China And India: Navigating Cooperation And Competition In Reshaping Global Dynamics – OpEd


China and India are considered major emerging powers both in terms of economy as well as politics because they have the potential to reshape the current global geopolitical landscape. Both countries cooperate on some aspects to achieve their common goals such as to get recognition in world politics as major global powers. There also exists a lack of collaboration between them on some aspects due to differences in leadership and strategic goals. Both of them sought to influence the existing geopolitical order through participation in forums like G-20 and BRICS but there exist variations in both country’s approaches to these platforms.

China has pursued the status-seeking approach in forums like G-20 and BRICS. It has taken up leadership roles as we see from the fact that China has also hosted the G-20 summit. On the contrary, India has prioritized economic development issues and is reluctant to take leadership roles because of the embedded solidarity India has with the United States. Whereas the focus of China’s defensiveness is in response to the US and the West. India’s defensiveness is in response to China. Seeing the differences in the approach of both countries it is not enough to see them as twin emerging powers challenging the existing international order. There is also a need to locate them as competitors where they exist as strategic rivals.

Both of them are considered strategic rivals in terms of their approach in increasing their influence in world politics. China’s emergence as a global power can be seen as challenging to the dominance of the US. India’s growing role is seen in a competitive regional context. China’s rise is marked by changes in its foreign policy based on shifting national interests, its strengthening relations with Russia and other countries, and its assertiveness in initiatives like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and One Belt, One Road (OBOR) policy. These projects of China led to diplomatic bandwagoning against the US. On the other hand, India has pursued economic regionalism and security partnerships in Southeast Asia, aiming to balance China’s growing influence. There exists a competition in the strategic aspirations of both countries. Despite their competitive rivalry cooperation is seen in both country’s relationship. After the visit of former Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee to China in 2003 both the countries have jointly established study centers and groups and initiated strategic dialogues. Both of them promoted their bilateral relations by celebrating the China-India friendship year of 2006. An agreement was also signed in 2006 on Sino-Indian energy cooperation. Both country’s military had conducted joint anti-terrorism training exercises in 2007. These developments demonstrate an active diplomatic engagement at the bilateral level. There are also constraints in terms of competing geopolitical interests that profoundly affect China and India relations.

Cooperation and challenges also exist between them in the BRICS association, particularly regarding the establishment of the BRICS New Development Bank NDB. The BRICS institutions aim to challenge the dominance of the US and create an alternative to the Western-led financial system. The idea of the BRICS bank initially faced a lot of criticism due to its ambitious nature. BRICS nations while keeping aside the differences managed to create the bank with equal contribution but tensions also exist over the funding model and location of bank headquarters. India and China have competing interests. India wanted to pursue a plan where each BRICS nation would contribute equally in funding. However, China pushed for an alternative model bolstered by its advantage of holding massive international monetary reserves of well beyond 3 USD trillion. Its model encouraged contributions based on each country’s financial capacity and planned for an overall capital base of USD 100 billion, which was odd to India’s proposal of 50 Billion USD as a capital base where each country contributes 10 billion USD equally, this model proposed by china will provide them the opportunity to contribute more to the bank’s capital base and thus would give it an asymmetric power advantage within the NDB’s founding members.

The second competing interest emerged when it was time to decide where the headquarters of the bank be located because the physical location of the bank would give a symbolic advantage to the host nation about the bank. India wanted the headquarters in its country because it believed that it remained an inspirational force behind the institution. On the other hand, China wanted headquarters on its land in Shanghai. This position was championed in turn by China’s key think tanks. The Financial Research Center at Fudan University argued that

“China should strive to become the headquarters of the BRICS bank”

Despite tensions between China and India over the location of the headquarters, this issue was resolved by the bargaining process by making the headquarters in Shanghai and making an Indian national the 1st president of the bank. The BRICS bank’s creation showcased the sensitivity of the India-China relationship and highlighted the differences and similarities in their approaches.

Thus, both countries as major emerging powers must cooperate as their interests align with each other but there exists competition in the strategic aspirations of both countries. While they cooperate on certain fronts to achieve common goals and recognition as global powers, differences in leadership, strategic objectives, and regional influence have also led to competition and challenges between them.

Muhammad Hammad Madni

Muhammad Hammad Madni is a research at Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad.

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