Round Table on ‘Wuhan Informal Summit: Implications for India’
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A Round Table Discussion on the Modi-Xi Jinping Informal Summit at Wuhan and its implications was organised at the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF). Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director VIF, chaired the discussion. The Round Table was attended by Vice Adm K K Nayyar, Shri C D Sahay, Mr. Jayadev Ranade, Amb. Satish Chandra, Amb. TCA Rangachari, Amb. Rajiv Sikri, Amb. Anil Wadhwa, Dr. Arvind Virmani, Amb Asoke Mukerji, Prof. Sujit Dutta, Amb Gurjeet Singh, Vice Adm Anil Chopra, Lt Gen Gautam Banerjee, Brig Vinod Anand and Commodore Soman Banerjee.

The Speakers focused on four major questions relating to the summit, as follows:-

  • What were the motivations and what are the implications for the bilateral relations?
  • Will the policies be adjusted or will they remain same?
  • What will be the implication for India’s overall foreign policy?
  • How will this affect our economic relationship?

There were major differences of opinion among the presenters. Some felt that the Wuhan informal summit augurs well for cooperative partnership and strengthening bilateral relations. While others felt that without solving some existing hurdles the cooperative relationship will be weak. The major points which emerged from the discussion are:-

Wuhan Summit
  • The informal summit has been welcomed by the people and it may have a positive impact on India-China Relations. It was an important event and though this may be first for India-China, informal summits are a norm in Europe.
  • The last minute cancellation of ‘Thank you India’ event by the Tibetan Government in Exile has dented India’s image in the neighbourhood and the Chinese may have interpreted this as India’s weakness. China has not given any reciprocal concessions to India on issues that concern India.
  • There is little to indicate that Pakistan will be worried by the results of the summit.
  • The summit will provide opportunities to improve the relations between India and China and it gave the impression that there is hope for the relationship to become more equitable.
  • Wuhan marked a tactical shift in India’s approach to handle and engage China and it appears to be an opportunity to pause the button on a deteriorating strategic relationship. India-China economic relationship has not been affected that adversely.
  • Wuhan was an effort to manage any future war because of miscommunication and misperceptions. It was to help build systems to control any accidental wars, and in that sense it was successful.
  • The summit would have been in preparation for months before it happened and it is unlikely to be a sudden development.

Chinese Motivations
  • The Chinese concerns in the aftermath of Doklam and the changing international environment, including tensions in China-US relations were among many reasons behind Chinese motivations. China was also not comfortable with the idea of a military conflict with India as a result of differences over Doklam.
  • Though Chinese influence has been increasing internationally, China has been losing friends. India on the other hand is becoming more confident under Prime Minister Modi and is being seen as a valuable partner.
  • China will focus on wooing India away from the US. It is worried about the potential of the QUAD and will be interested in checking its development.
  • Doklam was a scary moment for both sides, and if Chinese had lost some soldiers, Xi would have had trouble facing the 19th Party Congress, and this being the election year in India any such incident could push India to over react. Chinese military prowess is untested vis-à-vis India and the Indian Ocean region.
Economic Concerns
  • China is investing heavily in its naval assets and there will be a push on the One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR), BCIM, the trilateral economic connection between India, China and Nepal and the new Chinese idea of Trans-Himalayan Regional Economic Corridor that would include Bhutan.
  • Chinese are likely to expand their stakes in the India markets rapidly, especially in the sectors of power, telecommunications, infrastructure, etc. India needs to be wary of companies which are backed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Chinese State Security. The Chinese economy is a concern for the Chinese Government and it is one of the major reasons behind Chinese leaderships push for better ties with India.
  • Chinese understand that India will be the number three economy soon and it offers huge opportunities for Chinese businesses at a time when ties with the US are troubles and Chinese goods face higher tariff barriers as threated by President Trump.
  • It is also aware that if relations are poor with India, then the China backed multilateral institutions like BRICS and SCO will not be able to function properly.
  • OBOR is not a new project, it is a compilation of all the older projects put under one umbrella and most countries are looking at OBOR as economic opportunity and not a strategic problem. Even Japan is thinking of ways to take part in OBOR.
  • Post-Wuhan China has partially liberalised its trade policy allowing imports from India of 28 pharmaceutical products.
  • India is worried about cheaper Chinese goods flooding the market and therefore has been dragging its feet the on Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China.
  • The Chinese statement was very different from the Indian statement, and this shows that we had divergent views on the core issues. The Chinese statement mentioned the OBOR while the Indian statement does not mention it.
General Observations
  • The key factor in India-China relations has always been Tibet and there will be no real border solution without some agreement on Tibet.
  • China has worked towards preventing India from entering the Security Council as a permanent member. It is also working on ways to improve its position in the United Nations by increasing the number of soldiers and money contributed to the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations.
  • India needs to attend to some structural problems in the Indian defence system if it wants to balance China. The Chinese are investing in technologies in a big way and they will use these very technologies to achieve their global goals.
  • Afghanistan is where India and China could cooperate on certain areas.
  • India must grow faster in order to have a major say in the neighbourhood and that will help her achieve most of its goals. India also needs to be careful about its response towards OBOR as it will be analysed by the neighbours very closely.
  • India needs to strengthen its neighbourhood policy on the basis of a benign approach. Afghanistan model should be extended to all the neighbours baring Pakistan. Meanwhile there is a need to highlight that the projects under OBOR are not similar to the ADB and World Bank projects and come with added baggage and caveats. India can also exploit its soft power potential vis-à-vis its neighbours. India should also focus on its linkages, medical care, movies and the capacity building and promote itself as a better option than China.
Event Date 
May 9, 2018

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