The presence of strong leaders like Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi opens up the possibilities of path-breaking initiatives that could benefit both countries and transform the geo-political landscape in the region. Given China’s military and economic strength and assertive territorial claims, it will be up to Beijing to initiate the first steps.

India-China relations are presently at a critical stage. The decisions and events of the next 2-5 years will be crucial and could mark a new phase in the relationship. At the same time the flux in geostrategic alignments in the world, caused by the potential shift in the global balance of power to the East, have got accentuated with the election in November 2016 of Donald Trump as the 45th US President and consequent uncertainty about his policies.

The almost simultaneous emergence of strong, new leaders, namely Xi Jinping in China, Narendra Modi in India and Shinzo Abe in Japan, has injected an element of competition in the region. All three are pragmatic leaders with a track record of being decisive and a capacity to take bold decisions.
Ties between India and China are, presently, marked by mutual suspicion. Given China’s military and economic strength and assertive territorial claims, it will be up to Beijing to initiate the first steps. Thus far, Xi Jinping has shown no sign of taking such an initiative.

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China’s Belt and Road Forum: Should India get back on board?

Delivering a keynote address to a mammoth gathering of 1500 people, that included 29 heads of the states and officials, entrepreneurs, financiers, academicians and journalists from over 130 countries including figures such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, Chinese president Xi Jinping reminded people of Zhou Enlai’s speech at the Afro-Asian Conference at Bandung in April 1955 that was also represented by the 29 heads of the states. If India was the prime mover of the conference in Bandung, China is in the driver’s seat as far as the Belt and Road Forum is concerned, and India is conspicuously absent after it boycotted the Forum on the pretext of sovereignty.
The Silk Road spirit
In his address, Xi Jinping said “China’s construction of the Belt and Road Initiative is not to make a new start, but to connect development strategies of different countries and complement each other’s advantages … China is willing to share its development experience with all the rest of the world, but we will not intervene into other nation’s internal affairs, export our social system and development model, nor force others to accept them.” Reiterating the ‘Silk Road Spirit’, the Chinese president said, “Spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient silk routes embody the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit.” Reassuring the gathering of China’s ‘peaceful rise’, he said, “We will not follow the old way of geopolitical games during the push for the Belt and Road Initiative, but create a new model of win-win and cooperation. It will not form a small group undermining stability, but is set to build a big family with harmonious co-existence.”
If at Bandung, Zhou Enlai was successful in smashing the international blockade by seeking commonalities between the nations, in Beijing Xi Jinping has been successful in smashing protectionism and convincing the nations about common development, the globalisation with Chinese characteristics, and even common security. In order to bulldoze the $1.4trillion ‘project of the century’, Xi Jinping pledged $14.49 billion more to the existing $40 billion Silk Road Fund founded in late 2014.The Development Bank of China and the Export-Import Bank of China has pledged to inject $124 billion in the Belt and Road Initiative to support infrastructure, financing and industrial capacity. This is understandable as China’s trade volume and investment with the Belt and Road Initiative countries in 2016, exceeded $3 trillion and $50billion respectively.

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Boost for India, UK parliament supports India on Gilgit-Baltistan

In a vindication of India’s long-standing stance, Britain’s Parliament has adopted a resolution denouncing Pakistan’s move to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth province, and asserted that the region is a legal and constitutional part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947.
Interestingly, the resolution also attacked the “forced and illegal construction” of the ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Gilgit-Baltistan, saying it further aggravated and interfered with the nature of the territory. The $51.5 billion corridor project aims at connecting Kashgar in China’s western province of Xinjiang with the port of Gwadar in Pakistani province of Balochistan. India has opposed the CPEC on grounds that the project, as it is conceived now, passes through the disputed territory in Kashmir, and hence amounts to impinging on the country’s sovereignty.
The motion, tabled on March 23 and sponsored by Conservative Party leader Bob Blackman, said that Pakistan, by making such a move, is implying its attempt to annex the already area.
The British parliament’s resolution assumes significance as it came after a committee in Pakistan, headed by Sartaj Aziz, the Foreign Affairs Advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had recommended that Gilgit-Baltistan region be declared the fifth province of Pakistan. Pakistan has four provinces – Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North West Frontier Province).

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Why India is wary of CPEC & OBOR: It’s sovereignty issue

The China challenge or the China threat emerged as a leitmotif in a high-profile international conference in New Delhi, with India being upfront about its political differences with Beijing and asking the latter to respect India’s sovereignty in the course of building the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
India, however, took care to eschew a negative adversarial construct of India-China relations, with Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar making it clear that in New Delhi’s assessment, the rise of India and China can be “mutually supportive.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on his part, outlined briefly a template of harmonious India-China relations, saying “respect and sensitivity for each other’s core interests” holds the key.
“China is very sensitive on matters concerning its sovereignty. We expect they will respect other people’s sovereignty,” said Mr Jaishankar at the second edition of Raisina Dialogue, co-organised by India’s Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation.

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China courts Bangladesh with big-ticket deals

China looks set to raise the bar for its ties with Bangladesh by announcing deals and loans worth billions of dollars during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s official visit to Dhaka on October 14. Bangladeshi officials are expecting at least &20 billion package of investment and aid during President Xi’s visit.

The two countries are also expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on strengthening investment and production capacity. In an issue of concern to India, Mr Xi is also set to launch a charm offensive to win Dhaka’s support for his per project of trans-regional connectivity, ‘One Belt One Road’(OBOR).

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