The border at the margin
It is widely expected that India and China will arrive at some kind of de facto settlement over a decades-old border dispute during the Chinese prime minister’s visit to India next week. Yet, apart from those with a keen interest in such matters, the border dispute is of marginal interest to the nation at large.
To a large degree, fear of cheap Chinese goods has also passed, so it is business and trade issues that capture popular imagination in India. Whether China will close the IT gap and catch up with India on IT-enabled services? Should India should sign a free-trade agreement with China? Can the two countries cooperate to boost their agriculture sector? Being large consumers of oil, should the two countries form a buyer’s bloc?
With China people-to-people contracts have proven to be the best confidence-building measure. Strategic concerns remain — as they will be — but the Ordinary Joginder does not quite see China as a dangerous enemy across the border. Putting the border dispute on the back burner was the best thing that happened to India-China relations. That suggests that India take the same approach with Pakistan. That would also mean asking Musharraf to shut up about Kashmir.