Are there Narendra Modi fans in Pakistan
India and China are vying for alliances
China's media and government agencies are silent: They write almost nothing on the visit of the Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar to Beijing this Monday and Tuesday. The Indian press is paying more attention to the trip and reports that the Himalayan border issue, which has been unresolved between the two countries for decades, is the focus of talks.
Unspoken, something completely different is likely to play at least as important a role: The recent efforts by the USA to include India militarily and in terms of security policy in an alliance that is intended to curb China's influence.
Just a few days ago, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter was in New Delhi for talks. He said effusively to the New York Times: "Of international relations, those between the United States and India will become of vital importance for the 21st century. And this is already becoming a reality faster and more clearly."
Logistical agreement: India's Defense Minister Parrikar with his US colleague Ashton Carter (left)
In view of these big words, the agreement on military-logistical cooperation between the two countries that was agreed upon during Carter's visit may seem a bit meager, especially since it has not yet been signed. The agreement provides that Indian and US units can use each other's bases for refueling and as a deployment area for soldiers before embarking on a disaster response. Two more agreements on cooperation in digital mapping and military communications are also about to be concluded.
USA woo India
Should China be concerned about such agreements? No, believes South Asia expert Christian Wagner from the Science and Politics Foundation in Berlin: "Of course, the USA wants to formally integrate India much more strongly into military alliances and alliance systems. But that will probably not be possible with India. India has been until now never a member of military alliances, that would also give rise to very controversial discussions at home. "
On the other hand, there is a broad domestic political consensus in India with regard to Chinese politics: "The new Indian government under Narendra Modi has positioned itself much more strongly with the USA towards China in the past two years, for example through the joint declaration on the free shipping in the South China Sea, "explains Wagner.
A solution is not in sight: disputed border areas between China, India and Pakistan
"India is also working with Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines, which have problems with China," said the expert. "In that sense, from a Chinese perspective, you already know what politics India is pursuing here." From Wagner's point of view, India "is becoming more and more part of a loose grouping of states that are trying to develop strategies against Chinese claims to territory and power.
Cooperation despite border dispute
At the same time, when it comes to its immediate territorial issues with China, India must rely on cooperation and agreement with its militarily and economically superior neighbor. The Times of India points out that Parrikar will visit the headquarters of the newly created Chinese Western Military District in Chengdu. As part of the Chinese army reform, this military district is responsible for the entire disputed border area for the first time, which significantly enhances China's military capabilities in the area, emphasizes the "Times of India".
And the Indian Defense News wrote that the border question "has become very complicated and could not be resolved despite decades of discussions". The future does not look any better, which is why both countries have to intensify their cooperation in other areas - for example in the economy.
Business contracts worth billions: China and India's premiers, Li Keqiang (right) and Narendra Modi (left), in May 2015
In addition to the border issue, there are a number of other common security policy issues for the two countries. "India will become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization next year, so it will work more closely with China in Central Asia," explains Wagner. Islamist terrorism is also seen as a common threat: "Both countries have already carried out a series of anti-terrorism exercises."
China's friendship with Pakistan
However, there are also differences when it comes to terrorism. India has been trying for some time to get members of militant Pakistani organizations on the UN sanctions list. China, on the other hand, has been blocking this so far out of consideration for Pakistan. The country can still rely on its "all-weather friendship" with China. This is of great importance to the government in Islamabad, especially since US foreign policy has significantly upgraded India.
Pakistan is primarily placing its hopes on the planned Chinese economic corridor from the Indian Ocean to western China. The project is intended to initiate a massive economic program for the country. Up to 50 billion US dollars are to be invested in the next few years, not only in infrastructure, but also in energy projects.
Some hope that the economic upswing will not least benefit the poor Balochistan province on the border with Iran and its neglected population. Perhaps that could even lead to a detente between India and Pakistan.
However, Pakistan has just recently accused India of sabotaging the corridor with China and arrested an Indian ex-naval officer as a "spy" in Balochistan Province. So China remains involved in the Indo-Pakistani rivalry. India's Defense Minister Parrikar should also have this in mind during his visit to Beijing.
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