China woos India as both face Western ire over Ukraine

NEW DELHI — As the war in Ukraine enters its second month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi struck a conciliatory note on Friday toward longtime rival India and urged the two Asian giants to speak “with one voice” in his first visit to New Delhi since a tense border standoff began two years ago.

But his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, downplayed the prospects for an immediate rapprochement with China and said the border talks were “works in progress.” Relations could not return to normal so long as the territorial disputes remained unresolved, Jaishankar told reporters on Friday after a three-hour meeting with Wang.

Wang made the visit to China at an extremely sensitive time. China has been under pressure from Western countries and could face sanctions over its support for an increasingly isolated Russia. India, meanwhile, has also drawn criticism from Western capitals over its continued refusal to condemn Russia or cut off its purchases of Russian arms and oil, despite India’s growing role as a partner to Washington.

During Friday’s meeting with Ajit Doval, Indian national security advisor, Wang referred to China and India both as Asian power that must stand together. According to Chinese Foreign Ministry readout, Wang said that both countries seek national revitalizion, but shouldn’t pose any threat to each other.

“China does not pursue the so-called ‘unipolar Asia’ and respects India’s traditional role in the region,” Wang told Doval, according to the Chinese statement. The whole world would listen if China and India spoke together. If China and India joined hands, the whole world will pay attention.”

Wang’s entreaties marked a striking reversal after two years of tough talk and recriminations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors that fought a war in 1962. Troops from both sides died in skirmishes in 2020, and both militaries have ramped up troops, weapons deployments and infrastructure in the sensitive region.

During the run-up to the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, China designated a soldier involved in the June 2020 clash with Indian troops to be a torchbearer, infuriating Indian officials. China’s state media has often criticized India and downplayed its power.

But as the Ukraine war erupted and India kept its distance from the Western bloc’s criticism of Russia, China has softened its rhetoric toward its neighbor.

Tanvi madan, the director of The India Project, Brookings Institution said that China appeared to have three goals based on the time of its visit.

“China may be looking to make some diplomatic room for itself. It is under pressure over its Ukraine position. One way to ease tensions with India would be one.

China seemed also to want to make space for Russia. Madan stated that third was to cause friction between India’s partners and the West.

Western officials fear that India is being pulled away from the Quadrilateral security Dialogue. This Indo-Pacific alliance includes Australia, Japan, and the United States. Over the last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia spoke with Narendra Modi to renew their commitment to India. On Monday, Victoria Nuland, Undersecretary to State of India visited New Delhi.

Speaking to Indian media this week, Nuland urged India to stand on the side of democratic countries. The Indian Express quoted Nuland as saying that the “tightening alliance” between China, Russia and India “isn’t good for us” and “isn’t good for India.” “As the autocracies tighten their relationship … it is very important for the democracies to stand together.”

Jaishankar, the Indian foreign minister, told reporters Friday that he and Wang had shared their views about the Ukraine conflict but did not provide details. Jaishankar stated that both India and China had agreed to the need for an immediate ceasefire and return of dialogue. Jaishankar stated that

Wang didn’t press India about its participation in the Quad.

In recent weeks, as India came under criticism for buying discounted oil from Russia, Indian officials have expressed irritation at what some have called Western hypocrisy. Jaishankar, who appeared before the Indian parliament on Thursday, stated that he agree with the assertion that the West is playing “double games” by lecturing India regarding its relations with Russia. This even as NATO members still continue to purchase Russian energy.

Victor Gao is a former Chinese Foreign Ministry official and vice-president of the Center for China and Globalization. He stated that India held “similar” and even identical views on the Ukraine conflict with China and shouldn’t bow to the West.

China and Russia “refuse condemn Russia for so-called invading, they refuse to participate in sanctions against Russia and walk a very tightrope between Russia and Ukraine,” Gao said. “I don’t think it is responsible for countries like the United States, or Western countries as a whole, to try to lecture countries like China or India, or try to impose their sanctions onto China or India, and to force them to follow the line of Washington.”

In New Delhi, the response to talk of a China-India thaw was more circumspect.

C. Raja Mohan, a senior fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said although India and China both shared complex ties with Russia, “any suggestion that India is going to be bending over backward to be nice to Chinese because there is a Russian problem is, I think, somewhat preposterous.”

The two governments needed to resolve their border dispute first, he said, before India would countenance a rapprochement.

“Whatever the Chinese have said in public,” he said, “there is no evidence that they were ready to really sort all the problems.”

Dou reported from Shanghai. Vic Chiang, Taipei (Taiwan), contributed reporting.


An earlier version of this article said India and China fought three wars. They fought only one war. This version has been correct

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