Triangular Diplomacy

India’s Aircraft Carriers, INS Viraat and INS Vikramaditya
India’s Aircraft Carriers, INS Viraat and INS Vikramaditya

Newly built ties between Modi and Abe have pushed China away.

By Rajendra Prabhu.

India’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, just 100 days in office, has cemented a “special relationship” with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe during a visit to Japan. The two placed emphasis on defense ties for maritime security in the Indian and Pacific oceans in order to curtail the expansionism of “certain countries”. The Beijing press reacted strongly to this snide reference to its own nation’s maritime policy.

At the same time, Modi’s Minister for Commerce, Nirmala Sitaraman, was in Beijing preparing a “good profile” for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to India. Sitaraman was declaring in Beijing that Modi and Xi “are on the same page” even as Modi and Abe were crafting what the former called a “strong and continuing” strategic relationship, including investment and technology transfers for Indian defense projects and a $34 billion five-year Japanese investment calendar in India.

Ignoring his government’s concerns over Modi’s muffled criticism of expansionism, Chinese President Xi made his official visit to the new Indian Prime Minister’s office less than two weeks after Modi’s return from Japan. In fact, he brought his visit forward by a day to be present for Modi’s birthday celebration in Ahmadabad. Analysts in India predicted that Xi would promise $100 billion in investments and infrastructure over five years in an effort to woo India with nearly three times Japan’s promised investment.

On the surface, the talks between Modi and Xi began well in Gujarat, both ignoring the fact that their armies still stand face-to-face on the northern border of India.  Xi initiated agreements about a planned industrial park in Gujarat and Pune and several other industrial projects in that state. But once both were in India’s capital, the good nature of the visit remained only on the surface. Analysts noted an excess of verbiage but little in concrete terms on the major issues that are irritants in the relationship between the two largest countries in Asia. “High on expectations, low on delivery,” stated a headline in New Delhi’s daily newspaper The Hindustan Times when Xi left India after only three days.

The joint statement made after Xi’s visit affirmed that “The two sides would continue to make joint efforts to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas”, but the sharp contrast between words of friendship and geopolitical realities was immediately evident. The Indian Army Chief …

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