Published:  01:06 AM, 01 July 2020 Last Update: 01:08 AM, 01 July 2020

Political economy of India-China border crisis

Political economy of India-China border crisis

During the COVID-19 pandemic, enduring the recent tension between China and India over the border issue has become a topic of discussion not only from the perspective of two countries but also from the perspective of a regional political economy. Both countries have been trying their best to become regional superpowers.

Historically these countries have not had a very strong bilateral relationship, although the intensity of relationship between them has improved significantly under Modi government. Still, some unresolved border-related issues have created a certain degree of discomfort within the prevailing relationship. Bearing in mind the volume of Chinese economy they want to become one of the world's superpowers.

Therefore, they want to outscore India in an attempt to expand its dominance in the South Asian region where India is perceived as a threat to attaining its target. Considering the enormity of the importance of the issue, it needs to be discussed from the perspective of regional and global political economy. 

We all know that, over the last few decades, the US and China have maintained a very successful relationship. During the last few years under Donald Trump administration, the strength of the relationship has deteriorated further. Truly peaking, both countries have been going through a cold business war for the last few years.

On the other hand, the COVID-, which was originated in China for the first time, has exacerbated the intensity of their relationship because Donald Trump has attempted to establish that this virus was intentionally developed by China to drive the planet into danger in order to strengthen their economic position by selling different types of medical devices that are necessary to fight against CODIV-19.

Therefore, China might have wanted to contain the US by establishing them as a regional superpower. They know very well that India and USA have maintained a very warm relationship for the last few years, especially under Modi government. Maintaining a good relationship with India is a US strategy to create pressure on China in this region.

Holding the issue of ties between India and the US in mind, the Chinese government might have wanted to build pressure on India by improving its relationship with other South Asian countries. For instance, after the Chinese premier's visit in 2016, the Chinese investment in Bangladesh has increased quite significantly.

The Chinese government has recently granted duty-free access to 97% of Bangladeshi products to its markets from July 1 2020. While the government of Bangladesh described this as a success of its economic diplomacy, China's decision to offer duty-free products from Bangladesh was taken as part of strengthening its relationship with the expectation that Bangladesh would play a strategic role with both the countries.

Since Bangladesh being a good friend of India from a historical perspective, the recent change in the relationship between Bangladesh and China may be an issue of concern for India. Now one may wonder why the Chinese government wants to intensify their relationship with Bangladesh. One of the main factors for this is the geographical location along with Bangladesh's accelerated economic growth under Sheikh Hasina government over the past 12 years.

The Chinese government may have wanted to weaken the relationship between India and Bangladesh by providing different opportunities. Despite different benefits being provided by China, the Bangladesh government would consider China's long standing relationship with Pakistan with great intensity, while deciding to strengthen its relationship with China.

Besides Bangladesh, the Chinese government is also instigating the Nepalese government in the midst of the ongoing squabble between India and Nepal over border issues. In response to the development and inauguration of a new 80 km long road in the Himalayas, connecting to the border with China, at the Lipulekh pass, the Nepalese government not only protested immediately but also contended that the road was crossing their territory.

Soon after, the Nepalese government made a constitutional amendment to formalise and extend its territorial claims over approximately 400 sq km. Even they streamlined citizenship laws for Indian citizens and rules of the use of Indian currency in Nepal. 

As Nepal is a good market for Indian products these decisions have also made the Indian government think. In addition, both countries have for years maintained a very strong friendship. Now one may wonder why the Nepalese government has taken such an aggressive move.

The most likely reason is that they are getting strong backing from China. The Chinese government s to create pressure on the government by instigating both Bangladesh and Nepal, Some of the recent movements of the Pakistani government deserve special mention in connection to the regional issue.

The government of Pakistan has deployed two of its senior diplomats in Nepal and China who have strong experience of working in India. Foreign policy experts believe that these deployments have strong connections within the recent border crisis between India-China.

Now a part in question is whether the South Asian region is going to witness a war on the border between these two countries. I firmly believe that both countries would dare to get involved in some form of war as they are not only passing puzzling time in containing the COVID-19 linked health problem but also in coping with economic fallout caused by the pandemic.

Of course, one may argue that the Chinese government for successful contained COVID-19 within a very short time and there are doing significant business by selling different types of medical devices. However, we must not forget that they are going to face the second wave of attack by COVID-19 as more than 100 patients have already been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Beijing and the government has enforced lockdown in different parts of Beijing.

On the other hand, it is also becoming difficult for the Indian government to deal with COVID-19 as more than 4 lac patients have been tested positive and there are huge economic consequences. Therefore, neither India nor China would love to get involved in any sort of war during this time.

We should not forget that India is a giant market for the Chinese products. As a consequence of the recent conflict over the border issue, the Indian government has imposed trade restrictions on the import of Chinese goods that might be a great loss for China.

So, China would not love to lose this huge market with over 130 crore population. There has also been a people's movement to ban all Chinese productions in India. If it happens, the Chinese business community would severely be affected by this deadlock. Thus, though the Chinese government is instigating other South Asian countries they would dare to get engaged in any sort of war with India now.

When it comes to the sentiment of the world communities on the issue of India-China border crisis, we have seen that most of the superpowers, including the United States have expressed their support to the Indian government, which will also make it impossible for China to move forward with a potential war with India.

The United Nations has urged to the two nations to address the problem through bilateral dialogues. Therefore, I firmly believe that both countries would resolve the issue through bilateral discussions.

Another topic under consideration related to Bangladesh's position as a neighbouring county during this crisis. Since the government of Bangladesh is struggling to deal with COVID-19 and to overcome the economic fallout, they would not be interested to get involved with this process. They have a few reactive choices.

The first choice is to wait to see how things are moving forward, and make their formal request to both the countries to address the ongoing issues through bilateral negotiations. Second: they could play the role of a negotiator in resolving the dispute between these two countries, as they are maintain a good relationship with both the country. I do not think that Bangladesh would choose the second option, as at present they would not want to weaken their relationship with India. 

Finally, it can be stated that the fragmentary tension between India and China is a matter of great concern for regional security of the South Asian region. Therefore, both governments should make a formal attempt to resolve this deadlock through bilateral discussions.

We have already seen that the foreign ministers of both the countries have held a discussion on this issue and they have expressed their desire not to intensify the border crisis in this present moment.

Both countries would understand the negative effect of war during this pandemic and think rationally. Pranab Kumar Panday, PhD is a Professor of Public Administration and an Additional Director of the Institutional Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC) at the University of Rajshahi.

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