Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

India’s China Policy Is Confused

By Sushant Singh

14 Jun 2022 · 8 min read

Editor's Note

On the one hand India is part of QUAD collective which is meant to contain China's power in the Indo-Pacific region, but India is also co-operating with China on multiple things.

At last month’s Quadrilateral Security Dialogue summit, the leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States unveiled a maritime information-sharing project in the Indo-Pacific region. The initiative is designed to respond to natural disasters and combat illegal fishing; it comes in part as a response to Chinese activity in the region. Days later, news broke that India had also agreed to work with China on space cooperation. Under the new plan, two Indian satellites will be part of a “virtual constellation” that allows data-sharing among the BRICS countries, which also include Brazil, Russia, and South Africa.

These two contradictory moves capture the dilemma India currently faces: It seeks to benefit from initiatives that contain China, but it is fearful of antagonizing the superpower and thus willing to work with it in certain areas. Just a month after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared at the Quad leaders’ summit in Tokyo, he will join a virtual BRICS leaders’ summit chaired by Beijing. Modi’s reticence to stand up to China, whether couched in India’s quest for multipolarity or in its desire to safeguard its sovereignty, is surprising. After all, China is India’s primary strategic challenger, with which it shares a 2,000-mile disputed border, and Beijing ultimately wants New Delhi to accept its hegemony.

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