India - China Relations: An overview - Seeker's Thoughts

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India - China Relations: An overview


India-China Relations Overview

India and China should do away with mistrust between themselves in order to work together towards global peace and prosperity.

India-China relations were broken open when former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited China in 1988, leading to subsequent landmark visits that helped strengthen and develop goodwill between both nations.


What is India China Relations?


India and China have had diplomatic relations for several decades now, and have experienced cycles of tension and cooperation since their inaugural diplomatic encounter. Although naturally rivals, India and China have managed to develop mechanisms that have served to mitigate some of their differences such as summitry, border negotiations, military-to-military contacts, as well as expanding economic interactions.

Tensions have grown as India draws closer to the US and its allies in the Indo-Pacific region, which Beijing sees as an attempt at balance for their regional ambitions.

China and India remain locked in conflict due to disputed territory on their shared border, delineated by the Line of Actual Control (LAC), although both claim different portions as theirs - one such area being Galwan Valley in Ladakh in 2020 where violent clashes broke out between opposing troops.

China has responded militarily to this dispute with an aggressive military response, leading to a standoff in Doklam that ended on 28 August 2017 following seventeen rounds of military corps commander-level talks. China maintains that these clashes are due to Indian "provocation" and aggressive acts.

Even with recent tension, however, relations have generally improved since Morarji Desai became Prime Minister of India in 1977 and Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to China led to the reestablishment of diplomatic ties in 1979. Since then both nations have hosted high-level visits as well as formed a bilateral Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement.

Both countries are strengthening their regional and global capabilities, with India making strides to bolster its economy to offset any future slowdown. Furthermore, New Delhi is pursuing an active defense policy which involves creating partnerships with regional countries as well as conducting joint military exercises.

India and China share an extensive history of cultural and historical ties dating back to ancient trade along the Silk Road. More recently, Indian painter Beohar Rammanohar Sinha created a series of paintings in China which explore India's rich cultural diversity.




Over the last 30 years, China has strengthened its position in Asia by creating a world-class military force equipped with several aircraft carriers, advanced missiles and submarines and increased defense spending. Furthermore, China has invested heavily in high-speed rail networks, ports and other infrastructure aimed at rapid deployment along India's western Himalayan borders - creating widespread concerns in Delhi as a result.

After their 1962 war, China and Vietnam have generally avoided major incidents between themselves; however, they remain vulnerable to sudden outbreaks of tension that can quickly turn into full-scale confrontation over disputed areas along their border. The threat of conflict is increased by different perceptions and assessments being held between them; such differences could easily become activated through minor road developments on either side, domestic political mobilization events, or any number of other variables.

These factors have contributed to contrasting perceptions between both sides and created mutual suspicion between them, but despite a deepening gap they have managed to sustain an extensive bilateral relationship through four mechanisms. They are: regular summitry at the highest level; nearly uninterrupted military-to-military talks between corps commanders; confidence building measures for managing Line of Actual Control disputes (LAC); and economic ties.

Indian media and officials saw the 2021 incident as a game-changer, as it validated India's view that its northern borders pose the greatest risk to national security; called for resumed border talks; tightened restrictions on Chinese investment into India; and returned to an aggressive diplomatic posture.

However, both nations prioritize economic growth and regional integration while remaining wary of China's rising power and its potential coercion. Within this context, New Delhi has recently reopened its non-aligning foreign policy to form close ties with Western-aligned powers while keeping strong relations with Beijing - this reflecting India's growing recognition that economic development gains cannot be abandoned through rollback on liberalization; this essay investigates this shift as well as its drivers and implications for U.S. policymakers.




China and India have struggled to emerge unscathed from an ever-shifting global order, where cycles of conflict and cooperation continue. While they share common interests, their economies and close personal ties between leaders have failed to bridge a power divide that characterises their relations. Negative perceptions and growing mistrust have only further strained these relations despite numerous summits, border negotiations, confidence building measures (CBMs), economic interactions and summit meetings taking place simultaneously - though none has had much effect in solving underlying problems that need attention.

Although the risk of open conflict may appear low, sporadic border skirmishes have heighten India's sense of insecurity while undermining Beijing's perception that New Delhi takes its security concerns seriously. At its core lies both sides' instillation of parallel national narratives which drive their policy choices; these narratives produce cognitive dissonance and lead to seemingly contradictory policies on both sides.

One of the key impediments to bilateral relations between India and China lies in their increasingly contentious territorial dispute. While both sides insist it pertains only to areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), their leaders have implied they view this issue as core national interests - with China using these territories to justify massive military modernisation efforts and assertive behaviour. To counteract this challenge, India should strengthen regional capacity by forging closer ties with smaller neighbouring states like Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan.

As part of its post-Galwan message, India should uphold its belief that military impasse needs to be reversed in order for normalisation to resume. Furthermore, India should pursue informal backchannel communications with China as well as cultivating a Global South coalition which challenges Beijing's coercive tactics against weaker countries - all measures which would serve to lessen the effects of its relationship deterioration on India's wider strategic interests and the surrounding area while providing strong incentives for both sides to work toward resolving their differences and building mutual trust among countries involved.




India regards the border confrontation as a threat to both its sovereignty and ability to maintain influence over smaller neighboring countries in Asia. New Delhi remains determined to prevent Chinese hegemony in Asia by forging partnerships with diverse nations; Beijing's tactics at the border deprive it of vital military, administrative and financial resources that could otherwise help it strengthen its position there.

China sees India as a threat to its regional and global ambitions, yet their leaders have refused to alter their India policy and instead relied on low-level coercion as a deterrence measure; an approach which has not proven effective given today's geopolitical environment.

However, many scholars have observed that tensions in India-China relations are far more complicated than simply competing interests. Instead, they stem from both countries having contradictory internal narratives: India favors postcolonial state building while China prefers economic and social justice. This dynamic can be seen most vividly within Indian domestic politics: where competing ideologies vie for control of state institutions while offering their visions of India's future.

Additionally, both countries possess distinct strategic cultures that influence how they perceive each other. While some Indian strategists have suggested that China's perceived animus towards India comes from historical memory and domestic politics, the CCP has successfully used narratives describing their "just war against India" to garner support among Chinese people for its agenda.

Though fundamental differences remain, there are positive indicators that two sides may be able to break free from their current impasse. Both have been making efforts at improving relations through four mechanisms - regular summitry at high-levels; almost uninterrupted border negotiations; confidence-building measures to prevent military disputes at LAC and economic ties - that may help manage tensions and minimize uncontrolled escalation risks over time.