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Meta-geopolitics of India and China By Vithiyapathy Purushothaman 

C3S Report No: 0148/2016


(This paper is a text of a presentation made by the author at One Day National Seminar “Changing Asian Landscape: Role of India and China” at Stella Maris College, Chennai held on 26 February 2016. The paper has been updated on 30 November 2016)

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China’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow, during three successive stages in 1979-1999, helped it to elevate the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The methods of reformations and initiatives by the Chinese government in these periods adopted new broader FDI policies in various fields. China stabilised its GDP growth and utilised its natural resources to modernise its region. Its political diplomacy and soft loans won the hearts and minds of many nations from Asia to Africa. This power projection gifted China with a leveraged sphere of influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The industrialisation and foreign policy initiatives of China focused its economy and boosted its GDP graph. This resulted in the higher influence of geopolitics in various fields. While India propounded its ‘Look East policy’ China focussed on the West and concentrated on foreign investments all around Asia. Beijing then further extended its focus to the African continent. Major Chinese initiatives such as ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) helped it establish stronger meta-geopolitics in Asia and beyond.

Meanwhile, Narendra Modi sought to change the phase of India’s geopolitical strategy by inviting SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) leaders to his swearing-in ceremony on 26 May 2014. The process initiated to address Chinese meta-geopolitics in the South Asian region marked the first move of his game in of grand chess played across the Asian landscape.  India’s 15th Prime Minister Narendra Modi is carrying forward the seven key dimensions of meta-geopolitics to counter the game of checks and balances in the geopolitical map of Asia. Modi’s timely major initiatives such as ‘Make in India’[i] to draw more FDI to the nation, ‘Digital India’,[ii] ‘MoUD Smart Cities’,[iii] ‘Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana’[iv] and  ‘Mudra  Bank’[v] addressed dimensions of economics, science and human capital. ‘Swachh Bharat’,[vi] ‘Clean Ganga’[vii] and ‘Green India’[viii] highlight environmental, social and health dimensions.  India’s Project Mausaum[ix] to strengthen current ties between the countries across the ocean though was a slow starter. Chabahar port connectivity, on the other hand, can be seen as a part of India’s balancing act to counter China’s meta-geopolitical moves in the Central Asian region.

Modi’s foreign policy thrust and economic cooperation agenda have effectively impacted Chinese footprints in the region over the past two and half years. Furthermore, by promoting defence exports via ‘Make in India’,[x]  an attempt has been made to balance against Chinese defence exports in the region. These initiatives will have a strong impact on exporting arms and ammunition at a low price and in assured quality over the coming decades. As a result, small nations are inclined towards defence imports from India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s power projection is taking its shape to challenge Chinese diplomacy and economic activities in Asia. In two and half years of Modi’s era, many checks and balances have been conceived to counter Chinese activity in Asia and IOR. The success of these measures can only be gauged in the coming years.

This paper will address these issues against the backdrop of China’s meta-geopolitical moves in the international arena. Furthermore, it will aim to analyse the changing meta-geopolitical strategies under Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping. This paper will seek to answer the following questions.

  1. What is India and China’s role in Asia, why it is necessary to classify Foreign Policy activities of India and China using Meta-geopolitics?

  2. What are the foreign policy activities that take place in the region? How do two and half years of India’s foreign policy team counter the Chinese foreign policy activity in the region?

  3. How do India and China move their Foreign Ministers in the Grand Asian Chess Board? What is the present need of Asia?

  4. How does the power play of two leading powers in Asia change the landscape of Asia?

  5. What are the changes that are expected in the Asian Landscape by India and China cooperating?

  6. How can India and China together shape the landscape of Asia?


In the concept of foreign policy analysis the Great Game, New Great Game and Geopolitics are employed to analyse the activities of the country. Yet the foreign policy of a nation deserves in-depth analysis with several classifications. It is here that we use the term ‘Meta-geopolitics’ which was coined by Nayef R. F. Al-Rodhan, that is viewed as a combination of traditional and new dimensions of geopolitics that presents the multi-dimensional view of power relations between the states. It is a high-breed analysis to understand foreign policy using hard and soft power tools that the state could employ or its power projection. The framework is viewed as a combination of Neo-realism and Constructivist theories. Meta-geopolitics has seven key dimensions which help to classify state power such as economics, environment, social and health issues, science and human potential, domestic politics, international diplomacy, military and security issues.  Thus it coordinates the interest-based traditional geopolitical power dynamics and value-based identity diffusion of neo-realism and constructivism respectively. By taking meta-geopolitics as a brand new binocular we could view the foreign policy activities of India and China in the Asian landscape.

