Published on Worldpress.org, by Sreeram Chaulia, May 30, 2008.
The symphony of South-South cooperation at the recent conclave of foreign ministers of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) at Yekaterinburg, Russia, was jarred by China’s refusal to endorse India’s bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council …
… These contradictory logics in the India-China relationship are fueled by the disentanglement of the private sector from the state in both countries. The enormous corporate interests of India and China view their counterparts across the McMahon Line as compatriots with whom business can be done for mutual benefit. Economic liberalization and private sector booms in both countries have unleashed an appetite for economic interaction that does not have to wait for resolution of military and strategic conflicts. Whether or not China is sympathetic to India becoming a permanent member of the Security Council is immaterial to exporters and importers of the two countries, as long as their profits flow.
Although states disallow the gains of trade from getting lost in the acrimony of military-strategic rivalry, they are essentially political actors with political ends. So, even as the Indian and Chinese chambers of commerce may raise toasts to each other, the standoff over a permanent seat for India at the Security Council will dog its relations with China.
New Delhi needs to drop its blinkers and openly admit that China is not sanguine about India joining the five permanent members (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France) at the Security Council. Optimistic Indian diplomats argue that China has indicated in private settings that its main objection is that India’s bid is knotted with Japan’s attempt to garner a permanent seat. This is a red herring, because Chinese military journals and think tanks are closely monitoring India’s economic, technological, and military advances. To assume that China’s strategic planning is Taiwan- or Japan-centric misses the changing reality of New Delhi’s rise and the discomfort it is generating in Beijing.
From 1955, when Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru conceded an offer for a permanent seat at the Security Council to China, New Delhi has permitted itself to be outsmarted by Beijing on this contentious issue. It is now high time to stop living in illusions and to acknowledge that China is one of the obstacles to India’s quest for global stature. (full text).