India-China Relations: Time Not Ripe for a Prime Ministerial Visit

Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Policy Brief, December 22, 2014

Saurabh Kumar, Visiting Professor, ISSSP, NIAS

IDSATalk of a visit to China by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in the air. The Chinese are said to be pressing for it in early 2015, pleading scheduling difficulties later in the year. It will be unfortunate if the Indian side gets busy debating dates dutifully, without addressing the root question – the advisability or inadvisability of the idea, as such, from a strategic perspective.

This is no knee jerk hawkishness on China. India-China relations are sui generis, quite unlike any other bilateral relationship. High level visits need to be carefully prepared, more than in the case of other countries. This is especially so in the present circumstances when the relationship is in a state of flux – with a fresh, clearing of the cobwebs, approach by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government in India on the one hand, and potentially far-reaching political developments in the offing both in China’s neighbourhood and globally on the other. 

A full scale review of the state of play, both in respect of bilateral relations and China’s relations with other countries, Pakistan above all, is called for before any such move is contemplated. And a cramped calendar at the Chinese end during the rest of the year should be the least of the reasons for an early visit.

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