No zero-sum games

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SummaryBoth India and China would be better off learning to cooperate while competing.

Dalai Lama at one point so as not to upset Beijing, and when the British tried to be brave about it, they were shown their place.

Given this context, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has so far been measured in his management of relations with China. He has been firm when firmness was required and accommodating when accommodation was possible. When the Chinese protested against the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the prime minister let it be known that no one can dictate to India who can travel where within the country. After the Depsang incursion, while some of his advisors advocated a cautious response, he let it be known that Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s visit would be in jeopardy if Chinese troops did not retreat to their earlier positions.

More to the point, during the past decade, India has taken steps to strengthen its defence and surveillance capability along the Himalayas. One of Manmohan Singh’s important initiatives in the Northeast was to build the trans-Arunachal highway and bolster border posts. On the other hand, he has been extremely correct and cordial in his dealings with China, and has never shied away from recognising China’s emerging regional and global role.

Over the years, Manmohan Singh has devoted considerable time to understanding China, carefully poring over internal PMO files dating back to the 1950s, reading books and taking tutorials from the likes of Lee Kuan Yew and top-class China scholars at home and abroad.

In recognition of his wise management of India’s China policy, the Chinese leadership is expected to go out of its way to welcome the prime minister on his second bilateral visit. He has been given a unique opportunity to lecture to China’s future leaders at the communist party’s school in Beijing, where many of India’s communists have also been trained in the past.

While some of Manmohan Singh’s advisors continue to seek a cautious approach, overawed by the current imbalance of power and prosperity between the two countries, the prime minister would be well advised to draw a lesson or two from his other host this week, Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

The power-prosperity imbalance between Russia and the US is even bigger than that between India and China. Yet Putin showed recently how Russia’s geo-political clout can make up for its geo-economic weakness. If US mistakes in the Middle East helped Putin raise Russia’s global profile, China’s missteps and hubris

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