Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to India this week highlights subtle shifts in the regional power dynamic that are bringing warmer ties between the two Asian giants, challenging China’s traditional relationship with Pakistan, and opening a new chapter in Beijing’s ongoing competition for influence with arch-rival Japan.
Xi is due in New Delhi on Wednesday for a three-day visit focused on trade, investment and the resolution of decades-old border disputes. With the world’s second-largest economy and a proven track record at building highways, railways, and industrial zones, China has much to offer India as it seeks to upgrade its creaky infrastructure.
The visit is the latest sign of easing suspicions between the two huge countries — which between them have 2.6 billion people — dating from a month-long border war in 1962 that left around 2,000 soldiers dead. That conflict ended in a standoff with both sides accusing the other of occupying its territory.
Xi’s visit “will definitely enhance the bilateral political mutual trust,” Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao told reporters in Beijing last week.
While ties have been steadily growing for years, they’ve been given a major boost under new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who’s signaled he wishes to pursue a more vigorous foreign policy. Xi is the first Chinese head of state to visit in eight years, while the country’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, made India his first overseas visit shortly after taking office last year.
“Good relations with India are a key part of China’s regional strategy and Xi’s visit creates the opportunity for direct face-to-face communication on the problems that still exist, such as the border issue,” said Zhao Gancheng, Director of the Asia-Pacific Center of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.