Xiamen declaration paves way for future military-intel cooperation

By Sumantra Maitra
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, September 8, 2017
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The Donglang (Doklam) standoff which went on for over three months on the Sino-Indian border, seems now to be a shadow of the past, with Chinese President Xi and Indian PM Modi trying to move forward during the recent BRICS summit.

This was supposed to be the meeting everyone in South Asia was eager for. The five BRICS countries met amidst a time of Asian crises, including brinkmanship and potential miscalculation and conflict in North Korea. There is also a military operation currently underway, in Myanmar, which borders both China and India. Naturally, in this strained time, it was imperative that the two economic giants move beyond their recent territorial spat.

Accordingly, China gestured that the Chinese side wants to put their relationship with India on the “right track,” as President Xi told PM Modi the need for the two countries to mend the ties which were recently damaged by the unforeseen standoff.

Their meeting was the first since the two neighbors ended their standoff peacefully, after what arguably was the most serious dispute in generations. The fundamental stress was de-escalation, which was immediately prior to the BRICS summit.

Xi further stressed that while there might be differences, the commonalities and the joint challenges faced by both countries far outweigh any differences between the two. “China is willing to work with India ... to increase political trust, advance mutually beneficial cooperation and promote the further development of China-India relations along the correct path,” Xi was quoted in Reuters.

The Indian side accordingly responded positively. The Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said that differences need not become disputes. India and China fundamentally agreed to have constructive discussions, which will be forward looking, and contain closer communication between defense and security personnel so that there is less chance of a repeat of the incidents of the past, which is essentially a diplomatic way of referring to the border standoff.

The Indian prime minister also said that he was pleased to exchange perspectives with the Chinese side on the shared priority of achieving comprehensive sustainable development. He also thanked President Xi Jinping for hosting the countries together.

This is a good development. This is what is known as “relative gains” in international relations. Great powers, which are led by rational, civilian leadership, do not seek to go for absolute gains. Yes, wars do happen, but most of the time the cause is usually miscommunication and miscalculation.

Ultimately, two rational countries aspire to survive in the international system. Both India and China are rational actors here, and none of these countries want war, for different reasons. China being the bigger power, doesn’t want to jeopardize the growth and peaceful rise story, and India, being the relatively smaller military power, simply doesn’t want to lose a conflict. Thankfully both the countries understand that.

In a further development, which shows how much both India and China wants to move forward, with regards to the stability situation in South Asia, five members of the BRICS came up with a joint statement, known as the Xiamen statement, condemning Islamist terrorism and terrorist groups in South Asia.

In what is being considered as an olive branch to India, a declaration of around 7.5K words was drafted, which expressed concern about groups like the Taliban, ISIS, al- Qaida and its affiliates, including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (based in Xinjiang), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Hizb ut-Tahrir.

This is a massive and frankly unprecedented development, and the first time a majority of those groups were named in a shared document. It also underscores that regardless of how many points of contention and dispute there is between India and China, both the countries understand that neither is willing to go to war with each other.

The problem of Islamist terrorism, on the other hand, is more immediate for both countries, as for China it needs to save its economic investments from Islamists, and for India, it needs to save civilians from attacks.

This is a good start. One can only hope that the confidence building measures that started from this summit and joint declaration will continue with regards to the further challenges that lie ahead. After all, with the threat of Islamism spreading from Bangladesh to Myanmar, to Philippines, there will be times in the future, where there will be a need for immediate joint military and intelligence coordination between India and China.

Sumantra Maitra is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:


Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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