PM Manmohan Singh was a disappointment that signals more turbulence ahead in relations

  0 comments   |     by Saeed Ismat

The summit last week between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was a disappointment that signals more turbulence ahead in relations between the two Asian giants. True, the meeting resulted in the usual platitudes about friendship and cooperation. But it was obvious that the two neighbours were unable to make progress on resolving any of their current disputes. During the first visit of a major Chinese leader to India in more than four years, some easing of political tensions should have been accomplished. Instead the two sides decided to kick all contentious issues down the road and expand bilateral trade by twothirds over the next five years. However, increased trade is no panacea for the sharpening geopolitical rivalry.

 First of all, while trade may benefit both sides, the perception in India is that China gains more. India's trade deficit with China is ballooning, and it largely exports raw materials to China and imports finished products. The focus on trade, even as political disputes fester, plays into the Chinese agenda to secure new markets in India while continuing with a strategy to regionally contain that country. 

Even as these old rifts remain, new problems have arisen, roiling relations further. China has started a three-pronged policy to build pressure on New Delhi over Kashmir, where the disputed borders of India, Pakistan and China converge. It has sought to enlarge its footprint in Pakistani-held Kashmir through new strategic projects; it has attempted to question India's sovereignty over the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir by issuing visas on a separate leaf to Kashmiri residents holding Indian passports.

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