China-India Relations Marked by Political Conflict, Economic Partnership


Historically, Chinese-Indian relations have been clouded with acrimony — primarily due to unresolved border conflicts. The increased political complexities of these Sino-Indian border disputes – a fight for the Aksai Chin and South Tibet region along the Himalayas and one of the longest running conflicts in the world – does not seem like it will unravel any time in the immediate future. 

Given India and China’s impressive economic advances over the last half century, it is unlikely that either of these two states will back off from their border claims. There will be a continuous fight between the Asian giants in the near future as each seeks to claim the controversial region.

The ugly relations are further exacerbated by third party actors like Pakistan, which has proved itself a sincere ally of China and an invariable nuisance to India for decades now. China’s massive financial and military aid to Pakistan is a thorn in the side of India for two unique reasons: 1) Weapons that China exports to Pakistan are used then against India, as they blatantly were used in the 1972 war against India, and 2) Given strong evidence of Pakistani-based terrorist groups’ relations with Pakistan’s intelligence arm, the ISI, India is slamming China for its continued financial and military assistance to Pakistan.

Yet, aside from the broad spectrum of conflicts between the two countries, India and China are increasingly strong trade partners. Since 1991, it has been trade which has helped reduce the strain in their relationship and let the leaders of both countries look beyond political conflicts. Two decades down, China has become the largest investor in India, and India, too, is investing heavily in China.

At present, the relations look sound as there is enough for both to gain from each other. The massive trade flow will help to enrich relations. On the other hand, the Sino-India border conflict will continuously test the two nations’ relationship. And China’s pampering of Pakistan will cause friction between the giants. But the economic priority of both of these nations will outweigh any obstacles, at least until their economies are booming at nearly the same pace.

However, it will be an interesting period ahead when China begins to have a wider global political stature — to have blind faith in China will be precarious as the equilibrium of regional dominance will shift towards China.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons