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India-China relationship under stress, requires recalibration: Shivshankar Menon

News Agencies | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 5:47 IST

The Sino-India relationship, which is under stress, needs to be "recalibrated" as the 1988 arrangement is no longer an 'effective tool' with the change in situation, former national security advisor Shivshankar Menon said, on 12 October, ahead of President Xi Jinping's visit to India.

"India-China relationship is under stress. You can see this stress - Masood Azhar designation as terrorists, the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group), I mean, I do not need to list all this. So there is stress in this relationship," Menon said.

"These are signs of relationship in stress, where there is not sufficient strategic communication between the two countries," he said ahead of the arrival President Xi to attend the two-day BRICS Summit in Goa over the weekend.

However, the former foreign secretary said he is not pessimistic over the bilateral relationship.

"I am not pessimistic about the future of India-China relations," he writes in his book 'Choices: Inside the making of India's Foreign Policy' which was released at the Brookings Institute last week. The book is set to hit the stores globally next week.

On the foreign policy side, Menon, who was the national security advisor from 2011 to 2014, said he sees "certainly a great deal of continuity" by the Modi government.

"Many of the things they have done, land boundary agreement with Bangladesh for instance, what they have been doing in relationship with the US, many of these things, Act East from Look East are actually continuation of what had been going on before," he said.

"Continuity is good," he said, adding that this reflects that this is "India's policy and that it would also be carried forward."

"But it has its limits. If the situation changes. The balance of power in the Asia-Pacific is changing, China's rise, some relationships need to be recalibrated, with China certainly," said Menon, who was the foreign secretary from 2006-09.

Menon said the current modus vivendi with China, formalised during former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's visit in 1988 that has worked for nearly three decades, is no longer an effective tool.

"This was basically, we would discuss whatever difficult issues we have, but we would not let that stop us from developing the relationship where we can co-operate. And that's how it became our largest trading partner. Or from co-operating on the global stage where we have common interest. And we worked together in WTO, climate change negotiations," he noted.

But the basis on which we build that modus vivendi, which is the balance of power that existed and the situation that existed around that time has changed, he said.

"China has changed, India has changed. The situation has changed. So that modus vivendi clearly no longer works. India China relationship are under stress," he said.

"So what do you do know," he asked.

"You need to whether find a new modus vivendi, a new equilibrium in the relationship, which you need to do by sitting across the table and talking with the Chinese. And seeing what are your core interest and what are their core interest, where is the overlap, where is the friction and how are you going to deal with it," said Menon, who during his distinguished diplomatic career served as the Indian Ambassador to China.

Or else, Menon warned, "you can just let it drift, which is dangerous."

"Then managing the relationship, it starts effecting the rest of the relationship. You have a relationship today with China in which you both cooperate and compete. That is not likely to change fundamentally. But you need to find ways to managing and containing that relationship, so that you can concentrate on the more important thing, which is developing and transforming India," Menon said.


First published: 12 October 2016, 2:37 IST