India’s Foreign Policy Team

 On 26 May 2014, the Modi government formed a new foreign policy team and the game of grand chess has begun on the Asian Grand Chess Board. Covering the length and breadth of areas of interest, the foreign policy team actively travels to establish its diplomatic relationships in the region.  The activities of India foreign policy team was acknowledged worldwide as one of the most efficient foreign policy initiatives in recent times.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi achieved strong and efficient leads in international diplomacy as well as military and security issues in geopolitics with the help of his effective foreign policy team. This team is comprised of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Minister of State for External Affairs V. K. Singh, Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Mr Ajit Doval.

In image 1 we see the power parity of the Indian foreign policy team in comparison with Chess board powers. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval can be assigned as ‘Knight’, Foreign Secretary Subrahmaniyam Jaishankar as ‘Rook’, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Minister of State for External Affairs as the ‘two bishops’ of the king. Last but not the least, the most active Prime Minister of the largest democracy as a king but this king will not move in just single steps for his visits are like a whirlpool where he always marks a series of visits in a single journey.

Image 1: Power Parity of India’s Foreign Policy Team


Source: The image was designed by the author.

As ‘Image 2’ shows when the world is surrounded by ‘Made in China’ product, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes around the world to invite industries to ‘Make in India’.

Image 2: Make in India[xi]


His efforts in welcoming the international companies to ‘Make in India’ are expected to give long-term dividends. He seeks attention from leading industrialists around the world and creates a strong acknowledgement for making India a better place to produce goods. The Make in India initiative itself is grabbing a lot of attention and turning the Asian economy to focus towards the Indian subcontinent[xii]. His foreign visits across Asia are extremely remarkable and are creating the largest space for the cooperation and agreement with respect to the importance on the basis of the speciality of the respective country. The details of such visits are tabulated in table 1.

Table 1: List of Prime Ministers Narendra Modi’s Foreign Visits till November 2016[xiii]

S.NoCountry DatePurpose1Bhutan16-17, June 2014State Visit2Brazil13-16, July 2014BRICS Summit3Nepal03-04 August 2014State Visit4Japan30 August 2014

03 September 2014State Visit

State Visit5The United States26-30 September 2014State Visit and General debate of the United Nations6Seychelles10-11 March 2015State Visit7Mauritius11-13 March 2015State Visit8Sri Lanka13-14 March 2015State Visit9Singapore23 March 2015State Funeral of Lee Kuan Yew10France09-12 April 2015State Visit11Germany12-14 April 2015State Visit12Canada14-16 April 2015State Visit13China14-16 May 2015State Visit14Mongolia16-17 May 2015State Visit15South Korea18-19 May 2015State Visit16Bangladesh06-07 June 2015State Visit17Uzbekistan06 July 2015State Visit18Kazakhstan07 July 2015State Visit19Russia08-10 July 2015BRICS Summit20Turkmenistan10-11 July 2015State Visit21Kyrgyzstan12 July 2015State Visit22Tajikistan12-13 July 2015State Visit23United Arab Emirates16-17 August 2015State Visit24Ireland23 September 2015State Visit25The United States24-30 September 2015United Nations General assembly and official visit to Silicon valley 26The United Kingdom12-14 November 2015State Visit27Turkey15-16 November 2015G-20 28Malaysia21-22 November 2015ASEAN-India Summit and East Asia Summit (EAS)29Singapore23-25 November 2015State Visit30France30 November- 01 December 20152015 United Nations Climate Change Conference 31Russia23-24 December 2015State Visit32Afghanistan25 December 2015State Visit33Pakistan25 December 2015State Visit34Belgium30 March 2016First India-European Union Summit and State Visit35The United States31 March- 01 April 2016Nuclear Security Summit 36Saudi Arabia02-03 April 2016State Visit37Iran22-23 May 2016State Visit38Afghanistan04 June 2016Inauguration of Salma Dam 39Qatar04-05 June 2016State Visit40Switzerland06 June 2016State Visit41The The United States06-08 June 2016State Visit42Mexico09 June 2016State Visit43Uzbekistan23-24 June 2016SCO Summit44Mozambique07 July 2016State Visit45South Africa07-09 July 2016State Visit46Tanzania09-10 July 2016State Visit47Kenya10-11 July 2016State Visit48Mongolia14-16 July 201611th ASEM Summit 49Myanmar22 August 2016State Visit50Vietnam02-03 September 2016State Visit51China04-05 September 2016G-20 Summit 52Laos07-09 September 2016East Asia Summit53Thailand10 November 2016Working Visit (State Funeral of King Bhumibol Adulyadej)54Japan11-12 November 2016State Visit

His diplomatic one stop visit to Pakistan and inauguration of Salma Dam has attracted the most attention in the theatre of foreign policy. Efficiency with by all his visits and his marvellous speeches, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attracts the hearts and minds of the people worldwide which made him a unique representative of 1.2 billion Indians.  His foreign visits, signing agreements, diplomatic meetings, all paves way for developing nation like India to gain a stronghold in trade and economy, it is seen that the FDI floods more compared to the past. His approach to visiting a series of countries in one trip is also an attracting feature. The strategic moves that PM Modi accomplished in whirlpool visits to Central Asia proved India’s capability in gaining back the long-term relationship in the region. By building and presenting the Salma Dam, India won hearts and minds of the Afghans. It is to be noted that Afghanistan is the place where India worked hard to build the nation with several projects after it was torn by the decades of war. In Central Asia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meta-geopolitical view can be clearly seen in all seven pillars of the concept.

Focusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Indian Ocean Littoral States Visits 

After a long hiatus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Indian Ocean Littoral States. He visited Seychelles on 10-11 March 2015, During his visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned that Seychelles is his first destination in IOR because of our shared values of democracy and inclusiveness and that our security partnership is strong. He launched the coastal Surveillance Radar project as a symbol of cooperation. He further announced that India will provide one more Dornier to Seychelles. The agreement signed between India and Seychelles on hydrographic survey added a new dimension to its cooperation.[xiv]

After Seychelles, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Mauritius on 11-13 March 2015. It is to be noticed that External Affairs Minister Ms Sushma Swaraj visited Mauritius on 02 November 2015. It created a platform of understanding between India and Mauritius. Thus during PM Modi’s visit, he participated in the joint commissioning of the Indian-built offshore patrol vessel Barracuda. He offered a concessional line of credit of $500 mn for civil infrastructure projects in Mauritius. The discussion between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth focused on deepening the strategic partnership between India and Mauritius. The agreements between India and Mauritius focused on Ocean Economy.

Finally, the Indian Ocean Littoral States journey came to an end after visiting Sri Lanka on 13-14 March 2015. During the visit, the agreement between Sri Lanka and India focused on economic ties, trade and reduction of non-tariff barriers on both sides. Ocean economy is seen as a priority of both the countries. Thus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Indian Ocean Littoral States visit yields benefits in terms ocean economy and strategic relationship.

Bypassing Strategy of India

Afghanistan and Iran are the vital part of India’s investment, trade and strategic cooperation in the region. India has good relations with Central Asia. The geographic contours that separate India and Central Asia are becoming a challenge for India. ‘The Golden Gate: Chabahar’ is now seen as India’s strategic gateway to enter into the Central Asian region. Iran-Afghan road and railway connectivity plans will take India into Central Asia. Thus, in turn, it will boost trade and defence cooperation between India-Iran-Afghanistan-Central Asia and beyond. India’s investment in Afghanistan is widely seen as India’s reshaping strategy. After a long war when the United States started creating a vacuum in Afghanistan, India started rebuilding Afghanistan by reconstructing hospitals, building the parliament and Salma Dam, completed the road from Zaranj to Delaram for movement of goods to Iran border and  there are around 84 ongoing projects in solar energy, agriculture, education, health and vocational training. The balancing act of India and its major role in reshaping the war-torn nation Afghanistan helped India to consolidate strategic relations with Afghanistan.[xv]

The CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) and Gwadar have many implications on India by both economically and strategically. India’s entry through Chabahar is seen as a balancing act to meet its needs. Geo-strategically Chabahar and Gwadar both lie on the Makran Coast of the Arabian Sea and the distance between the two ports is 50 miles. China reaches the Arabian Sea through Gwadar and India utilizes Chabahar to enter Iran-Afghan-Central Asia and beyond.  Gwadar and Chabahar are both seen as the centre to China and India’s bypassing strategies. For China, Gwadar is to overcome the ‘Malacca Dilemma’ whereas for India Chabahar is to overcome the ‘Pakistan Dilemma’. Thus, when China horizontally enters into the Central Asian region, India enters vertically through Iran and Afghanistan and reaches its destination in Central Asia and beyond.

Focusing PM Narendra Modi’s Central Asia Visit from 6 July 2015 to 13 July 2015

“My visit to all five countries in the region demonstrates the importance that we attach to a new level of relationship with Central Asia. We see an important place for Central Asia in India’s future. We can reinforce each other’s economic progress,” Mr Modi said in a statement in Bishkek before heading off for talks with Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev. – Prime Minister Narendra Modi. [xvi]

By focusing on China’s western neighbours, India is moving its chess pieces very carefully to balance China’s entry in the region. China’s increasing momentum, specifically the OBOR in the Central Asian Region and its relationship in the region is changing the foreign policy landscape of Asia. India’s relation with Central Asia has always been smooth and supportive. In order to increase the momentum in relations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Central Asia. Thus, it provided a platform for increasing trade and defence relation in the region.


