China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Friday that Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited India. Indian media reported that Wang met with Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. This is the highest-level visit by a Chinese official to India in two years after the outbreak of the border conflict. It is generally noticed that the visit took place against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Some believe a subtle turning point has emerged in the bilateral relationship. They even speculate it may lead to an ice-breaking period.
Both China and India kept a low profile on the visit beforehand. Some in the outside world thus made guesses: Were there uncertainties about the tour? Yet this illustrates both sides' pragmatic attitude to seek expanding their consensus amid specific divergences. India stated the meeting between the two foreign ministers lasted about three hours and both addressed a broad substantive agenda in an open and candid manner. Both sides recognize the need to maintain high-level communication.
China-India relations have encountered obvious setbacks in recent years and have been hovering at a low level for quite some time. One of the major reasons is that certain specific disputes between the two have given Washington an opportunity to sow discord. Under the clamor and wooing by American and Western officials, politicians, and public opinion organizations, tough views toward China were encouraged in India, forming pressure toward policymakers.
On the one hand, many Chinese people are also dissatisfied with India's participation in QUAD, as well as India's active interaction with the US, especially the strengthening of military ties. They believe that India is helping the US to contain China.
In this context, China has maintained a highly responsible attitude, sticking to the strategic consensus - "the two countries are not threats to each other but opportunities for each other's development." Yet India has left an impression of often being hesitant. Nevertheless, what happened in Ukraine recently has offered the international community, especially non-Western countries, a new inspiration, and unveiled the biggest consensus in China-India ties more clearly. This provides an opportunity for China-India ties to warm up.
This conflict has made Indian society feel Washington's domineering manner. Washington has multiple times accused and threatened to sanction New Delhi because India did not follow the US in condemning and sanctioning Russia. The US even blatantly warned India not to import Russian oil. The coercion toward India, a major emerging power, is a huge offense to India's principle of independent diplomacy.
Indian netizens once pushed the topic of "I support Putin" to Twitter's hot list. This is Indian society's natural resistance to Washington's hegemonic approaches.
The Ukraine crisis is a mirror. It should be learnt that geopolitical disputes with complex historical backgrounds, being filled with a confrontational posture, could slide toward an irreversible tragic situation once forces from a third party aggressively intervene.
Rational thinking has frequently emerged in Indian society lately. The Tribune India recently published an article entitled, "Time for India, China to mend their ties," saying the bilateral relationship "cannot be reduced to, or held hostage by, a single LAC episode" and the two countries "must not lose sight of the big picture." Indian policymakers should take the views into consideration seriously. Both China and India are developing countries with large populations, and both are taking economic development and improvement of people's living standards as tasks. Neither of them would take "fighting" neighbors as a hobby. Both are independent emerging powers with broad common interests, which makes it more necessary for the two to have a vision that goes beyond specific frictions. This is particularly important in the current international situation.
During his visit on Friday, Wang emphasized that China and India should stick to their own development paths. He also proposed a three-point approach: viewing bilateral relations with a long-term vision; seeing each other's development with a win-win mentality; taking part in the multilateral process with a cooperative posture. This not only shows China's broad mind as a major power, but also is a kind reminder to India.
Of course, it is unrealistic to expect that all China-India divergences could be bridged anytime soon. However, China and India can totally expand mutually beneficial cooperation in international affairs, restore the foundation of mutual trust, and create more conditions to further manage bilateral differences. China has fully signaled goodwill in this regard. It is hoped that India will take this goodwill seriously and meet China halfway, so that China and India can become partners for mutual success instead of adversaries of mutual attrition.
When it comes to major goals involving common interests, China and India should keep standing together.