Modi mantra for India-China ties: Cooperate and Compete, while keeping border peaceful

india-finalCooperation and competition are inextricably woven into the fabric of India-China relations. Ahead of his maiden multi-city tour of China, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a long-range view, saying India cooperates with China on the global stage, but at the same time the two countries also compete in the economic arena.

In an interview with TIME magazine, Mr Modi also underscored that the two Asian giants have “learnt from history” and have managed to maintain peace and tranquillity on their disputed border.

“We cooperate with China at the international stage but we also compete with China when it comes to commerce and trade,” Mr Modi said in an all-encompassing interview ahead of the first anniversary of his government on May 26.

The boundary dispute, a carryover from the colonial drawing of maps and the 1962 war, lies at the heart of off-and-on tensions between Asia’s leading economies. Against this backdrop, Mr Modi struck a temperate tone. “Since nearly last three decades until this time that we have entered into the 21st century, there is by and large peace and tranquillity on the India-China border,” he said.

Mr Modi’s reflections on India-China relations and the boundary issue were underpinned by his strategic intent to forge a cooperative model of relationship with a giant neighbour that continues to evoke mixed feelings in India.

“In so far as the India-China relationship is concerned specifically, it is true that there is a long border between India and China and a large part of it is disputed.”

The focus, Mr Modi indicated, will be on building an economics-first relationship so that contentious issues like the boundary dispute does not derail this crucial relationship.

“Still, I think both countries have shown great maturity in the last couple of decades to ensure and commit to economic cooperation which has continued to grow over the last 20 to 30 years to a stage where we currently have an extensive trade, investment and project related engagement between the two countries,” he said.

Mr Modi’s three-day visit to China, starting May 14, will be keenly watched not just in the two countries, but also in the region and the world. All issues will be on the table, but the prime ministerial agenda will be primarily economic and will focus on getting Chinese finance and expertise to boost the Make in India project and to bolster the manufacturing base in India. During Xi Jinping’s visit to India in September last year, China pledged to plough in $20 billion investments over the next five years, but only around $1 billion have trickled in so far. Mr Modi will, therefore, be pitching for fast-tracking Chinese investments into India.

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