While India has formed a ‘strategic partnership’ with the United States to ‘promote stability’ in South Asia and the Indian Ocean under the Indo-Pacific strategy, some Chinese strategists
do not perceive this friendship to be a strong alliance. India is now a potential emerging superpower
with a great population, high contribution to the global GDP, and nuclear weapons, which could become another leading power on the international stage. Apart from increasing India’s importance in the Indo-Pacific geopolitical arena, India’s rising national strength has given rise to a so-called ‘great power complex
’, which causes India to be unwilling to be subordinate to the United States and remain a sheer regional power. Aspiring to become a major power, India may not sincerely follow the United States’ instructions to contain China as if it is a secondary power.
The stability of a United States-India friendship is further hindered by their complicated history. For a long time, the two countries have had a strained relationship
because of New Delhi’s dissatisfaction with Washington’s handling of relations with China, Russia, and Pakistan. Despite the warming of ties
in recent decades, deep structural distrust still exists, which could cause a United States-India friendship to be shaky. This provides an opportunity for China to exploit their relatively weak ties to tempt India to get closer to it instead. Given India’s critical role in the Indo-Pacific region, this move could even break Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy, so China is incentivized to improve its relations with New Delhi, which could be its potential friend in this geopolitical competition.
Accordingly, China has made efforts in alleviating its tensions with New Delhi, including on border matters, which are the main cause of their hostility. They have held multiple rounds of talks
to seek a consensus on the border issues and avoid an outbreak of war. For example, since the 2020 clash
in the Galway river valley, the two countries have held 14 rounds of military and diplomatic talks. Starting on 9 September 2022, troops from both sides have begun disengaging from the frontier in the western Himalayas
, so as to maintain “peace and tranquility in the border areas”
Nonetheless, such alleviations of tensions could only be at best temporary relief and at worst an illusion of limited success. With a soaring national strength and a rising eagerness to gain dominance in Asia, the two countries are becoming increasingly aggressive and assertive on the international stage, so as to signify their major-country status. China
is eager to project itself to be a major power, so it avoids backing down in the border dispute to show any sign of weakness. Particularly, since India is now rising as an important power in Asia, China
is determined to assert its strength to shape itself as the greatest power in the region and to check New Delhi. Similarly, with the aforementioned great power complex, India is reluctant to be seen as weak, especially in its competition with China, so its incentive to compromise is low. Both governments and their media outlets
have therefore pushed out bold statements to support their claim to the disputed territories. For instance, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning
still stressed that China refused to accept the status quo on the Sino-Indian border, which provides no room for meaningful negotiation.