India and China represent for both US and Europe the big challenges. Markets with huge potential and unpredictable but enormous influence, Brussels and Washington are doing their best to win the charms of these two giants.
The latest initiative, supported by UK and Sweden is pledging for an increased diplomatic presence of the EU, as a first step to get a better understanding of the particular contexts of these two countries.
But, if in the case of India, the exposure to the Western institutional system is offering the possibility of a common lecture, in the case of China, the basic understandings of the concepts of power and the military and diplomatic doctrines are still unknown and do not offer an easy key of understanding.
A cross lecture of some considerations of Chinese authors writing about the Chinese-Indian relations, published at the end of the last year by the European Council on Foreign Relations are offering a puzzling image of the bilateral relations between the two countries and the intricate and spontaneous directions these relationships could follow in the near future.
The practical alliances - as it was the case during the WTO negotiations or the joint memorandum on climate change - are surpassed by historical conflicts and different orientations generated during the Cold War. Even at the level of both countries it is felt the need of a relaunch of the trade relations, the strategical interests of the two countries are rather competitive than complementary. The imbalance is reflected as well in the structure of the alliances enforced by both countries - India, for a strategic partnership with US, or China, with a close dialogue with Pakistan. These partnerships are derived by practical reasons as well, both parts being able to have a strict observance of the main agenda.
The end of the two-blocks competitive politics was replaced by a very pragmatical reshaping of the international global strategies. In the case of the countries with such a huge economic and strategic potential, as it is the case of India and China, the question is rather how to understand the necessity of the pragmatic alliances and to be able to predict the outcome and the next steps. The home politics considerations are permanently important and do not help as too much in being accurate in our predictions. And, for our limited Western understanding, China is the big riddle. To be solved - hopefully - in a century or two time.