Beijing on Tuesday mooted a “China-India Plus” model of cooperation in Africa and beyond as the leaders of both the Asian countries were poised to attend the 10th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg from July 25 to 27. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are also expected to hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the summit.
“We hope that the two sides will follow through on the consensus between the two cgtleaders to vigorously explore ‘China-India Plus one’ or ‘China-India Plus X’ cooperation to achieve mutual benefits and win-win outcomes between China and India and other countries, and jointly make contributions to promoting regional and world peace, stability, development and prosperity,” China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang said, answering a question from CCTV on the simultaneous Rwanda visits of Modi and Xi.
President Xi was in Rwanda on Sunday where he signed a series of agreements including a 126-million-U.S.-dollar loan plan for building two roads as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). A day later, Prime Minister Modi visited the impoverished African nation and pledged 200 million U.S. dollars in loans.
“With China, we signed a loan agreement of 76 million U.S. dollars for a road from Huye to Kibeho, and 50 million U.S. dollars for the new Bugesera airport access road,” Reuters news agency quoted Rwanda’s Finance Minister Uzziel Ndagijimana as saying. “With India, we signed a loan of 100 million U.S. dollars for irrigation in three separate areas in the country and 100 million U.S. dollars for developing special economic zones,” he added.
While the simultaneous visit to the African nation by Xi and Modi prompted some analysts to speculate if China and India are competing for space in the continent, the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday put to rest such conjecture by stressing that Beijing and New Delhi are “like-minded partners” in Africa’s growth trajectory.
"China and India, the world's two largest developing countries and emerging-market countries, want to help Africa accelerate its industrialization process within the framework of South-South cooperation to achieve self-development, and deepen across-the-board cooperation with all African countries for mutual benefits and win-win results. In this regard, China and India are like-minded partners," Geng said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman also underlined that Xi’s meeting with Modi in Johannesburg will be the third between both the leaders within a period of three months, which “fully demonstrates that the relationship between China and India has a strong development momentum.”
Modi and Xi held an informal meeting in Wuhan on April 27-28 and then met on June 9 in Qingdao on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit.
As per “China-India Plus One” vision, both the countries agreed to cooperate in joint economic projects in Afghanistan after the Xi-Modi Wuhan meeting.
Experts welcome collaborative approach
Analysts from both the countries feel that the “China-India Plus” cooperation could be a plausible extension of the collaborative approach both nations have adopted through their bilateral and multilateral engagements through platforms such as the BRICS and the SCO.
“Given that the world is beset with political, security and economic challenges, forums like BRICS and SCO could help in bringing China and India – two of major and fastest growing economic powers in the world – together with other like-minded countries in coordinating measures to resolve the issues confronting the world,” B.B.L Madhukar, director general of the New Delhi-based BRICS Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BRICS CCI) told CGTN Digital.
“Both BRICS and SCO give India a great platform to work more closely with China and cope with the new strategic warmth between Russia and China,” he added.
Speaking to CGTN Digital a few weeks earlier, Chinese law professor Zhang Wenjuan, head of the Center for India-China Studies at India’s O. P. Jindal Global University, echoed similar sentiments about the usefulness of multilateral forums.
“These formal structures like the BRICS and SCO are very good platforms for India and China to interact with each other. These formal mechanisms will always bring them together, even if there remain some disagreements on the bilateral front,” she said citing the 73-day Donglang border standoff last summer which ended in time for Modi to attend the 9th BRICS Summit in Xiamen.
Advocating the creation of more such channels – both formal and informal – of interaction between the Asian neighbors, Zhang said: “I think the civil society-based institutions and universities should play a more important role to promote people-to-people contact.”
The Chinese legal luminary has focused her current research on comparative constitutional studies in India and China and felt that both nations can learn and gain from the practices and experiences of each other.
“China and India are the only two countries with over one billion population. Population means a lot. It has a big impact on both the governments and development. But the comparative studies of these two countries are very limited, especially from the perspective of law and governance,” Zhang added.
“China and India are the few two countries that put socialism into the preamble of their constitutions, but in fact, they pursue a different philosophy of socialism. China focused on Marxism-Leninism and India followed Fabianism, that’s the democratic socialism,” she observed.
Zhang felt that “during the critical stage of modernization” in the 19th and 20th centuries, China and India “closed the door of understanding each other” and therefore both the countries “need to catch up” as “historical knowledge is very limited.”
The ongoing BRICS Summit and the Xi-Modi meeting in Johannesburg are likely to elucidate further on the “China-India Plus” cooperation and how it plays out in Africa and beyond.