The new Chinese Premier’s visit to India from 19 to 22 May 2013 was followed almost immediately by the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Japan from 27 to 30 May 2013. These two visits coming so soon one after the other, have led to a lot of comment around the world on the relations between these three most powerful Asian states.
India and China have a history of difficult political relations with each other ever since the clash over the border more than 50 years ago, in 1962. At the same time, the fact is that their economic relations have expanded enormously in the last decade. From less than US$2 billion in 2000, trade between them has increased to US$ 67 billion in 2012 and is projected to rise to $100 billion by 2015. China is India’s largest source of imports, overtaking the UK, US and other countries.
It is significant that the first overseas visit of the Chinese premier Li Keqiang, after the last Congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party elected a new leadership, was to India. He was accompanied by a huge business delegation, consisting of leading representatives of big Chinese banks and industrial corporations, both state-owned and private. They had extensive discussions in Delhi and Mumbai with leading representatives of Indian capitalist corporations. Discussions covered numerous areas of cooperation including banking, insurance, infrastructure and various sectors of industry. Chinese capitalists asked for easing of restrictions on their investments in India, arguing that this will reduce India’s dependence on foreign currency to finance its growing trade deficit with China. Since some business circles in India are wary of Chinese competition, the Chinese premier made it a point to address all three chambers of commerce in Mumbai in separate meetings.
Just before the Chinese premier’s recent visit, there was a brief standoff between Chinese and Indian forces in the border region in Ladakh, but it did not escalate into a military confrontation. There appears to be a conscious policy by the governments on both sides not to allow this to happen, even though the differences in their claims over the border remain unresolved even after numerous rounds of talks.
The relationship between India and Japan has been mainly in the economic sphere. Japan has invested massively in Indian infrastructure over the decades, and India is the largest recipient of Japanese overseas development assistance (ODA). Japanese companies also have invested in the Indian automobile and other industries. However, the political relations between India and Japan have not been very close.
The economies of China and Japan are very closely linked, with huge Japanese investments in China and a very high volume of trade between these two neighbouring countries. China is the biggest market for Japanese exports. However, in the last few years, the political relations between China and Japan have worsened, with the most recent dispute being over their claims to the Diaoyutai/Senkaku islands in the South China Sea. The importance of these islands is mainly linked to the prospects of finding oil and gas in the waters off these islands.
In the visit to Japan, it appears that the main aim of the Manmohan Singh government was to get access to Japanese capital and advanced technology for its development plans, including for the proposed Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC), the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), and the Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (CBIC). The Japanese bourgeoisie too, in conditions of prolonged economic recession at home, are looking to invest their capital in growing economies like India. The Japanese Prime Minister made references to the possibility of India becoming part of a strategic alliance along with the US, Japan and Australia. The Manmohan Singh Government gave no indication that it wants to be part of such an alliance, which is part of the US efforts to contain China. This was revealed by the absence of any mention of such an alliance in the joint statement at the end of the visit. China closely followed the PM’s visit to Japan, and the Chinese media attacked the Japanese for trying to drive a wedge between China and India.
The US controlled international media stressed the tensions and strains among the three countries, especially between India and China, and between China and Japan. The US imperialists do not want these three major powers of Asia to establish their own relationships, outside of US control. India, China, Japan and other countries are striving for greater say in international forums and institutions and are coordinating with each other about this. This is being resisted by the Anglo-American imperialists. It is in the interests of US imperialism that India and China, China and Japan, etc., should remain bogged down in tensions, particularly in those from their past histories. However, developments show that these countries are interested in expanding their economic relations with each other, and are going ahead with it.
The Indian government and state represent the Indian big bourgeoisie which wants to become stronger and expand its reach in the region and globally. To do this, the ruling bourgeoisie is prepared to deal with a variety of other countries and get what it sees as the best deal for itself, without tying its options to any one camp. While it has developed closer strategic ties with the US in the last decade, it is not prepared to follow the lead of the US in all matters. When it gets the opportunity, it also utilises contradictions among its neighbours and other countries in order to get the most favourable terms for itself. This is what the recent visits show.