Don’t Be Fooled, There’s No “New Détente” Between India and China
The outcome of last week’s informal summit between Indian Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi is that both nominal BRICS partners are now unofficially in a “Cold Peace” with one another.
The two leaders met in the city of Wuhan and reportedly went over the gamut of their relations, especially the strategic-military aspects that have led to increasing tensions between the two Asian Great Powers over the past year. This, of course, refers to India’s pro-American pivot to the so-called “Quad” and China’s CPEC project through Pakistani-administered territory that New Delhi claims as its own. By all indications, the meeting was a success in at least superficially restoring regional trust, but looking below the surface, this appears more to be about a “Cold Peace” than a “New Détente”.
India and China’s globalization models are threatened by the US’ protectionist shift, and the two nominal BRICS allies have a shared interest in tightening their economic cooperation and presenting a seemingly unified front in the face of Trump’s pressure against them both. That, however, doesn’t necessarily transcend over into the military-strategic realm where the two still remain fierce rivals, suggesting that each side won’t make a big fuss for now about the other arming up and building border roads & bases in the meantime, accepting that this will proceed anyhow and that it’s better for the time being to remain quiet about it given their temporarily shared economic interests vis-à-vis the US.
The “Cold Peace” is welcome because it will calm both of their publics down and allow them to redirect their attention towards more constructive areas of bilateral engagement where they actually have the power to change something, like in the economic field as opposed to the realm of International Relations and military affairs. This could hopefully expand the complex economic interdependency between the two and thus serve as an asymmetrical deterrence measure preventing either of them – but in this context, mostly India – from falling for the American divide-and-rule plot to pit them against one another in the New Cold War.
This “second honeymoon” between the two countries and their leaders won’t last forever, and both sides know it given their expanding strategic contradictions all across the Afro-Eurasian space (both naturally occurring and American-encouraged), so the “Cold Peace” should be seen as a short-term tactical measure to help each of these Great Powers gain the perception (key word) of greater leverage over the US during the onset of Trump’s protectionist “trade war” than as a long-term strategic understanding paving the way for a “New Détente”.