get very much better on the geopolitical and security side. Now on the economic side, they’re thriving, and of course, that’s good for both countries,” he said.
“The Indians have no interest in thoughts of containing China, a concept that one sees in the American media from time to time. No way faster to clear a Delhi drawing room than to begin to talk about containing China.”
“But what India would like is an agreement with the US that over the long term, the US and India will keep in close touch, both to the issue of Chinese behaviour and trying to decipher it, and second, close touch on trying to shape Chinese external behaviour in a positive way,” Blackwill said.
Blackwill, the former US ambassador to India, said that “so that’s what the Chinese national security elite is waiting to hear from the Obama administration, which is, do you see us as a partner, if not the most important partner in Asia, in trying to help manage the rise of Chinese power, not in a confrontational way, but in a way that seeks to find instruments to produce Chinese behaviour which is more congenial to both US and Indian long-term vital national security interests?”
“That wish on the part of India to have that informal understanding with the Americans has been accelerated and intensified by Chinese external behaviour over the last year and a half, including, again, to add more, the South China Sea and so forth. So that’s the way India sees China,” he said.
“I think it would be true to say that the Indians regard the rise of Chinese power, at least most of the Indians, the national security experts — the rise of Chinese power as the most important of the long-term strategic challenges facing India.”
“And since at least I believe the rise of Chinese power is the most important long-term challenge – strategic challenge facing the US, we ought to have a lot to talk about with the Indians,” he said.