Michael Yahuda, a respected China expert, long associated with the London School of Economics, and currently visiting scholar at the George Washington University in Washington DC, spoke on India-China relations, in the aftermath of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s just concluded visit to China:
On how he sees the India-China equation at this present juncture:
It is a difficult relationship. They are both great powers. China has in the past not treated India well. It has not been at all supportive of India's bid to become a permanent member of the Security Council. There is border trouble, China has raised its activities in sensitive areas, India has become more active in South East Asia, and moves to bring India, Australia and New Zealand into the East Asia Summit cause concern to China. There is a sense that the two countries are competing for influence in the region. On the other hand, they are strong independent countries. India does not want to be caught up in any kind of grouping against China, such as the so-called coalition of democracies floated by a former Japanese Prime Minister. Nor will it be pulled into an anti-American coalition by Russia and China, as we saw at the Harbin meeting.
On whether India-China relations are becoming dehypenated -- developed irrespective of their relations with other countries:
India is doing what it can to get on with everybody, it does not want to have hyphenated relationships. Its requirement from America was that it dehyphenate the relationship with Pakistan from its relationship with India. The same applies to China. The Chinese are sensitive to what Americans do in the region, and therefore it is important that India shows it is not part of a hyphenated relationship with America and China, that America and India are not getting together to contain China.
On China's latest statement, made during the Indian PM's visit, on India's Security Council aspirations:
I think the Chinese despite all the warmth they show, are very calculating. They will follow what they see as their own interest. They want a good working relationship with India, it does not mean the two countries are close friends coming together on international issues. This statement seems to be a recognition that India cannot be confined to South Asia, that its international weight is going to increase. It is a formal acknowledgement of the fact that India is a global power. However, I think the Chinese are also betting on the fact that there won’t be any UN security council reform any time soon.
On whether the Chinese seem more supportive of India's civil nuclear ambitions, judging from the statement emanating from the PM’s visit:
There is a slight softening of their stance. I think the Chinese were initially concerned about a number of things, were concerned that the US was attempting to use India against China. I think the Chinese now recognise that Indian foreign policy is independent. They wouldn’t want to be seen as the people putting a veto on the Indo-US nuclear deal.
On the India-China border dispute:
The Chinese claims on the border are derived from their claims on Tibet. In Chinese eyes, the issue is closely linked with Tibet. I don’t see how India can make the concessions that the Chinese seem to want.
On how far the relationship has succeeded in getting beyond the intractable border issue:
Attempts to improve military to military relations, even if symbolically, joint military exercises, CBMs, do make something of a difference. Economic diplomacy makes a difference, but the two countries don't really trust each other, it will take time to rebuild trust. China is also active in cultivating relations with other South Asian countries, apart from Pakistan-- such Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Indians are getting more active in South East Asia and with Japan. The two countries are involved in each other's backyards, are still feeling their way on how to build relationships. Neither wants confrontation, but the question is: how to build on areas of cooperation while recognising that the two sides are competitive?