IPCS Discussion

Interaction with Sichuan University's Institute of South Asian Studies

30 Aug, 2018    ·   5510

Report of the interaction with a visiting delegation from Sichuan University's Institute of South Asian Studies, held on 7 August 2018 at IPCS.

On 7 August 2018, IPCS hosted a visiting delegation from Sichuan University’s Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) for a discussion on contemporary developments in South Asia. The interaction was moderated by Amb (Retd) TCA Rangachari, Member, IPCS Governing Council, and featured the following speakers:

  1. Zeng Xiangyu | Associate Professor, ISAS, Sichuan University
  2. Liu Jiawei | Associate Professor, and Director, South Asia-West China Cooperation and Development Studies, Sichuan University
  3. Zhang Chunyan | Lecturer, College of Foreign Languages and Culture, Sichuan University

Discussion Summary

• Imran Khan’s victory in the general elections was entirely unexpected. The cricketer turned politician was viewed as an ‘isolated political figure’. The emergence of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf as the single largest party in the national assembly seemed to be a reaction against the well-rooted parties (like PPP, PML-N, etc) within the political establishment.
• Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) had been pouring in the country from China and elsewhere. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could help Khan generate substantial employment opportunities for the country's youth.
• Khan’s first public statements after declaring victory were reflective of Pakistan’s traditional policy of an all-weather friendship with China. China’s relations with Pakistan are based on mutual interest and are not relative to the prime minister or the party in power.
• Khan faces several challenges pertaining to internal security, autonomy in foreign policy, and civil-military relations. First, cabinet formation and the need to find impartial appointees instead of party loyalists might become a major obstacle for Khan. Second is how Khan navigates his relationship with the all-powerful military.
• Against this backdrop of difficult administrative, political and economic problems, Khan's temperament and staying power will be the subject of intense expectation and public scrutiny.
• China seeks peaceful relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. A military conflict between India and Pakistan could escalate into a ‘nuclear nightmare’ for the South Asian region. China is on the periphery of both countries, and has always aspired for functional relations between them.
• Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping exchanged views on key issues of bilateral and global importance in an informal setting at the Wuhan Summit in April 2018. They expounded on their respective visions for national development in the context of contemporary international relations. The two leaders underlined the importance of maintaining peace on their borders as well as of strengthening mutual trust and understanding between the two countries.
• The ‘Wuhan spirit’ is relevant for the future of Sino-Indian relations in that it resulted in increased interaction between two governments on cultural, political, economic and educational issues.
• Relations between the two countries had reached a stalemate during the Doklam standoff, and this informal summit came at a crucial time to help ease tensions.
• With general elections scheduled for 2019, the stability of the borders had become a priority for the Indian political leadership,.
• The trade war with the US and the uncertainty of US President Donald Trump’s administration has further motivated China to develop harmonious relations with its neighbours. The Wuhan Summit with India had been viewed as an endeavour to thaw relations with the country in this context.
• For China, the concept of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative is a grand vision for regional connectivity through infrastructure projects that will have global reach, and an attempt to bridge the divide between western and eastern China. The western region's economic development has lagged behind when compared to the eastern regions. Secondly, China’s economic rise has resulted in the problem of overcapacity, and it makes sense for China to invest abroad.
• For China, OBOR is a purely commercial venture without any political undertones. The Pakistan Army’s influence in the country’s political establishment is Pakistan’s domestic issue and it is against Chinese principles to interfere.
• For China, OBOR is purely an economic undertaking, and China completely disassociates itself from political involvement in the Kashmir issue.
• China’s lack of support for India’s bid for Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership is due to the concern that such support might encourage other nuclear-armed countries that are not NPT signatories, most of whom are in Asia, to also submit their applications for membership, which creates a security dilemma for China.

Rapporteured by Navreet Khullar, Research Intern, IPCS