China and India may have ended a tense border standoff for now, but their longstanding rivalry raises questions about the possibility of meaningful cooperation at an upcoming summit of major emerging economies.
The annual summit of the BRICS grouping encompassing Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa gets under way this weekend in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen, hoping to advance its vision of an alternative to the Western dominance of global affairs.
The leaders of all five nations are expected to attend, offering the best opportunity for Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to talk since the border tensions flared in June. While both their countries view BRICS as a significant forum for progress, their rivalry for global influence and fears of containment by the other threaten to overshadow those aspirations.
The two countries’ militaries are “prowling the same spaces” along their land borders, in the Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean, said Sreeram Chaulia, dean of Jindal School of International Affairs in the Indian city of Sonipat. Even beyond the region, they are vying in Africa and Latin America “for the leadership of the developing world,” Chaulia said.
“There is a contest, whether it is acknowledged or not, and it is because of the ambitions of both nations to be superpowers and to be inheriting the Asian century,” Chaulia said.
Attempting to start the BRICS summit off on a positive note, Beijing and Delhi on Monday announced a resolution of their most protracted and potentially explosive border standoff in years. The saber-rattling had raised fears of renewed conflict between the nuclear-armed Asian giants, who fought a bloody border war in 1962 and remain locked in disputes over extensive chunks of territory along their border.
Yet, while India’s Ministry of External Affairs said that troops were leaving the face-off site, China’s official response avoided any mention of Chinese concessions…