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Posted at: Jun 15, 2019, 6:22 AM; last updated: Jun 15, 2019, 6:22 AM (IST)

Chinese checkers

Modi, Xi chart new course for cooperation
Chinese checkers

IT is a sign of immense flux in the world of diplomacy that a fortnight before PM Modi and Chinese President met at Bishkek on Thursday, senior officials of India, US, Australia and Japan held a security dialogue to checkmate Beijing’s trade and security expansion in the Asia Pacific. This is multipolarity in action, with India attempting to position itself as a swing state — seeking  equal opportunities from competing poles in global politics. New Delhi’s reservation with the US and its European allies is only their past record of apathy towards India during the Cold War. But much more hard work is required to understand and work with China because of the accumulated mistrust and discord over six decades.

Modi and Xi have ample opportunities to convert the 25-minute Bishkek interaction into something substantial as they will meet four times later this year. Bishkek showed the two leaders were looking beyond the immediate and the tactical. They frequently evoked the need to raise their expectations from the relationship and have set high store on their second informal, sans aides, interaction in India later this year. Their directions to speed up the border talks are also driven by the broader context of Sino-Indian ties. That the frequent meetings have brought some results is evident from the setting up of a Bank of China branch which India had held up on security grounds and the Chinese reluctance to the blacklisting of Masood Azhar.

Though Xi said China and India need not distrust each other and asked New Delhi to participate in the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) corridor, Modi’s challenge will be to maintain an even keel in the relationship. India has to resist getting sucked into projects to which it has principled opposition while it attempts to modernise its military, increase trade, and resolve the border dispute. Modi’s foreign policy is based on the assumption that India can avoid secondary damage while playing between and playing off two rival blocks. The coming weeks when Modi meets Trump and Pompeo, followed by detailed interactions with Vladimir Putin and Xi will decide how India’s swing state status works over the next five years of the Modi government. 

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