Growing India-China Rivalry And Role Of UK Prime Minister In Mitigating Tensions – OpEd


In traditional international politics, the state system operates in the context of anarchy. Where every state is on its own and looks for its national interest and relies on self-help. This only signifies that if state relations are based on self-help, then conflicts are inevitable. Thus, conflicts are constrained by the concept of balance of power. China is growing its influence, particularly in South Asia and generally in the whole world, and on this pretext has become a thorn in the eyes of the US, the West, and the UK. Therefore, this article examines an exceptional case of British Prime Minister Sunak, who is more concerned with protecting the interests of the nation of his origin than with those of the nation that chose him as its elected leader.

China which has become a formidable economic power in the past few decades owes its progress to its unprecedented industrial growth and economic reforms. It has now become the second-largest economy in the world and is the largest exporter by value. China is also investing in building infrastructures around the world under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In 2017, President Xi Jinping stated that “China will deepen relations with its neighbors in accordance with the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefits, and inclusiveness, and the policy of forging friendship and partnership with its neighbors.” The neighbors include Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and three other countries that have economic, diplomatic, and security relations with China. 

In hindsight, India and China’s trade in 2022 reached $135.98 billion despite the differences in their policies over many issues. The chief issue is the territorial claim by both countries over Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin. China considers Arunachal Pradesh as its integral part known as “South Tibet” in China, the land of the Tibetan holy site of Twang. This region is also the cause of the Dalai Lama issue that has kept the relations between China and India deteriorating for the past many decades

Apart from India, China also faces opposition from the newly elected PM of the UK Rishi Sunak. He has shown no discretion in presenting his staunch opposition to China. He said that “Let’s be clear, the so-called ‘golden era’ is over, along with the naive idea that trade would lead to social and political reform”. Even more, promised to put a ban on all the Confucius Institutes within the UK and put an end to allegedly Chinese spying. “We recognize China poses a systemic challenge to our values and interests; a challenge that grows more acute as it moves towards even greater authoritarianism”.

PM Sunak blames China for being an authoritarian regime and regards it to be contradictory to UK’s values but at the same time defends the butcher of Gujrat PM Modi of India despite his ethnic cleansing of Muslims in riots of Gujrat in 2002, and persecution of Indian Muslims till date.  PM Sunak’s defense of PM Modi came right after an MP of Britain rightly pointed out the atrocities of PM Modi in the wake of a BBC documentary that linked PM Modi’s involvement in the Gujrat riots.

Prime Minister Sunak’s obsession with China reached a new level when he claimed to raise the defense spending of the UK to 5 billion pounds in the coming two years. He also agreed upon providing Australia with the nuclear submarines that the world has ever seen under the AUKUS pact to counter Chinese military might in the Asia-Pacific region. According to PM Sunak, China poses an “epoch-defining systemic challenge” to the UK, and “it’s a country with fundamentally different values to ours, and I think over the last few years it’s become increasingly authoritarian at home and assertive abroad”. Therefore, the UK government will spend an extra $6 billion on nuclear-armed submarines and munition stockpiles to deter China.

Even more, the UK is set to sign a deal of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India. This agreement is said to be a wider focus of the UK’s policy for the Asia-Pacific region. The Asia-Pacific region is said to deliver half of the global GDP by the end of 2050. Interestingly, the cabinet of PM Sunak appointed Suella Braverman (former Home Secretary at the administration of former PM Liz Truss) as Home Secretary, that was staunchly opposed to the UK-India Free Trade Agreement. Despite the UK’s Home Minister’s reluctance to sign the FTA with India, PM Sunak has given the green signal of pursuing the agreement. 

Asia-Pacific for China holds great importance because it can trade and fulfill its demands of energy through this route. Whereas, the QUAD agreement between the US, India, Japan, and Australia poses a great risk for China and is considered to be a containment strategy by the U.S. and the West.  India’s membership in the QUAD, as well as PM Sunak’s recent promise to an FTA with India, provide India with considerable influence in the Asia-Pacific region. This in return will give India an advantage in maritime security and infrastructural development posing great risks for China’s vision of regional and global economic power. The UK PM’s tilt towards India is evidently giving India the upper hand in combating China. In actuality, India, a country aspiring to be an Asian economic power, is being backed by the US and the West for their national interests in Asia-Pacific.

It can only be concluded that the origin of PM Sunak despite the national interest of the UK plays a major role and shows his inclination towards PM Modi and his RSS regime in the shape of signing different agreements related to maritime security, trade, and economy to contain China. As discussed above in the context of global politics, states cannot be questioned upon their survival and self-help policies even if that is the UK in question. But it is important to understand that the biased approach of PM Sunak in the international sphere towards a country of his origin and religion is unprecedented and uncalled for.

Rafi Khan is working as a Research Officer at the Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN), BUITEMS, Quetta.

2 thoughts on “Growing India-China Rivalry And Role Of UK Prime Minister In Mitigating Tensions – OpEd

  • April 15, 2023 at 3:18 am

    Wonder what the author is trying to arrive at !On one hand he states Growing India-China Rivalry And Role Of UK Prime Minister In Mitigating Tensions and he rigtly goes on to say every state is on its own and looks for its national interests . British Prime Minister Sunak, blames China for being an authoritarian regime and regards it to be contradictory to UK’s values and has also termed Frech PM Macron’s visit to China as a sign of Weakness and his views do not represent the whole of Europe so how can such a leader help in Mitigating Tensions between India-China? Lastly PM Sunak is more concerned with protecting the interests of UK and so far has no way helped his origin country India. As far his inclination towards PM Modi goes the whole world is inclined towards him.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *