Concerns over a rising China have, to some extent, spiraled into a kind of “strategic anxiety” regarding the country among some Indian politicians.
Their misleading, unfounded “China-phobia,” however, might lead to strategic myopia and hurt India’s own interests.
Harboring suspicion and apprehension toward China’s intention, India has recently decided to stay away from the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, citing sovereignty concerns as its main reason.
The reason raised by India may be understandable, but staying away from the initiative is not the best choice New Delhi could have made.
It could have voiced its concerns and opinions on public occasions or in official statements as China is always willing to discuss all problems and possibilities with India on the basis of mutual benefits.
Actually, as Chinese officials have stressed on many occasions, the initiative, aimed at promoting economic cooperation and connectivity, has no connection with or impact on sovereignty issues.
Though proposed by China, the Belt and Road is not a “Chinese project.” It is a multilateral initiative, with win-win results at its core.
As many experts and analysts have pointed out, the Belt and Road provides a monumental opportunity for the win-win cooperation between India and China, which are quite complementary economically.
The opportunity will not only help the two nations build political trust and boost their economic growth, but also reduce the risks of instability worldwide.
India, due to its geographical location and the size of its economy, could potentially be the biggest recipient of Chinese investment from the initiative to boost trade by building infrastructure linking Asia with Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
While bearing in mind its sovereignty concerns, the Indian government should also have a holistic perspective and see the bigger picture: the initiative will benefit South Asian countries, including India, in the long run, and it is in India’s own vital and long-term national interests to join the initiative and become an important player in it.
Despite its strategic discomfort, it is important for India to get over its “China anxiety” and carefully assess the initiative, recognize its potential benefits and seize the opportunities.
Instead of being rivals, the two countries, both of which are ancient civilizations endowed with a rich history, could become cooperative partners.
Just as Liu Jinsong, deputy chief of mission of the Chinese Embassy in India, said in April, the sky and ocean of Asia are big enough for the dragon and elephant (China and India) to dance together, which will bring about a true Asian Age.