A soldier of the Indian army stands guard on the road to India-China border in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, September 2007.
Parth Sanyal / Courtesy Reuters

The relationship between China and India will be one of the most important of this century. Their interactions will help to determine the future of globalization, international institutions, and U.S. power. Their ability to cooperate will be crucial on international issues ranging from climate change to multilateral trade negotiations. Yet for all of its future significance, the relationship remains stuck in the past.

Since its defeat at the hands of China in the 1962 border war, India has viewed its neighbor with suspicion. China, victorious in war and mindful of its economic heft, has treated India dismissively. Even as China and India come into their own on the world stage, they remain fundamentally alien to each other.

The countries’ leaders, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, recognize the problem and have pledged to boost ties. But with the legacy of 1962 living on—at the border, in

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  • PETER MARTIN is Associate Director, India, at APCO Worldwide. He was previously based in Beijing.
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