New Delhi will be keeping a close watch on the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China that will conclude on 24 October.
Indian interest is on the fate of Mr. Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, who could, according to reports, decline to promote a successor, indicating that he intends to remain in the top party post for a third, or perhaps even fourth term. According to party norms, China’s top two leaders are usually publicly presented at the Congress five years before they take power and Mr. Xi himself had emerged as the future leader at the 17th party Congress in 2007. He had then served as Vice President from 2008-13. This will mean India will have to deal with Mr. Xi for perhaps the next decade or longer.
India would also be watching closely to see whether the accent of future Beijing’s policies will be on China’s ‘core’.or ‘developmental interests’. In the case of the former, India can face many more challenges like incursions along its un-demarcated boundary like at Depsang, Chumar, Pangong Tso and the latest on the Doklam plateau. If it is the latter, then it could open up the possibility for India-China cooperation at the bilateral and even international fora.
More than 2,000 top officials have gathered in Beijing for the week-long Congress, a twice-a-decade political meeting that is expected to see Mr. Xi further consolidate his position.
The official task of the 2,287 delegates at the Congress is to deliberate new policies as well as elect the people who will lead the world’s most populous country.
But the main focus is expected to be centred on Mr. Xi, who is likely to use this Congress, which marks the start of his second and supposedly last five-year term, to further consolidate his position by filling the top post with his loyalists and supporters. Five of the seven spots on the ruling council, the Politburo Standing Committee, are up for grabs, as are 11 of the wider politburo’s 25 seats and roughly half of the spots on the 205-member central committee.
Mr. Xi is now president of the Chinese state, general secretary of the Communist party, chairman of the all-powerful Central Military Commission and national security commission all rolled in one. Mr. Xi also recently donned the hats of head of the comprehensively deepening reform committees and commander of the armed forces, said Dr. Srikanth Kondapalli, a Jawaharlal Nehru University academic. The Chinese president also ‘nudged the party to accept ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ to be inscribed in the Communist party constitution, elevating his political ideas at par with the founding fathers of the party,’ he said.
The Congress is also important for neighbour India which will also be watching it closely, This is because India’s ties with Mr. Xi at the helm can be at best described as uneasy. There have been numerous instances of Chinese incursions. China is also opposed to India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group which controls global atomic commerce. China has also turned a deaf ear to India’s protests that the China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor that runs through disputed Kashmir and is violative of India’s sovereignty. And lastly, Beijing has been against India’s attempts to get Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar included in a list of terrorists by the UN.
New Delhi would also be looking at what sort of role the military gets in the new Chinese power structure, said Dr. Harsh Pant, a professor at the King’s College, London. The extent of civilian control over the military (especially after the dismissal of top generals on charges of graft) could become clearer after the Congress which could give pointers to the military’s role in China’s development and modernization plans.
Both countries are increasingly encountering each other in places once considered the exclusive sphere of influence of the other - the South China Sea in the case of China and the Indian Ocean in the case of India. As Beijing presses ahead with its grand Belt and Road Initiative, analysts say the Chinese navy is expected to play an increasing role in patrolling and securing sea lanes, taking its reach beyond previous levels.