NARENDRA MODI’S AND XI JINPING’S HISTORIC ROLES AMID THREATS AND CHALLENGES
NARENDRA MODI’S AND XI JINPING’S HISTORIC
ROLES AMID THREATS AND CHALLENGES
Keshav Prasad Bhattarai
Citing Walter Lippmann, Peter Beinart says, ‘American foreign policy is “insolvent”. Our
obligations exceed our power’. Beinart also confesses that American commitments have
grown massively since the Cold War has ended, while the resources available to it from
economic and military to ideological are more limited that they appear. This has led many
people think that America is in decline.
But, a country with a continental size with unparallel reserve of economic and military
power, scientific knowledge, human as well as and natural resources can ever slip to second-
rate power. The great human and democratic values it upholds - although with some
limitations, will always be taken -- its grand contributions to humanity and no country can
replace it from this role. As Zakaria says, it is just the rise of many and America must be
proud that – so many countries are rising under the world political, economic and defense
order it led after World War II.
No one can say or appeal America to compromise with its vital national interests and its
commitments towards its allies, simultaneously, as a great country; it must uphold its
interests and alliance commitments. However, while doing so it must avoid undermining vital
interests and national sentiment of other big or small powers and keep it away from
counterproductive confrontation, or even conflict.
Many people say about Asian Century, but it is hard to answer the question if Asia can
establish it or not. Viswanathan Shankar in Project Syndicate says, ‘seven of the world’s ten
fastest-growing countries are in Africa’. Just before the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit, three
African Presidents- Paul Kagme of Rwanda, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Museveni of
Uganda have written an inspiring article in Project Syndicate on August 2, 2014. In the article,
they have rightly claimed that the dream that the twenty-first century will be the “African
Century” is also becoming reality in spite of the conflict and poverty in many African
countries. They also admitted that African continent is more stable than ever before. Citing
World Bank data, they have reiterated - Africa experiencing some of the highest economic
growth rates anywhere on the planet.
On the other hand let us see Asia - from East to West it is living with the most turbulent
times. Heightened tension between China and Japan – the two most powerful economies and
major military powers of the continent, have created panic in the region. The militant Islamic
organization - the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ISIS – one of the Al Qaeda affiliates, is gaining
power in Iraq and demonstrating its potential to destabilize the whole Middle East - already a
volatile region. Recently it has taken control of Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam on Iraq's
Tigris River and if decided to use the dam as strategic weapon, ISIS can create havoc from
Mosul to Bagdad. A matter to note these days is that the crisis and terrorism extending in
Africa, has roots in Asia.
Uncertainty is looming large over Afghanistan after US withdrawal as in Iraq. Analyst say- Iraq
has been a battleground of proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Similarly, in
Afghanistan, India and Pakistan play similar game and have increased trouble for Afghan
people. Different ethnic groups with their roots in Pakistan and Central Asian countries are
likely to create troubles for the region including India and China.
In the tribal border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, East Turkistan Islamic Movement
(ETIM) – the militant Muslim group fighting for the independence of Xinjiang province of
China, are sheltered with the support of Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and other militant
The Ukrainian crisis seems to bear deep impact on Asian relations. Although, its strategic
implications are yet to be experienced, it is casting deep shadow over Russia’s relations with
countries that have closer relations with America. For example, Japan and South Korea that
were bridging their relations with Russia and were making a grand deal for the supply of
natural gas have reached at a suspended crossroad.