Substantive and constructive friendly discussions that took place between President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Mr Islam Karimov and Prime Minister of the Republic of India Mr Narendra Modi. They boosted ties in the key areas of security relations under Joint-Working group on counter-terrorism framework and cyber-security. Uzbekistan reiterated its support for India’s permanent membership in the UN Security council. Both sides agreed to further growth in bilateral trade. They intended promoting investment cooperation and creating favourable conditions for Indian Companies in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) at ‘Navoi’, ‘Angren’ and ‘Jizzakh’. Notably, the agreement was signed between Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of India on cooperation in the health sector and medical science atomic energy and trade. [xvii]


 The friendliest discussion between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev focused on joint cooperation in the fight against terrorism. At the end, five key agreements were signed to upgrade defence ties and to increase cooperation in military technology. It is to be noted, that Kazakhstan was one of the first countries to sign a civil nuclear agreement with India and contracts were signed during the meet for the Uranium supply to India.[xviii]


In Turkmenistan, Prime Minister Modi and President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov signed seven agreements to deal with terrorism, illegal drug trafficking, defence cooperation and tourism which also focused on implementation of Turkmenistan- Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline  project. [xix]


In Kyrgyzstan Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed four agreements to boost defence cooperation, hold annual joint military exercises, discussed briefly combating international terrorism and other crimes in the region.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Emomali Rahmon discussed the regional issues and involvement in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), India further showed its concern to overcome the barriers that Afghanistan faces. The relationship focused on the regional security and stability.

Thus, India’s keen efforts in increasing the cooperation with Central Asia through Iran and Afghanistan will make the region economically strong as well as increasing its potential in the security of the region. India’s efforts in Southeast Asia on the other side reached achieved fruition with regular cooperation in various fields with the long-term initiative to Act-East.

External Affairs Minister Ms Sushma Swaraj

Ms Sushma Swaraj was sworn-in as External Affairs minister on 26 May 2014. From the time she assumed office she has been setting remarkable records. ‘Image 3’ is a travel map of Ms Sushma Swaraj.

   Image 3: External Affairs Minister Ms Sushma Swaraj Travel Map of 2015-16 in Asia[xx]


The Bishop of the India’s Foreign Policy team runs diagonally across the world bringing progress to the nation.  The lists of the Visits of External Affairs Minister till June are listed in ‘table 2’.

In her visits to several states, External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj laid a carpet for Prime Minister to establish his policy and complete his agreements during his visit. She paves a masterly stance in developing good relations between India and the states that she visited till now.

Table 2 : External Affairs Ministers outgoing visits till September 2016[xxi] S. NoCountry Date1Italy02-05September 20162Russia17-19 April 2016

19-21October 20153IranApril 16-17, 20164Nepal16-17 March 2016

09 February 2016

24-27 November 2014

25-27 July 20145Sri Lanka05-06 February 2016

6-7 March 20156Bahrain23-24 January 20167Palestine17 January 20168Israel17-18 January 20169Pakistan08 December 201610Malta26-29 November 201511Maldives10-11October 201512USASeptember 2015

New York 20-22June 2015

24September -1 October 201413Germany23-25August 201514Thailand27-29 June 201515South Africa18-21 May 201516Indonesia21-24 April 201517Turkmenistan07-09April 201518Oman01-18 February 201519China01-03February 201520The Republic of Korea28-30 December 201421United Arab Emirates10-12 November 201422Mauritius and Maldives01-03 November 201423UK17 October 201424Afghanistan11 September 201425Tajikistan10 September 201426The Kingdom of Bahrain06 September 201427Singapore15-17 August 201428Vietnam24 August 201429Myanmar09 August 201430Bangladesh25-27 June 2014

From table 2 we find that out of 30 foreign country visits excluding the multiple visits to the single country, Ms Sushma Swaraj visited 19 countries in Asia under Act-East policy, Neighbourhood first policy and Fast-track diplomacy of India’s Foreign Policy[xxii]. In her visits to Asian countries, she signed several agreements and negotiated favourable outcomes in trade and commerce.  She visited Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Maldives in South Asia and Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar in Southeast Asia. She visited Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in Central Asia and also Afghanistan. In the Middle East, she visited Bahrain, Palestine, Israel, Oman, and UAE.  Her Stopovers in Europe included Italy, Malta, Germany and UK.   She also visited USA, Mauritius, China, Russia, South Africa and Korea.

As a Foreign Minister, Ms Sushma Swaraj meets the world leaders, makes speeches, signs agreements in line with the national interests of India. From her part, she immediately responds to people in need and rescued many Indians from various countries.[xxiii] Her involvement and movement in Asia indicate the foreign policy interest of India here. In her Bangladesh visit with Abdul Hassan Mahmood, Ms Sushma Swaraj briefly discussed the land border issues which created an enclave in the boundary of India and Bangladesh which later paved the way to resolve the issues. During her several visits to Nepal, she improved the relationship between the two countries and prepared the ground for Prime Minister Modi’s scheduled visit. In Myanmar, she attended the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) regional forum and EAS foreign ministers meeting which provided the outreach platform for Make in India and bring investments from the region. During her Singapore visit, the major task was to get Singapore’s investment in India for the ‘Smart City’ project.  In Vietnam, her focus was to increase the cooperation between Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) Videsh and Vietnam in offshore rigs. In Bahrain, she focused on promoting the overseas investments and facilitating a business partnership in India. In Afghanistan her interest is keenly focused on improving the strategic security cooperation between India and Afghanistan, it also included cooperation in several fields such as education, technology and culture.

