Business-minded and nationalistic Narendra Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, could unlock new trade opportunities between India and China but his perceived hawkish stance on festering disputes could give bilateral ties a hard edge if he comes to power, India-watchers here feel.
Fireworks light up the skyline of Beijing as residents celebrate the start of the Chinese New Year. (Reuters)
Chinese academics and diplomats are keenly following the general elections in the world's largest democracy. Sharp focus is trained on Modi whose controversial 2002 Gujarat riots history is not unknown here, but China's diplomatic pragmatism is likely to take care of any unease in dealing with him if it comes to that.
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"Unlike some western countries, China doesn't feel uncomfortable with any Indian parties or candidates. When he first became chief minister in Gujarat (in February 2001) and promoted cooperation between China and Gujarat, he had been studied by Chinese scholars," said Lan Jianxue of the China Institute of International Studies.
"A large amount of Chinese investment has been putting in Gujarat. Some believe he is very pragmatic and has some 'Chinese way.' In 2011, he was invited to visit China. The visit was very successful and good to build some personal linkage and working-relationship," said Lan.
Mao Siwei, a former consul general of China in Kolkata, had a similar view of Modi's business policies. "There is a saying in India that Gujarat is India's Guangdong. This reflects a trend that Indians are recognising the importance of manufacturing to the economy. Just in this area, China has a lot of experience and lessons the Indians can learn from, and there are huge business opportunities available for the two sides," said Mao.
"If Mr Narendra Modi becomes the next prime minister of India, I believe the Chinese government would say that 'we respect the decision made by the Indian people'."
Lan said China will keep a watch on whether the new administration--if it comes to power--adopts the strategy of 'Shakti' (power) above 'Shanti' (peace).
"If the new administration adopts a strategy putting 'Shakti' above 'Shanti', and becomes hostile and hawkish to India's neighbors there would be a different scenario which will hurt India's national interests. If you become tougher you will also make others tougher," said Lan.
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Broadly, however, experts here do not feel that there would be any dramatic change in the tone of bilateral relation if a new government comes to power in New Delhi.
"No matter which party comes to power, the current momentum of Sino-India relations will be maintained," said Ma Jiali of the Centre for Strategic Studies.