Still Seriously Unmatched

Editor’s Note: Teresita Schaffer has started work on a book called “India at the International High Table.” The book, co-authored with Howard Schaffer, will examine how India sees its role in the world, and how this translates into India’s negotiating style. The first in a series showcasing some of their research findings, this article, published in India’s leading newspaper The Hindu, discusses how India looks from China’s perspective, and how the strengths and weaknesses of India-China engagement compares with relations between Delhi and Washington.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna’s visit to China is emphasising the prospects for India-China cooperation, in the aura of good feeling that high-level visits usually generate. A well-connected academic, Wang Dehua, in an interview about the visit, refers to India and China as “a rising and an emerging power.” He concludes that “India’s interests lie in wider economic and cultural cooperation with China. This is China’s opportunity to break up the U.S. intention to contain China.”

A recent visit to Beijing and Shanghai after a long absence gave us a more complicated picture of how the rise of India and China, so central to U.S. strategic thinking, looks from the east.

The India-China relationship is still asymmetrical. This theme ran through a dozen or so meetings with Chinese and some Indians who follow the relationship closely. One Chinese observer commented that neither country was top priority for the other. The disparity in their trade relations tells the story: China is India’s largest partner for merchandise trade; India is China’s 10th partner.

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