Building the bridges between India & China via BRICS


The stone pelting between Indian and Chinese soldiers at 10,000 feet high Himalayan plateau, called Doklam, ended recently. The reason definitely was not that the supply-lines on both sides ran out of stones, but because the more productive way was found to resolve the issue in the age of diplomacy.

Experts on Indo-China relationship and media are now busy in shelling the opinions to declare the winner. The real winner, indeed, is diplomacy. But that winner is short term..

There is, however, game-changing and long-term win-win opportunity for both India and China, that has been overshadowed by territorial conflicts. Yes, border-protection is important, but the development of the people of the two countries is more important.

Having disengaged from Doklam plateau, China and India should now engage in availing the huge opportunity related to sustainable development for their people and addressing the threat of climate change. Filling the gap left by developed economies in North America and Europe, due to their economic down turn, regarding development of green technology and products is the historic opportunity for China and India. Not exploiting such opportunities tantamount to denying the development of their own societies and overlooking the prospects of assuming global stewardship.

The personal chemistry between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinpingis conducive forlong term cooperation. Their visits to each other’s home states early on had set the harmonious tones. Their mutual praise in July 2017, even when the Indian and Chinese battalions were facing each other on Doklam Plateau is worth mentioning

Importantly, both countries have institutional frame work to build on and have made the smart beginning on critical issues like clean energy. BRICS- a consortium of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa represents 40 per cent of world population and 25 % of world’s GDP. BRICS is all set to seize the emerging opportunities. The foundation has also been laid for the energy related cooperation between India and China since 2016, by holding a joint dialogue between the ministries of two countries.

What are the common threats that people of India and China face which need joint approach to address them? On the top of the list are air-pollution, climate change, energy dependence, restless youth due to serious unemployment, fast urbanizing population, eroding the agricultural base and terrorism. India and China probably are capable of addressing these challenges on their own. But partnership between India and China would be essential in saving the time and cost, particularly when the time is not on our side, for example in case of climate change, and costs are prohibitive in short term.

China and India account for 60 per cent of incremental world energy demand at present. Coal-dominated and oil-dependent energy structure are the drivers of energy insecurity. Use of fossil fuel and inefficient use of bio-mass burning are responsible for air pollution that causes premature deaths of 5.5 million people in two countries together, (China’s share being 4.3 million) as per World Health Organization. Reducing carbon emissions is therefore critical, not only because of Paris Climate Agreement, to which both countries are passionately attached, despite Trump’s withdrawal, but also for the healthy and pollution-free life of their people. It is of interest to both countries to enhance energy efficiency and rapidly increase the share of renewable energy in its total energy mix and reduce the dependence on coal.

China has effectively demonstrated its extraordinary speed and scale in implementing its renewable energy target where it has met its 13th five-year plan capacity target of solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity 3 years ahead of schedule. By July 2017 China’s solar PV capacity of 112 GW as against target of 105 GW by year 2020. India is planning to reach 100 GW of target by 2022, and presently have reached about 13 GW.

On the other hand, India has an edge in energy information and management system like IOT and technology in wind energy. India also has a large energy market, from which China can benefit. China has advanced solar energy technologies and the cost of its solar energy manufacturing is low while India hasabundant solar energy resources but its solar energy manufacturing sector is still in the fledging stage.

The two countries have an opportunity to jointly invest in the solar photovoltaic industry through joint ventures, technology cooperation and development to expand their solar energy market. China has expertise in management of power grids, whereas power transmission with low loss and grid construction have always been the barriers in the development of India’s power sector. The two countries can jointly develop and invest in transmission technology.

Despite campaign like ‘Make in India’ if no Indian manufacturer is coming forward to set up solar cell and panel manufacturing, then India should not hesitate to get Chinese investment with the provison of sharing export markets, balancing the trade deficit –which is now more than USD 50 billion- and enhanced technology development and joint research. Markets in India and elsewhere are so huge that partnership between India and China is exceptionally essential.

Employment potential for renewable energy sector is very high and accelerating. Last few years the new employment in solar and wind energy was more than in fossil fuel sector, as per report from United Nations Environment. India and China are facing huge task of gainfully employing their younger generation. Renewable and clean and green energy sector provides opportunity for them.

India and China are yet to utilize the full potential of two excellent initiatives of China, fully supported by India as major shareholder. One is Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) based in Beijing. Second is New Development Bank (NDB)-based in Shanghai with capital of USD 100 billion each. India and China can leverage green financing for joint projects.

Next BRICS Summit is being held on 3-5th September in Xiamen in Fujian Province, just week after disengagement of Doklam stand-off. What more, the theme of the meeting is BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future”.

Moving away from ‘assaulting with stones’ to ‘building with BRICS’ could be the new mantra for India and China for both to win. Timing favours those who dare to act despite challenges and differences.