How can India become the next China?

International security

China and India, the two most populous countries in the world, both equipped with a dynamic, but recently somewhat stuttering economy, will probably play a decisive role in shaping not only Asian but also global politics in the next few decades. The relationship between the two countries, which has been fluctuating and contradicting itself for decades, is shaped by the three Cs: Conflicts, competition and cooperation. If the relationship between the two countries turns out to be cooperative, this could have positive consequences for world politics, but at the same time further question the supremacy of the USA and "old Europe". [1] The good Indo-Chinese relations of the hindi chini bhai bhai ("Indians and Chinese are brothers") the early years under Jawaharlal Nehru and Mao Tse-tung are long gone. A 1954 agreement known in India as the Pansheel went down in history, regulated the peaceful coexistence and territorial integrity between the two countries. However, the period of common anti-imperialist ideology of the 1950s gave way to enmity after the border war of 1962, which was traumatic for India, and it took until the mid-1970s to take cautious diplomatic steps to rapprochement and normalize relations somewhat.

Indian foreign and security politicians have long been irritated by at least three conflicts with China. Despite the negotiations in numerous bilateral working groups, the border conflict in northeast India remains unsolved to this day, because neither side gives up their own claims to the disputed territories. In connection with this, there are so far irreconcilable differences regarding the role of China in Tibet and the presence of more than a million Tibetan refugees and above all the Dalai Lama in India. Finally, China's policy in some of India's neighboring countries worries foreign and security politicians: China's support for Pakistan, including the Pakistani armed forces, but also Chinese ambitions in Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. The Chinese government regards the rapprochement of India and the USA with suspicion. The conclusion of the India-US nuclear deal in 2005, part of a strategy by the then US government to curb Chinese influence in Asia, is just as worrying from a Chinese perspective as India's nuclear weapons ambitions.

Recently, the diplomatic, economic and maritime ambitions of China in the Indian Ocean have been perceived as a threat by strategists in India. China is expanding the ports in Gwadar (Pakistan), Hambantota (in northern Sri Lanka), Chittagong (Bangladesh) as well as port and communication facilities in Myanmar. The Chinese government categorically denies that it is also pursuing military goals. For its part, India's navy is expanding its base on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and is pursuing a strategy of good neighborly relations with those bordering the Strait of Malacca, an important waterway for China's oil deliveries. General Deepak Kapoor, former Chief of Staff of the Indian Armed Forces, speaks of a Chinese "pearl necklace" around the Indian Ocean. Indian strategists warn alarmistically in classic geopolitical terminology against a clear footprint in India's sphere of interest and even against an encirclement that can only be countered with the development of a sea-going navy. The consequence is clear: a maritime arms race between the two largest Asian countries, which, however, has been slowed somewhat on the Indian side due to recent economic slumps. The comparison of the military balance of power clearly shows the Chinese supremacy. Both countries have increased military spending rapidly over the past 15 years, but the Chinese are more than three times as high as the Indian at 166 billion US dollars.

Sino-Indian relations today are shaped by contradicting factors. In addition to the conflicts and the economic and emerging military competition, the two large neighbors also maintain cooperation. Bilateral trade is flourishing. China has now replaced the USA as India's most important trading partner. Both governments cooperate within the framework of the G20 and are endeavoring to offer alternatives to the Western-dominated global governance system through initiatives such as BRICS, through cooperation in climate negotiations or in dealing with the global financial crisis. The two emerging powers could change the global balance of power permanently. In this relationship characterized by conflicts, cooperation and competition, China is economically more dynamic and militarily stronger. India soft power on the other hand - functioning democracy, political pluralism, the free press, culture and religious diversity - count as assets just as strongly in the long term.