The Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia organized a special lecture on “The Rise of India and China: The Competition for Influence in South Asia” by Dr. Raviprasad Narayanan on Wednesday, 12th Feb, 2014, in the seminar room of the department. Dr. Narayanan is Assistant Research Fellow at the Institute of International Relations, National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan.
He spoke about how India and China view each other, their foreign policies, their spheres of influence and the challenges posed to India by China’s growing strength and influence. Talking about China’s standing in South Asia, Dr. Narayanan said, “At one level, China is not a part of South Asia. But if we speak of the strategic and security aspect, China is increasingly becoming a factor in South Asia and it’s not just India’s insecurities that are bringing China more and more into South Asia”, adding that China’s influence was primarily spreading in South Asia owing to its economic clout. He said that while China only sees India as a regional power, India sees itself as a global power, and hence a problem in how they look at each other.
He went on to talk about India’s skepticism when it comes to China, and how an incongruous feature of India’s foreign policy is that it has been oscillating with no clarity of purpose. “We lost a war in 1962 and even now, the contemporary debate is held hostage by what happened in 1962. We look at China within the frame as the ‘other’”, he lamented. “To someone in Beijing, India is seen as indecisive in implementing foreign policy vis-a-vis its neighbours.”
He also highlighted the theoretical aspect of the challenge with China, adding that the centrality of India in South Asia and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation will have to be surrendered to what China wants. “Earlier, China was an intervening variable, in the sense that we looked exclusively at China and its close relation with Pakistan. Now it is becoming a constant variable. In the next ten years, by 2025, for all the South Asian countries, the single largest trading partner will be China”, Dr Narayanan stated. He spoke of SAARC’s failure in discussing security issues and questioned as to how long we could keep China only as an observer in SAARC.
Towards the conclusion, he castigated the foreign policy establishment in India for lacking ideas on how to handle issues with neighbours and also spoke of China becoming more a physical presence in South Asia, “a fact that India acknowledges and recognizes”, but is unable to do anything about.