Can China and India ever be friends?

Published: December 3, 2015

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi presents a bouquet to China's President Xi Jinping before their meeting in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad. PHOTO: REUTERS

A comparison between India and China is inevitable – both the countries are on the cusp of becoming the world’s leading economies. Two recent events have boosted India’s image in the eyes of the world: Firstly, President Barrack Obama’s visit – he is the first US president to have attended India’s Republic Day parade as a guest of honour. And, secondly, the recent economic forecasts by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank which state that India’s pace of growth is set to outstrip that of China in 2016.

In a major breakthrough, India and the US have reached a broad understanding of the liability clause in the Civil Nuclear Damage Law over which the US nuclear suppliers had serious reservations. India assured the US that it will create an insurance pool that will indemnify the US suppliers against liability in case of an accident. This is a serious issue as in the event of an accident like in Japan, India may have to bear the brunt of the loss.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama watch India’s Republic Day parade in the rain together from their review stand in New Delhi January 26, 2015.
Photo: Reuters

Moreover, the Global Economic Prospects, a World Bank group flagship report, released this month, states that the Indian economy will grow at seven per cent by the end of 2017, against China’s 6.9%.

However, this does not mean that India would be anywhere close to China in terms of economic development. It will take India at least 50 years to catch up to China in terms of absolute economic measures; the current GDP of China is two trillion dollars, which is predicted to reach $48.6 trillion by 2050. India’s current GDP, on the other hand, is one trillion dollars, which is expected to reach $27 trillion by 2050.

The Indian economy has shown an upward spiral ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi was voted into power. The new government has initiated a slew of economic reforms that is likely to improve the investment climate, deregulation and a reorientation of bureaucracy to become more business friendly.

Although the geopolitical tension between India and China can be attributed to the contentious border dispute, the overarching challenge in the Sino-Indian relations is to explore ways to overcome the trust deficit. The only way to lessen the tension is by engaging with one another, by collaborating in trade and business, leaving the contentious border issue temporarily on the back burner. Once a better understanding is developed, it will lead a spirit of accommodation between the countries for resolving the border issue.

This is a great opportunity for both the countries to work closely and collaborate with one another for the common good. While China can help India build its infrastructure, modernise its railways, invest in its power sector, set up manufacturing facilities, where China has considerable expertise, India, on the other hand, can help China with software development, pharmaceuticals and services.

Chinese President, Xi Jinping, chose India as the first destination, after his appointment as the president, recognising India as China’s important strategic partner.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and China’s President Xi Jinping wave before their meeting in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad September 17, 2014.
Photo: Reuters

The leadership in both countries believe that it is only by engaging with each other, and through mutual collaboration, that the lingering elements of mistrust can be removed. In spite of disagreements on the contentious border issue, left by historical legacy, both the leaders have shown that it is only through active dialogue that the border issue be settled. It may come as a surprise that not a single shot has been fired on both the sides since the last 50 years, a lesson to be learnt for other countries. The matured political leadership of both the countries has so far ensured that the dispute never escalates into a confrontation. The Chinese president pledged $20 billion to India for reducing the trade deficit. China has also agreed to set up industrial parks in the Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

China’s strategy of providing military assistance to Pakistan, making huge investments in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal have been viewed in India as a deliberate attempt to encircle it.

Beijing is aware that the US, Japan and other Asian countries are trying to include India in their anti-China geopolitical-military strategy. The political leadership in India, so far, has avoided aligning with the US or Japan to counter China, as it feels such a strategy would be counterproductive. It is not in India’s interest to antagonise China. However, China should not view India’s restraint as a sign of weakness and should dispel India’s concern of its aggressive posture in South Asia through dialogue.

India and China should initiate confidence building measures and this can be done through people to people contact, removing visa restrictions, especially of Chinese workers wanting to work in India, encouraging more economic cooperation.

This is a watershed moment in the bilateral relations between both the countries. In the coming years, there will be greater opportunities to embark on forging a closer cooperation for the common good of the people of both the countries. They should make every effort to settle their disputes expeditiously, as festering disputes can be exploited by the West in setting one against the other, which will be not be in the interest of either country.

There is every hope that the matured leadership of Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi will chart a trajectory that will take the bilateral relations to new heights.

K S Venkatachalam

K S Venkatachalam

The author is an independent journalist and political commentator. He tweets as @Venkat48 (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Khuda Hafiz

    However, this does not mean that India would be anywhere close to China in terms of economic development. It will take India at least 50 years to catch up to China in terms of absolute economic measures; the current GDP of China is two trillion dollars, which is predicted to reach $48.6 trillion by 2050. India’s current GDP, on the other hand, is one trillion dollars, which is expected to reach $27 trillion by 2050.

    Uncle please check your data…China’s economy is around 8 trillion Dollar whereas India is around 2.21 Trillion Dollar…
    By PPP China Economy around 17 Trillion Dollar and India around 9 Trillion….

