In an interview with Time, Jonathan Holslag, author of China and India: Prospects for Peace discusses some of the existing and potential tensions conflicts that might develop between the two countries.
Holslag argues that increased competition between the nations might lead to conflict. More precisely, he suggests that as India industrializes it will challenge China’s core economic strength. The two nations will not only be competing for economic opportunities but for regional political influence. Politically unstable but resource-rich nations like Burma and Nepal might become sites of proxy wars between China and India. Mutual distrust among China and India along with unresolved conflicts about borders and territory might also jeopardize the uneasy peace between the countries.
And the role of the U.S. in the conflict? Holslag says:
Since the U.S. has prioritized stabilizing Afghanistan over everything else in Asia, it has lost a lot of credit in both Delhi and Beijing. It is increasingly reliant on China, but has also undertaken security exercises [under the Bush Administration] that tried to work together with democratic countries like Japan, India and Australia at the exclusion of China. This fed into the traditional political claustrophobia many in China have — a sense that, in the end, Asia will be a very hostile environment for their development and geopolitical rise.
At the same time, India won’t let itself be drowned in America’s orbit. It’s important for India to have its strategic independence. It has a very long and historically close relationship with Russia, which in turn is close to China. So it’s a little more complicated. I don’t think the Americans have thought very strategically about all of this.