While taking case of India and China, during the recent BRICKS Summit in Brazil, both India
and China expressed their, awesome willingness to improve the relations between the two
countries and exploit full potentials of the opportunities available to them in finest
diplomatic language. In Brazil, to serve the interests of emerging economies, they also agreed
to establish a new bank as an alternative to the U.S. and Western Europe dominated
international financial agencies like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
CCoonnttrraaddiiccttiioonnss iinn IInnddiiaa aanndd CChhiinnaa RReellaattiioonnss
Fortunately, India has most powerful Prime Minister only next to Jawaharlal Nehru - the first
Prime Minister of India after independence in 1947. Similar is the case with China. President
Xi Jinping is considered as the most powerful leader after Deng Xiaoping. Therefore, it is high
time for both Modi and Jinping to exhibit their vision, courage, and will power to improve the
relations between the two countries and expand it in the region they represent. However, the
mindset of the state machinery they have to entrust to implement their vision, gives them
limited scope to take great decisions in defining the relations of their countries with each
other and clear their way to equip the two Asian giants with strength and capacity to lead the
One thing is clear, it is far easier to make an enemy and keep up with it. Friendship demands
greater courage, commitment, and will power. Failures to invest these values will not only
strip anyone from the advantages of better relations, but it will easily turn the relations into
riskier animosity. Besides, contradictions within the state structures - may any times, play
negatively to impede any major political process initiated to improve the relations. Let us see
Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari’s was in Beijing as its state guest to
celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence developed by
China’s Premier Zhou Enlai, India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Indonesia’s President
Sukarno. Those principles commonly known as “Panch Sheel” later became the basic
principles of the treaty signed between the two countries in 1954.
On June 28, when Ansari was still in Beijing China unveiled its new national map that marks
China’s claimed territories in East China and South China Sea and the whole area of India’s
Arunachal Pradesh within its national border.
Immediately, news appeared in Indian and international media that claimed Indian decision to
give military training to people living in the border regions of Arunachal Pradesh.
Next, just five days after Narendra Modi returned from Brazil following the highly publicized
meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping including their decision to establish a new bank,
which they thought, will work as an alternative to World Bank - China’s Global Times, a
publication of Chinese Communist Party, has published a highly critical article about
Narendra Modi’s visit to Bhutan and its relations with India.
According to the Diplomat, the centerpiece of this issue is three territorial areas of dispute:
The Jakarlung and Pasamlung valleys on the Bhutan-Chinese north-central border, and the
Doklam plateau in Eastern Bhutan. All these territories have greater strategic significance for
both China and India. While the Jakarlung and Pasamlung valleys are joined to Tibet, Doklam
plateau in Bhutan is just next to the border of Indian state of Sikkim that is near to Siliguri
Corridor known as Chicken’s Neck - a narrow stretch of land that links northeastern states of
India including Arunachal Pradesh with rest of India. Similarly, Doklam plateau is adjacent to
Chumbi valley in Tibet at the tri-junction of India, China, and Bhutan and therefore bears
highly significant strategic significance to all the three countries.
Two days later on July 24, Global Times again published an article emphasizing the strategic
significance of China’s railway links extending up to India, Nepal, and Bhutan border regions –
mainly with a hint to India. There is no need to explain much about the publication of these
two articles between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bhutan and Nepal.
IInnddiiaa aanndd CChhiinnaa:: LLiivviinngg wwiitthh tthhee CCoommmmoonn TThhrreeaattss ooff TTeerrrroorriissmm
Besides other threats, as mentioned earlier terrorism has become a common threat to both
India and China.
Take two cases - one in China and the other in India. According to a news story by Zachary
Keck in The Diplomat, “All evidence suggests that China is losing its new war on Uyghur
terrorism” in the natural resource rich western province of Xinjiang.
As the article says - earlier in May, Xinjiang’s Party chief Zhang Chunxian - after a spate of
terrorist attacks across China starting late last year, announced about one-year campaign
launched to “safeguard stability and resolutely prevent malignant violence and terrorist
attacks”. The terrorists even murdered Juma Tahir, a Uyghur Imam just outside the main
Mosque in Kashgar Prefecture in Uyghur Autonomous Region. The Imam was stabbed to
death, as he was a staunch supporter of the establishment.
Only on the first month of the yearlong crackdown, South China Morning Post reported that
380 suspects were arrested, 32 violent terrorist gangs were broken up, 13 were executed, and
some 264 devices capable of detonating 3.15 tons of explosives were confiscated.
Because of these events, in July- during Ramadan – the holy month of Muslim community,
Chinese authorities in Xinjiang province banned Muslim students and civil servants from
participating in the holiday, including forbidding fasting, and preaching and even reciting any
religious texts, The Diplomat says.
