Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs Salman Khurshid was welcomed in Beijing last week by Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅). Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) visited India this week.
Wang contended, diplomatically, that China and India were “strategic partners by nature.”
That came against a backdrop of years of border disputes, China’s alliance with India’s adversary, Pakistan and increasing political competition for influence throughout Asia.
At the same time, US and Australian officials privately questioned whether India was prepared to play a major role in the region or on the globe.
They said Indian politicians and bureaucrats seemed stuck in the Cold War days when India proclaimed that it was “non-aligned,” pacifist and aloof from the critical issues of the day.
Several critics pointed to a recent issue of the Economist magazine, edited in Britain, the former colonial ruler of India.
The editors wrote that “India’s politicians and bureaucrats show little interest in grand strategy.”
The magazine contended that the Indian diplomatic service was weak and officials of the Indian Ministry of Defense were unprofessional.
“Whereas China’s rise is a given, India is still widely seen as a nearly-power that cannot quite get its act together,” the magazine said.
Richard Halloran is a commentator in Hawaii.