Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 21 January 2024

China should shun old approach to India ties

“There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run, the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.” ― Napoleon Bonaparte

Relevance: GS II (International Relations:

  • Prelims: Bilateral Relations; India and China;
  • Mains: Challenges with Bilateral Relations; India and China;

Why in the News?

The relationship between China and India has been complex, with both countries having the potential for mutually beneficial cooperation but also experiencing strains.

Transition and Evolution Phase for India-China Bilateral Relationship:

  • 1950’s: The 1950s was the time for laying a firm foundation for the friendship and cooperation between these two countries. Had this potential been realized, it would have helped not just these countries but the cause of peace and prosperity of the entire world. 
  • 1960’s: The phase of friendship was initiated but it lasted for only a short period. Hopes of friendship were dashed by China’s invasion of 1962 which was preceded by its excessively aggressive approach towards Tibet.
    • This was shortsighted on the part of China because the period of Jawaharlal Nehru’s leadership was ideal for advancing the cause of an India China friendship. Nehru had a strong sense of history and a firm faith in the friendship of India and China based on this understanding. 
  • These good intentions received their first jolt from the excessive aggressiveness seen in the unilateral action of China in annexing Tibet without any consultation with India; after all, India had the longest border with Tibet and with least regard for the sensitivities of the Tibetan people and their traditions.

China’s Framework through various Bilateral Relations:

  • Tibet Issue: Many atrocities were suffered by the people of Tibet that resulted in discontent, violence and the subsequent shelter sought by the Dalai Lama and thousands of other Tibetans in India. 
    • Some of the atrocities in Tibet were also mixed up with the wider turmoil seen in the course of China’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ of 1958-62 that actually resulted in one of the worst famines of the world.
    • Together with atrocities, it claimed millions of human lives. While earlier China was seen by justice-loving people of the world to be on the path of equality and justice, this phase exposed the worst aspects of the Chinese system. 

Post 1962

  • India-China Factor: India was seen as a democracy of hope which was frustrated over which prompted China to embark on a lightning invasion of India in 1962 which was seen by India as a great betrayal of trust. This was because India, despite several earlier disappointments with China, had continued to help the cause of China internationally. 
    • India was caught by surprise and suffered humiliating losses, and the wounds suffered then have never quite healed. 
    • China was also swift in withdrawing and although this has been sometimes depicted as a good gesture, the reality is that the withdrawal was as opportunistic as the invasion.
  • China-Cuban Missile Crisis: China had taken advantage of the distraction of the USA with the Cuban missile crisis to make a quick invasion, and then withdrew before India could seek American help. It soon became clear that instead of being guided by the broad vision of the two countries progressing together, China saw India as a rival whose problems should be increased. 
  • China-Pakistan Factor: China chose Pakistan as its friend, despite its routine abuse of democracy, its penchant for military coups and its military alliance with imperialist powers. These trends culminated in China ganging up with the USA in supporting Pakistan’s genocide in the region that was trying to emerge as Bangladesh.

Post 1970s:

  • China-Bangladesh Factor: China continued to be hostile to Bangladesh led by Mujibur Rehman and it was only after the cruel killing of Banga-bandhu and his family members that Beijing made any friendly gestures towards Dhaka.
    • India was doing the most to help those affected by the genocide. 
  • Other Factors: China’s invasion of Vietnam, China’s support for the Pol Pot regime and its genocide in Cambodia and China’s unwillingness to firmly oppose (in line with other socialist countries) the events in Chile which led to the ouster and death of President Allende and the initiation of the torture regime of Pinochet. 
    • Later China made big policy and ideological changes (while still retaining the name of communism) and integrated itself with the world capitalist system in ways which also then suited the richest countries. Within this framework China has recorded very high growth rates.

What does the World need? 

On Justice, Peace and Environment Protection

  • From the point of view of creating a secure world, the model that is needed is very different from what is presented by China, an authoritarian country which sought and found integration with the global capitalist system in a big way. 
  • A much more purposeful approach would be to seek inspiration in several smaller but more sincere efforts which have tried to combine justice, peace and environment protection. 

From India and China: 

  • Whenever two neighbors are wise enough to be friendly rather than hostile, it is helpful and beneficial for both. In such conditions there can still be many opportunities for friendship and cooperation. 
    • Even without such ideal conditions, the cause of India-China friendship is so important that any time is good for a new beginning.
  • In South Asia, India’s stand, although not always perfect, was generally in the interests of peace and justice as well as unity of third world and nonaligned countries. 
    • Therefore, considering India’s stand, if it had been guided by its stated principles, China should have befriended India the most among all South Asian countries.
  • Previously, China has been responsible for destroying these opportunities. Hence the responsibility for a new beginning of better relations is more with China. But if China makes a sincere effort, then India should certainly respond positively.


Despite the complexities and challenges, there have been efforts to promote cooperation between China and India. Both countries have a long history of close economic, cultural, and religious ties, and there have been instances of cooperation in the business and economic domains. The potential for cooperation between the two countries remains significant, and setting aside their border dispute could transform their relationship and geopolitics.


Mains PYQs

Q. ‘China is using its economic relations and positive trade surplus as tools to develop potential military power status in Asia’, In the light of this statement, discuss its impact on India as her neighbor. (UPSC 2017)

Q. The South China Sea has assumed great geopolitical significance in the present context. Comment. (UPSC 2016)

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