Could China’s rumored visit to India tip the balance of power?

Foreign Affairs

A potential high-level diplomatic meeting between China and India on Friday would come at a critical time, as global political positions continue to recalibrate in reaction to the Russo-Ukrainian War.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi on May 24, 2020. Xinhua/Chen Yehua

China’s foreign minister, Wáng Yì 王毅, will make an unplanned stop for talks in New Delhi on Friday, an unnamed Indian official said, in what would be the highest-level meeting of Chinese and Indian officials since the two countries’ deadly border clashes in the Galwan Valley two years ago, though both foreign ministries have yet to confirm the report.

  • Indian and Chinese military commanders met earlier on March 11 for talks on the disengagement of troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, per the Diplomat.
  • Bilateral tensions have remained high in recent months, with Indian domestic politics flaring up over the border issue in January, India making a last-minute decision to join the U.S. and other countries in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics, and Indian tax authorities launching investigations into multiple Chinese companies.

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Beijing’s proposal to meet with its southern neighbor is stirring up anxieties for Washington, amid a widening gap with New Delhi over the Russo-Ukrainian War and security fears of losing its key ally in the “Quad,” a bloc that China has deemed a “mini NATO.”

  • India has repeatedly deviated from fellow members of the Quad — Japan, Australia, and the U.S. — by refusing to denounce Russia, a component that was noticeably absent from a joint statement released by the group in the wake of Putin’s invasion.
  • Around 85% of India’s military equipment either comes from Russia or originated from the Soviet Union, per research by the Stimson Center, and those technologies are crucial in helping India manage its biggest worry: a standoff with China.
  • In March, India imported 360,000 barrels a day of oil from Russia, nearly four times the 2021 average, and has hit back at U.S. criticisms, saying that “oil self-sufficiency or those importing themselves from Russia cannot credibly advocate restrictive trading.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has ignited a flurry of activity in the Global South and among BRICS members (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), as the global balance of power recalibrates:

  • BRICS ambassadors met in Moscow and “enthusiastically exchanged views on developing and strengthening their strategic partnership,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter yesterday. BRICS has previously shown support for Russia over Crimea.
  • As Cobus van Staden of the China-Africa Project wrote on SupChina yesterday, a recent call between Chinese President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was just one part of an important diplomatic blitz from Beijing.
  • Saudi Arabia has reportedly invited Xi to visit, as the kingdom looks to deepen ties with Beijing amid strained relations with Washington, per the Wall Street Journal.

Nadya Yeh