China and India: Towards Strategic Rivalry or Partnership?

The rise of China and India has informed much scholarship on its competitive aspects and conflicting nature. Major emphasis lies on the resentment that follows the border dispute, as well as existing economic and security competition between the two giants. There has, however, been limited discussion on the possibilities of cooperation despite the fact that it is clearly in their mutual interest to do so.

Sino-Indian relations being one of the key projects of the school, the LKY School hosted the panel discussion ‘China and India: Heading towards Strategic Rivalry or Partnership?’ on 26 April 2013. Chaired by Prof. Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the LKY School, the topic was highly topical, given the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s recent visit in May to New Delhi. It was his first trip abroad since assuming office in March.

The panel discussed potential areas of cooperation which will allow the Sino-Indian rise to be incorporated into the international system.


It included four leading scholars on the subject: Dr. Pan Jiahua, the Director of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies and Professor of Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing; Dr. Sanjaya Baru, the Director for Geo-economics and Strategy at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London and the Honorary Senior Fellow for the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi; and from the LKY School, Prof. Kanti Prasad Bajpai, Vice-Dean (Research) , and Prof. Huang Jing, Director of the Centre on Asia and Globalisation.

Prof. Mahbubani said in his opening remarks that that Sino-Indian relations have historically impacted Southeast Asia and holds deep consequences for the region.

Dr. Pan raised the issue of energy security and how both countries have a high demand for energy resources as large steel producers. While this may be essential for their development, it comes at a huge environmental price. Dr. Baru focussed on the ‘irritant’ issues that acted as barriers to Sino-Indian cooperation. These stemmed from the unresolved border dispute, to India’s support to Dalai Lama and China’s support to Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation programme.

Despite these concerns, Prof. Bajpai was positive on the prospect of Sino-Indian cooperation. Trade relations have been growing and they are the only two countries that seem to be a part of each and every Asian multilateral forum. Prof. Huang added EVENTS China and India: Towards Strategic Rivalry or Partnership? by Sharinee Jagtiani that both share concerns domestically, and as players in the international system. They seek to modernise, but also recognise the need to sustain the ecological system. He emphasised the interest that both nations had in restoring the global financial system and multilateral order.

The questionand- answer session revealed that Sino- Indian relations continued to be seen as contentious and competitive. Questions raised included the failure of negotiation to resolve border disputes comprehensively. Responding to the scepticism, the panellists reaffirmed their optimistic positions by stating that while uncertainty may prevent cooperation, the likelihood of war between the two countries was very low.

Prof. Huang stated that war would only be the case if a combination of three situations in both countries: poor economies, military domination of decisionmaking, and intensive nationalism. Prof. Bajpai also added that historically, China and India have not made serious miscalculations of each other’s interests.

The panel discussion paved the way for a successful closed-door conference on Sino-Indian cooperation. It ran over two days and was attended by delegates from both countries.

by Sharinee Jagtiani