The dynamics of India-China relations can be traced back to a harmonious ancient history characterised by flourishing trade relations, cross-cultural exchanges of faith (such as Buddhism) and mutual respect for each other’s position in the Asian subcontinent. Another commonality from a relatively recent time period was the imperial dominance that subjugated them both. Factors such as these paved way for a positive beginning when the two countries became formally independent from the colonial rule. In fact, India was one of the first countries to formally recognise the People’s Republic of China in 1950. Following this, leaders of the two young, enthusiastic countries undertook a joint enunciation of the ‘Panchsheel’, the five principles of peaceful co-existence.
Sino-Indian Bilateral relations was a domain that PM Jawaharlal Nehru was certain and confident about. This trust, however, received a major setback when the inception of border disputes rather quickly escalated to a sudden military attack by China on India in October 1962. India had granted asylum to Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan uprising, and this was an important factor that had added to the heat of the border disputes in Aksai Chin and NEFA. However, political accommodation was not sincerely sought for. The ceasefire declared by China a month later was largely on the military perspective and Sino-Indian relations have never ceased to have a fiery dimension ever since.
Friction in relations between the two laid the foundation for a strong strategic partnership between China and Pakistan. This alliance has consolidated immeasurably over the years, with multi-faceted collaborations, particularly in the economic and military realms. China has been repeatedly granting financial assistance to Pakistan’s recurrently staggering economy. Most of Pakistan’s modern military equipment comes from China, which is also aiding the former in expanding its civil nuclear power sector. China has also extended diplomatic support to Pakistani interests on international platforms like the United Nations.
Military tie-up has further strengthened with joint arms production ventures. China has also benefited considerably from the bond that the two share, be it channelling China’s influence to the Islamic World or making the West more accessible to China. Keeping China’s greatest regional competitor, India, distracted on the military front or demonstrating quick support to Chinese regional initiatives and stands ─ Pakistan has also proven its loyalty to China. Pakistan is also an important stake-holder in China’s much ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, which is more funny than surprising given Pakistan’s ongoing financial crisis.
What is interesting to note is that China has not left the side of its friend Pakistan even in grave and controversial matters like terrorism, selflessly sacrificing its global image at the altar of its enduring friendship. When countries around the world are feeling alarmed by the nefarious activities of terrorist organisations operating from within Pakistan, China has remained indifferent. China has gone to the extent of repeatedly blocking India’s bid to get the Jaish-e-Mohammad Chief Masood Azhar declared as a designated ‘global terrorist’ at the UN.
What is ironical is that while on the one hand, the Pakistani government has denied the operation of the JeM from Pakistani territory, the JeM that has itself claimed responsibility for inflicting terror on India through the Pulwama attack (2019), the Pathankot attack (2016) and the attack on the Parliament (2001). Apparently, China so adamantly defends Azhar at the UN for no reason at all. The contradictions in the releases from Pakistan and China can be blood-boiling at times, or hilarious at others. In the wake of Pulwama attack, and the counter reactions from India, followed again by Pakistan, China has urged the two countries to show ‘restraint’.
Restraint must indeed be exercised for greater stability in the region. However, when long-drawn periods of restraint end up encouraging evil forces to blatantly inflict harm upon oneself, some amount of action gets necessitated. How we wish China would exercise restraint on its unconditional support to Pakistan, in several of the latter’s unethical and downright disgusting ways.
Picture Courtesy- CPEC