Jayadeva Ranade: It Takes Two To Tango

Jayadeva Ranade is a former additional secretary in the cabinet secretariat. He writes on the Indian Times:

The global geopolitical order has been undergoing a transformation in recent years. The transition heralds the emergence of new centres of

influence and power in Asia. The growth of India, China and Japan, simultaneously for the first time in history, accentuates the change. The two civilisations on either side of the Himalayas, together accounting for one-third of the world’s population, now have the prospect of influencing global affairs in an unprecedented manner. The window of opportunity is shrinking, however, and only strategic statesman-like policies will ensure that aspirations do not prove illusory.

Rajiv Gandhi, as prime minister, took a major step to ease tensions and dispel suspicion when he shrugged off conventional advice and travelled to Beijing in December 1988. With this single gesture he broke the ice that had frozen bilateral relations for 34 years. China acknowledged it as a ‘major event’. Rajiv was received by top Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping, when in-depth talks on the boundary issue were held. It was agreed that these would be settled through peaceful, friendly discussions.

… Rising bilateral trade and exchange of high-level visits do not by themselves suggest normalisation of relations. There is need for mutual trust. The publication of toughly worded articles critical of India and dismissive of its conciliatory efforts, as recently in the People’s Daily and Global Times, a subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, do not help.

Beijing needs to seriously begin dispelling mounting suspicion about Chinese intentions. It needs to take verifiable bold initiatives, the easiest of which is to cease border intrusions and not reopen settled issues like Sikkim. This should be reinforced by an initiative calculated to address India’s sensitivities and interests. Otherwise, the already glacial pace of normalisation will grind to a halt under the weight of suspicion and doubt.


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