China's new 'Look West' policy to give primacy to India: expert

Obama and hu jintao

Ahead of a once-in-a-decade leadership change in China, strategists here are scripting a new "Look West" policy, giving primacy to ties with India while rebalancing Beijing's decades old pro-Pakistan tilt to counter American influence.

"The Americans are looking towards East and we look towards the West," Prof Wang Jisi, a widely respected Chinese strategist who worked closely with Chinese leaders including outgoing President Hu Jintao to reset the badly ruptured relations with India after 1962 conflict, said giving a rare insight into the thinking among the leadership.

By West, Prof Wang means the West of China, starting from India, the sprawling South and West Asia and beyond.

"China ignored the West for long and it is time for rebalance not only for oil, natural gas but also very big economic opportunities," he said, quoting recent studies that China's trade with India and rest of Asia grew seven times faster than Beijing's trade growth in recent years.

Wang is the Dean of the School of International Studies, Peking University and Director of the Centre for International and Strategic Studies. But his influence and importance comes from China's Foreign Policy Advisory Committee in which he is an influential member.

In a close door policy making setup like in China where no one including Dai Bingguo, China's Chief negotiator for decades, ever talks to media, Prof Wang was a rare exception to provide an insight.

Significantly, as China looks to reset its ties with India, he said Beijing's "all weather" relations with Pakistan were no longer driven by the factor to contain New Delhi, but to prevent the Islamic militancy in Muslim-majority Xinjiang, bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

"Some people may make the argument that we should support Pakistan because of India but actually the motivations are not mainly driven by that," Prof Wang said.

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