India’s democracy might have adequacies, but its participatory nature, and the individual
freedom, justice and security the Indian constitution has left no room to engage Muslim and
other minority population in the mainstream political and social process.
Recently few Muslim youths of the well to do and highly educated family from the outskirts of
Mumbai have reports of joining ISIS to defend Islam. They joined ISIS over the internet and it
was a quite new dimension of terrorism in India.
Up to now, to express their rage against the Hindu majority, the established practice among
the Muslim youth was simply to cross to Pakistan, receive training there from radical groups
and the mavericks in army and security agencies running their own state within state, and
return to India for terrorist activities. Ellen Barry and Mansi Choksiaug in the New York Times
(August 4, 2014) have quoted a senior police official in Mumbai saying - “Trying to join the
global war, it is quite a new thing”. The news story further quoting a concerned Muslim
relatives of the missing boys say that that the generation of Muslim youths focus less on
grievances toward India’s government and more on Islamic struggles in the Middle East.
JJooiinntt RReessppoonnssiibbiilliittyy ooff MMooddii aanndd JJiinnppiinngg
On the auspices of Narendra Modi as India’s Prime Minister, South Asia has seen an unusually
cordial atmosphere. India has initiated a new neighborhood policy that was reflected during
his unusually successful visit to Nepal and Bhutan. He exhibited needed courage and
confidence in addressing the concerns of its smaller neighbors. His master diplomatic stroke
in inviting all the executive heads of South Asian countries during his swearing in ceremony
signaled a new beginning in the region and is
Another encouraging development is seen in Indo Bangladesh border regime. According to
Reuters, a U.N. tribunal has recently awarded Bangladesh nearly four-fifths of an area
sprawling over some 25,000 sq km in the Bay of Bengal. This has ended a dispute over a sea
border with India that has tangled the ties between the two countries for more than three
decades. Surprisingly, it has satisfied both neighbors and it would help Narendra Modi to make
a big dig in improving its relations with Bangladesh. The Indo- Bangladesh approach if could
be applied in resolving China’s territorial disputes with Japan and its neighbors in East and
South East Asia, it would help China a more peaceful vicinity to validate China’s claim of its
peaceful rise. Ultimately, bigger is expected to make some bigger concessions and
Realignments at the global level are taking place.
China and its leader Xi Jinping has played an excellent role in improving its role in Africa and
Latin America, but bigger questions remain there - whether that diplomatic initiative are
meant for the brutal exploitation of African natural resources to find raw materials for their
ever-hungry Chinese industry or is also meant for the overall development of Africa.
The same thing applies to India to its contexts.
The U.S. is deeply concerned to improve its relation with Modi government in India. Amid
diplomatic niceties, America is deeply worried about repairing the relations with India’s
strongman to whom it had denied a visa in 2005. Investing deep trust and confidence between
the world’s two largest democracies - is in the best interests of both countries, but it needs
lots of courage and convictions and the U.S. government has yet to make a break through.
Recently, Russia - a long time strategic partner of India, has expressed its willingness to sell
MI-35 - a multi-purpose military transport helicopter to Pakistan. It carries message for China
and America – that were supplying almost all military weaponries and logistics to Pakistan. It
also has strategic significance for India – world’s top arms buyer and Russia the largest arms
supplier to India.
Disintegration of Soviet Union, in the short term, was the greatest political and strategic gains
for the United States and Western Europe, but in the end, China has become the ultimate
winner. Except in Eastern Europe, China has gained enormous influence in Central and South
Asia, Latin America and Africa after Soviet Union collapsed.
How will the Ukraine crisis end is yet unknown. With its enormous reserve of good will in its
relations with Russia, India can play a crucial role in bargaining peace for Ukraine and
ensuring vital Russian interests in Eastern Europe. Deep economic interdependence between
U.S. and China and can never allow them to confront against each other. The strategic logic
of the last century can no more be copied and pasted, but someone has to invent new ideas,
policies, strategies and logic and take the lead and convey the message to the world
community. Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping can do it, because within few months and few days
in power they have exhibited this.
Eurasia Review August 7, 2014