- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

India Comes to Terms with a Rising China

Harsh V. Pant


This chapter discusses the changing trajectory of Indian policy toward China and explores how India is responding to China’s rise across a range of issue areas central to its strategic calculus.

Main Argument:

Despite the rhetoric of cooperation, distrust of China is growing in India at an alarming rate. The two sides seem locked in a classic security dilemma in which any action taken by one state is interpreted by the other as a threat to its interests. In India a consensus is evolving that China’s rise is problematic for Indian global and regional interests. There is also a growing perception that, among the major powers, China is the only one that does not accept India as a rising player that should be accommodated into the global political order.

Policy Implications:

  • Indian policy toward China is becoming tougher as New Delhi embarks on a more forceful policy of internal and external balancing in an attempt to protect the country’s core interests. New Delhi will be hard-pressed to balance its desire to deter China with its interest in avoiding an escalation of tensions.
  • India will view the U.S. as a critical balancer in the India-U.S.-China triangular relationship and will look to Washington for support as both Sino-Indian and Sino-U.S. competition enter into sharper relief in the coming years. India’s burgeoning relationship with the U.S. gives New Delhi crucial strategic room to maneuver vis-à-vis China.
  • The U.S. faces the prospect of an emerging power transition in Asia, and a robust partnership with India will be a valuable asset in stabilizing the region’s strategic landscape.