In Maldives she represented India and its commitment towards stability and security of Maldives, the discussion ensured the prosperity of the nation. Her remarkable visit to the UAE and Oman increased the joint cooperation of India and UAE in many areas and enhanced their bilateral relationship and laid the foundation for Prime Minister Modi’s visit where agreements on cooperation in several fields were reached. Ms Sushma Swaraj’s maiden visit to Oman created a space for the Prime Minister consolidating the bilateral relations in the Gulf. The turnaround visit to South Korea surprised the world about India’s interest in trade and investment in the region, her top agenda focused on joint shipbuilding ventures under Make in India policy. The strategically important Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral foreign ministerial meeting in Beijing helped the three countries upgrade their relationship. This platform is a milestone in her career which brings three giants together. Her Turkmenistan visit was focused on the TAPI gas pipeline project, to resolve the issues that India faces to bring it into being. These are some of the remarkable visits and achievements of Ms Sushma Swaraj which enhanced the reputation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy team.

Image 4: India’s Operation Raahat in Yemen[xxiv]


India’s brave rescue ‘Operation Raahat’ in March-April 2015, that evacuated both Indian and foreign nationals from Yemen proved the strength of India and its reach in the region. India’s ‘Operation Maitri’ rescued Nepalese during the earthquake and India’s immediate assistance to Maldives during its water crisis, increased Asia’s trust in India.

Xi Jinping and Chinese Dream

In November 2012 at the National Museum of China, Xi Jinping said: ‘dare to dream, work assiduously to fulfil the dreams and contribute to the revitalization of the nation’. In May 2013, Xi Jinping adopted the phrase ‘Chinese dream’ as a slogan.[xxv] Chinese dream focused on national glory, socialism, collective effort and prosperity of China. The idea was repeated on several important occasions. It is generally seen as an expectation of political and economic developments, yet it is also driven to achieve sustainable development in urbanisation by promoting green technology.

China’s foreign policy team which consists of Executive Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Yesui, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Li Baodong, Wang Chao, Liu Zhenmin (Asia, treaty, law, ocean and boundary affairs), Zhang Ming, Zheng Zeguang, member of the Ministry Leadership Xie Hangsheng, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Qian Hongshan, Li Huai, Kong Xuanyou and Liu Haixing has an efficient office in influencing its foreign policy in Asia. China under Xi Jinping formed its foreign policy team in 2013 with the vision of the Chinese Dream. Its focus is further classified under its national interest.[xxvi]

The vision and activities of Xi Jinping carried the foreign policy activity to establish their linkages in the international scenario, more like India, China looks at neighbourhood first policy but in an aspect of security and attaining the interest in the region.

Rising Twin-Powers of Asia

The 21st century is said to be an Asian Century, where the twin rising powers of Asia, India and China have a unique projection of foreign policy in the Asian landscape. Their foreign policy under the classification of meta-geopolitics converges in several regions starting from the immediate neighbourhood to Indian Ocean Rivalry by mutual encirclement and agreement-oriented alliances with its neighbouring countries. The rise of the ‘twin powers of Asia’ converges in defence, diplomatic and economic development activities in the Asian Landscape.

Due to certain geographical factors, the rise of the twin powers intersects in the countries in Asia. This leads to ‘strategic-space race’ between the ‘rising twins of Asia’ in the Asian landscape from economic rivalry on one the hand and defence relations on the other. Their energy needs are high compared as a result of the massive populations of both countries and the hunt for the energy creates a thirst for long-term energy relationship in the region. The security of energy transformation leads to a unique energy security rivalry between both the powers.

China and India clashed in their geography where the needs and the requirements of energy and security are seen as mutual encirclements. Due to increasing demands, they reach out to the common neighbours in the region resulting in the clash of titans in terms of interest and influence in Asia. Both nations geographically face each other in their border issues, maritime presence and power projection in its immediate neighbours. India beyond enjoying the geographical advantage faces the border barrier that challenges it to a continued relationship in Central-Asia. This becomes a strategic advantage for China where its all-weather friendship with Pakistan provided a strategic space and geographical advantage. There was no other way. India had to bypass the barriers in order to reach the rest of Central Asia. India’s efforts in Afghanistan and its relationship with Iran resulted in collaboration in Chabahar through which it could overcome the barriers. India and China always tried to project their soft and hard power through social and economics, environment, social and health issues, science and human potential, international diplomacy, military and security issues. India lends her services to her neighbours while China reaches out to them through soft loans, both the countries assisted Asian countries when they were in need in one way or the other.