    The Problems of both countries are different…
    1.China has around 33 million people below poverty line almost same number of indians.
    2.Chinese are manufacturer…while we are technological minds…we need to up our manufacturing capability…I think we are progressing…whats good is 80% of chinese software market is captured by indian companies setting their offices in china..
    3.China must stop threatning its small neighbour on south china sea,,,
    4.China must not exploit weak neighbours like pakistan and some african countries…

    as far as friendship is concerned…let pakistanis be their friend..we Indians want just to be competitors…..that relationship will be good for us….Recommend

  • Vectra

    “It will take India at least 50 years to catch up to China in terms of absolute economic measures”

    If this is what then so be it,India don’t need to follow China and run fast and then sit down once for all.China is a classic case of Hare running too fast completed development and has now sit down idle while India is a classic case of Tortoise who though slow but has started overtaking China.End of the story Tortoise wins the race.Btw 50 years is too high figure infact India needs on 10-15 years as it started opening up 10-15 years late than China.Recommend

  • Rohan

    China has Pakistan to loot and dump its fake and defective products.They dont need usRecommend

  • Salim Alvi

    India & China has been friends, almost a family for 3 millennia. India and China will come together as they have common substratum. There is lot more common between Chinese culture and Indian one. Today’s Chinese is Boudhist, Confucian & Taoist at the same time even after imposition of one book, one polituburo kammred chairman. Indian is Boudh, Jaina, Sikh and Hindu at the same time. Both value education much more than any other cultures. In US research labs are mostly populated by Indians & Chinese. Today to India, China and Russia have common enemy, ie Islamists armed by the Angloes.Recommend

  • Vishwaroopam

    I fully agree with your assesmentRecommend

  • R. Subramanian

    I like your words “let pakistanis be their friend..we Indians want just to be competitors” absolutely correct, I agree with youRecommend

  • SHAH S

    YES and why not; but the basic condition is that Hindu-stan ‘must’ behave and fall in line ;Recommend

  • jay

    Pakistani can learn from their new friend how to be friends with India!Recommend

  • Bunty Bhan

    AS your name suggests its Khuda Hafiz to Pakistan in the World Stage now. India and China will eventually learn to live with each other since they will be worlds top two economies in the long run. Also China has realized that trying to prop up Pakistan against India will be counterproductive since India can adopt the same policy in Taiwan, Philippines and Vietnam. Thats why more and more Indo China Business Development. At the end, Pakistan will be left alone. And if Pakistani origin people keep on shooting people the way they did in US, then God is with you.Recommend

  • Feroz

    Sir, please do your research before penning articles. It is not Chinese GDP which is $ 2 Trillion but Indian GDP. Chinese GDP will be around $ 8 Trillion. Please stick to subjects where your knowledge can be displayed and appreciated. Thank You !Recommend

  • sParthiv

    this guys got the numbers totally wrong..Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    I am confident that they will not do that, they are not like Pakistan, to prepare the bed and spread the pair of … wide, you would know what I mean.Recommend

  • Stealthy

    Get a reality Check! China’s GDP is over $10 trillion while India is just a $2 trillion economy which can never match China’s GDP let alone overtaking it.

    1. China may have 33 million people living below poverty line but atleast 650 million Indians are living below poverty line. A huge gap which is likely to be widened in the near future because of the population boom in India.

    2. India has never succeeded in producing world class hardware either for military or for domestic use. Manufacturing in India cannot match that of China just because of the political hurdles and poor infrastructure. China may be lagging behind in Software Industry. But, Considering the high tech exports of China to the outside world far exceeds those of India’s (India doesn’t really export any high-tech goods), China would still keep the manufacturing edge over India for the next few decades.

    3. Whatever China does in South China China should not be a concern to India because India has a very little stake in the South China Sea and the world has already seen how Indian administration fumed the moment a Chinese Submarine passed through ‘international waters’ in the Indian Ocean. So, one can expect the same reaction from the Chinese side if Indian Navy makes an aggressive manoeuvre into the South China Sea.

    4. China is bringing business to Africa and the ordinary Africans have seen such a development which could never happen without Chinese assistance. The infrastructure China is developing in Africa is actually developing the whole African Society and hence more jobs are added and more people are getting employed resulting in the rise of living standards of the African people. Same thing is going to happen once a proper organized work starts of the CPEC which would result in creating more jobs for the local Pakistanis.

    As far as Pak-China friendship is concerned, You need to wait for the moment you get once sincere partner in the International World because Russia has just ditched you guys in favor of China and other ‘responsible and consistent’ players in the Asian region :)Recommend

  • Sane

    India could only be a successful economy, if prevents disintegration of its territory.Recommend

  • Sane

    Whole world is using Chinese products including India.Recommend

  • Sane

    You can compete China in your sweet dreams. You are years and years behind to compete.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Not as much as you thinkRecommend

  • siesmann

    Sorry, Pakistan is not a successful economy,and has already disintegratedRecommend

  • nash edward

    the truth is India is scared of China rise. India plays friendship card to avoid possible damage to its reputation & growth by getting into direct competition. China is always far ahead than India from most aspects. considering current circumstance it may take India to achieve China current pace atleast 7 decades. or otherwise they do faking national statistics like faking bollywood box office ticket sales. but still cant by that time China already be superpower & its influence might spread in global scale.Recommend

  • adam leon

    China doesn’t practice its policies or national works based on religion or even Buddhism. they practice everything based on chinesman, & thats why the china is hard to colapes. if they detect any religion force rising they will wipeot whether its Islam, Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism they will wipe the influences or reduced to minimum, example Dalai lama. technically China doesn’t have much weakness to attackRecommend

  • raymon

    look the statistics, India is the 8th biggest importer of chinese products official, & 3rd importer through blackmarket.. national import + blackmarket imports technically makes India is the 1st or 2nd biggest importer of Chinese productsRecommend

  • Rohan


  • Salim Alvi

    As the China becomes rich hunger for spirituality, purpose for life will grow. Just as today USA is becoming Spiritually Hindu Marxism is also a 1 booky alien imperialistic ideology which will not last long. Even today no one in China believes in state media or propagandaRecommend

  • deepblue