South of China and east of India, the Southeast of the world has an abundant energy and manpower both the countries are trying to tap. The most important Malacca Strait of Southeast Asia intersects the Naval interests of both the countries with the Indian Ocean to the west and the South China Sea at the east. India’s interest in the South China Sea and Chinese presence in IOR is recurred in the discussion of Asia-Pacific maritime strategy. China’s Silk Road economic belt and its 21st-century MSR connect the region strongly. On the other side, ‘Project Mausam’ and Spice trade route of India and its Chabahar port with Iran-Afghanistan road-link connectivity will help the region economically become strong and stable by eradicating the poverty and unemployment in the region. India connects to Central Asia through Chabahar port and reaches the Southeast Asia through Northeast economic corridor. The regional development in transportation and trade leads to increased economic activity resulting in transforming India into an economic hub of Asia by connecting Central, West and Southeast Asia.

Image 5: China’s Proposed New Silk Road[xxvii]


India as an economic hub will connect road and rail link from Astana to Chabahar Port. Thus, the sea trade between Chabahar and Mumbai further extends it from Mumbai to Singapore. The transport and trade through the region will bring the prosperity and stability in the region with increased economic activity in Asia. Thus India could reach Silk Road that travels through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.  With ‘Project Mausam’ and MSR India and China could bring about strong economic development in the region through which Asia’s regional trades will flourish. China reaches the Arabian Sea through Gwadar port and India reaches Central Asia through Chabahar. China’s Regional connectivity also includes Kunming-Singapore Railway and it extended to the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Analysis of Key Elements

Let’s understand the developments of India and China based on seven key dimensions of meta-geopolitics.

China soft loans are said to be expanding, through FAGIA (Foreign Aid and Government Sponsored Investment Activities). Chinese assistance program are in 93 countries. It includes 14 countries in Latin America 49 countries in Africa, 5 Middle Eastern countries, and all Central Asian and Southeast Asian countries, as well as 5 South Asian countries including India[xxviii]. The Multilateral Development Bank (MDB) initiative of China named as AIIB – Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has 57 member states. Regionally it has 37 members and 20 non-regional investors. [xxix] As of 22 September  2016, India invested $8367.3 million.[xxx]  It will also benefit India in BBIN (Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal) corridor project and India-ASEAN rail and road connectivity project. [xxxi]  Thus the operational policies of AIIB are focused on environment, social and energy strategy. The Bank also recognizes social and environment sustainability to enhance the interconnectivity in Asia.[xxxii]

The Paris Climate Agreement came into force on 04 November 2016. China ratified the agreement on 03 September 2016 and India ratified the agreement on 04 October 2016.[xxxiii] According to the report India has ratified the agreement with the declaration:

“The Government of India declares its understanding that, as per its national laws; keeping in view its development agenda, particularly the eradication of poverty and provision of basic needs for all its citizens, coupled with its commitment to following the low carbon path to progress, and on the assumption of unencumbered availability of cleaner sources of energy and technologies and financial resources from around the world; and based on a fair and ambitious assessment of global commitment to combating climate change, it is ratifying the Paris Agreement.” [xxxiv]

With regards to the Kyoto protocol, China become a signatory member on 29 May 1998, it ratified its acceptance on 30 August 2002 and the protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005 and it entered into force on 16 February 2005.[xxxv]  Thus, India and China bind to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as responsible players of the region in order to ensure environmental security. India and China are constantly looking towards green energy and driving science and technology towards alternative energy and transport systems.

The huge manpower of India is unbeatable in terms of industrial technology and management skills. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has identified skilled manpower as key to India’s development.[xxxvi] Thus the focused skill development and the human potential of India will turn it as an industrial hub of production. With regards to health issues, India has become a destination for medical tourism in the Asian region. The countries around India choose India as a hospital destination for major health care. As per the World Bank, China’s health expenditure in 1995 was 3.5% of GDP and increased to 5.5% of GDP in 2014, whereas India’s health expenditure was 4.0% of GDP in 1995 and just 4.7% of GDP in 2014.[xxxvii] India is keenly looking to Diaspora Engagement[xxxviii] through ‘Pravasi Bhartiya Kendra (Pbk)’.[xxxix] It is focusing on the over 28 million Overseas Indians spread across the world. This program is expected to develop sustainable, social, symbiotic and mutually rewarding economic and cultural engagement between India and its diaspora.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 68th Independence Day at Red Fort addressing the nation[xl] and Chinese president Xi Jinping speech on ‘China Dream’ at Museum paved an agenda for India and China respectively. The Anti-corruption campaign of Xi Jinping and Anti-corruption steps of PM Narendra Modi was welcomed widely in both the countries.

India’s Transformational Diplomacy is boosting its global image through diplomatic outreaches. It is carrying out a 3C Mantra (Commerce, culture and connectivity). The Colombo-Jaffna rail connectivity project is a one example. India immediately responded to the water crisis of Maldives by delivering waters through ships and aircraft in a well-executed operation named Operation Neer. India was the first country to undertake relief and rescue operation in Nepal. India’s ‘Look East Policy’ was transformed to an ‘Act East Policy’. India’s ‘Neighbourhood first Policy’ gained momentum with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visits to Dhaka, Kathmandu, Kabul, Male and Colombo. As a result, India pledged Rs. 45 billion to Bhutan under the 11th five year plan and exempted the ban on exports of milk-powder, wheat, edible oil, pulses and non-basmati-rice.  India pledged to provide assistance of Rs. 463.3 Crore for double-laning of Northern East-West Lateral Highway. Foundation stone was laid for the joint venture of 600 MW hydro-electric power project at Kholongchu additionally India pledged to provide Rs. 33.7 Crore for Bhutan’s first Power Training Institute. The Nehru-Wangchuk as well as Ambassador’s scholarship for Bhutanese students in India was increased to Rs. 2 Crore each. India further extended its assistance to build a library in Bhutan.[xli]

The two landmark trips of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal helped in fast-tracking the 5600MW Pancheshwar multipurpose project led to the signing of the 900 MW Arun III and upper Karnali Projects. According to the motor vehicle agreement, bus services were initiated in three routes between Kathmandu-New Delhi, Pokhara-New Delhi and Kathmandu-Varanasi. Notably, PM Modi also handed over a Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Mark III to the Nepal Army.[xlii] The relationship with Nepal is seen strategically by both India and China. Interestingly, during BRICS Summit in Goa, a trilateral meeting took place between Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Prachanda and President Xi Jinping. Prime Minister Prachanda mentioned that ‘Nepal is located between two giant powers of Asia — India and China — a prosperous Nepal is possible with their help and cooperation’. [xliii]

India’s Act East-intertwined dream is establishing cooperation is various fields ranging from education, industries, culture and security. India’s increasing security engagement of with Australia,[xliv] Myanmar,[xlv] Vietnam,[xlvi] Korea,[xlvii] Singapore,[xlviii] and Mongolia[xlix] is becoming a concern for China.  China and India engage in most of the Asian countries based on their national interest whereas it is seen as an encirclement too considering the possibilities. China’s engagement in the Africa is based on natural and energy resources it needs from the region.[l] Due to which China is concerned about the Sea-Lines of Communication (SLOC) in IOR. India’s engagement in its neighbouring country and China’s engagement in the South Asia can be mutually beneficial to each other. The economic and security developments in India and China in the region are active and both move their pawns on basis of their own national interest. The seven key elements of meta-geopolitics are seen in both India and China’s foreign policy engagements.


India and China :  Collective Responsibility in Asia

“Experience leads me to believe that our two nations do have the capability to significantly enhance our convergences-and move forward. A rising India and rising China must expand their shared interests – not only because it is good for them (but also for the good of the world). If the 2.5 billion people of India and China come together and walk together, it will be a great event”   

– President Pranab Mukherjee[li]

“Today, we speak of Asia’s resurgence. It is the result of the rise of many powers in the region at the same time. It is an Asia of great promise, but also many uncertainties. Asia’s re- emergence is leading to a multi-polar world that we both welcome. But, it is also an unpredictable and complex environment of shifting equations. We can be more certain of a peaceful and stable future for Asia if India and China cooperate closely.”

 – Prime Minister Narendra Modi[lii]

Using the seven pillars of meta-geopolitics we can understand the foreign policy activities of India and China. It clearly proves the movements of India and China in the Asian landscape with an agenda to fulfil national interests by gaining importance in the region, for acquiring energy and strengthening security activities.  Further, it enhances the social, cultural, health, economics, environment, science and human potential.   When rising twins (India and China) of Asia, come together with their trade and economy, they could emerge as helping hands of Asia, by developing the region and eradicating poverty and unemployment. When the Central Asia and Southeast Asia is engaged more in the economic activities by means of transportation and bilateral trade with ensured security, both the countries could shape Asia and then we could call the 21st century a truly Asian Century.


[i] Make In India. Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[ii] Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[iii]  Smart Cities Mission, Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[iv]    Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[v]    Mudra – Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency Ltd. Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[vi]  Swachh Bharat Urban, Ministry of Urban Development Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[vii]  National Mission for Clean Ganga  Retrieved on 21 November 2016from

[viii]  National Mission for a Green India, Retrieved on 21 November 2016from

[ix]  Project ‘Mausam’- Mausam/ Mawsim: Maritime Routes and Cultural Landscapes Development Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[x]   Make in India.  Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[xi] Cartoon: A Congress-mukt bharat finally. Retrieved on 23 November 2016 from

[xii]   Make In India: With investments pouring in, India logs into hi-tech manufacturing . Retrieved on 23 November 2016 from

[xiii]  Ministry of External Affairs. Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[xiv]  Prime Minister’s media statement during his visit to Seychelles (11 March 2015)  Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[xv]   India Befriends Afghanistan, Irking Pakistan. Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[xvi] Modi in unprecedented grand tour of Central Asia. Retrieved on 06 June 2016 from

[xvii]  Joint Statement between Uzbekistan and India during the Prime Minister’s visit to Uzbekistan. Retrieved on 05 June 2016 from

[xviii]  PM Modi’s visit to Central Asia: India and Kazakhstan ink deals on uranium supply, defence. Retrieved on 05 June 2016 from

[xix]  India,Turkmenistan ink 7 pacts; agree to combat terrorism together. Retrieved on 05 June 2016 from

[xx]  Travel Page of External Affairs Minister. Retrieved on 06 June 2016  from

[xxi]   Ministry of External Affairs. Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[xxii]  Ibid.

[xxiii]  10 Times Sushma Swaraj Came To The Rescue & Proved She Is The Kind Of Neta India Needs. Retrieved on 06 June 2016 from

[xxiv] Yemen rescue operation: Centre sending V.K. Singh to Djibouti.  Retrieved on 06  June 2016 from

[xxv]    Full text from President Xi Jinping’s speech. Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[xxvi]   Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. Retrieved on November 21, 2016 from

[xxvii] ‘China’s One Belt One Road Initiative’: Analysis from an Indian Perspective.  Retrieved on 06 June 2016 from

[xxviii]     China’s Foreign Aid and Government-Sponsored Investment Activities.  Retrieved on 06 June 2016 from

[xxix]  Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Retrieved on 23 November 2016 from

[xxx] Members of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.  Retrieved on 23 November 2016 from

[xxxi]  China-led AIIB eyes first loans to India. Retrieved on 24 November 2016 from and Advantage at the Bank. Retrieved on 24 November 2016 from

[xxxii]  Environmental and Sustainability Framework. Retrieved on 24 November 2016 from

[xxxiii] List of Parties that signed the Paris Agreement on 22 April.   Retrieved on 23 November 2016 from

[xxxiv]  Paris Agreement – Status of Ratification. Retrieved on 23 November 2016 from

[xxxv]  Kyoto Protocol.  Retrieved on 23 November 2016 from

[xxxvi] Skilled manpower key to India’s development, says Modi. Retrieved on 23 November 2016 from

[xxxvii]  The World Bank. Retrieved on 23 November 2016 from

[xxxviii]  Ministry of External Affairs. Retrieved on 23 November 2016 from

[xxxix]   Pravasi Bhartiya Kendra (Pbk).  Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[xl] Full Text: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on 68th Independence Day. Retrieved on 23 November 2016 from

[xli]   Transformational Diplomacy: New Milestones, New Horizons  Retrieved on 23 November  2016 from

[xlii] Outcomes during the visit of Prime Minister to Nepal. Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[xliii]  BRICS summit: Prachanda, PM Modi, Xi Jinping hold trilateral meeting in Goa. Retrieved on 06 June 2016 from

[xliv]   With China On Mind, India, Australia Deepen Security Ties. Retrieved on 06 June 2016 from

[xlv]  India, Myanmar to enhance security, trade ties. Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[xlvi]  India and Vietnam Boost Military, Commercial Ties. Retrieved on 06 June 2016 from

[xlvii] India-RoK Defence Relations. Retrieved on 06 June 2016 from

[xlviii] 10 Pacts Signed as India, Singapore Elevate Ties to Strategic Partnership. Retrieved on 06 June  2016 from

[xlix]  India grants $1 bn credit to Mongolia; deepens defence ties.  Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[l]  The New China-Africa Relations: 4 Trends to Watch. Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[li] Talk by Indian President at southern port city of Guangzhou on 25 May 2016. India, China Must Expand Shared Interests: President Pranab Mukherjee. Retrieved on 21 November 2016 from

[lii]  Prime Minister Modi at Tsinghua University, Beijing on 15 May 2015. Read full text: PM Modi’s speech at Tsinghua University, Beijing. Retrieved on 23 November 2016 from

About the Author

Vithiyapathy Purushothaman is a Research Officer at the Chennai Centre for China Studies and is associated with Center for Asia Studies . He has studied engineering in Computer Science. He pursued his M.A in Defence and Strategic Studies and M. Phil in Centre for South and Southeast Asia Studies from the University of Madras. He recently published his book on “India’s Strategic Guardian of the Sky: IRNSS”. He can be reached at Twitter: @Vithiyapathy.

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