Scholars differentiate between the terms Cold War and cold war to distinguish between what might seem like a regular cold war (i.e., the rivalry between two countries which is quite normal in international relations) and the Cold War between the USA and Russia. Moreover, it makes sense, especially today, when many view the USA-China rivalry through the lens of the cold war and try to draw an analogy with the US-Russia Cold War. A cold war is one manifestation of the long-duration rivalry between states, and the USA- China rivalry is further one manifestation of this cold war; hence, many find it unsuitable to use ‘Cold War’; instead, they prefer sticking to just the cold war.
Many leaders might even deny any cold war between the two countries to cool things down, but it is also quite evident that a new cold war is brewing between them, and it was long ago predicted, looking at China’s rise. Every country that rises to the extent of becoming a superpower would threaten the existing superpower. Obviously, China has not reached that stage yet and has a long way to go; still, the USA would try to dim its influence to save or maintain its own. This cold war has a new player, i.e., China and one older one, the USA but one way this is different from the earlier one is that the USA already has a structure (thanks to its Cold War past) which it can use now to strengthen it further. It has maintained its military bases and partners in different regions to keep its presence worldwide. However, the US has also felt a need for new alliances, which has also meant shifting alliances (as realists say, in international relations, alliances are for convenience’s sake only)
China’s adversaries are now USA’s friends or at least are allies in the making. Both countries are trying hard to expand their reach and influence and get as many countries as possible on their side. India has had a history of turbulent relations with China since their independence. Both countries have specific border issues which spark up now and then. In addition, China has a problem with India giving asylum to Dalai Lama, competing to become a larger economy and growing influence in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific. USA and India, on the other hand, have always had a convenience’s sake relationship. USA supported Pakistan during the cold war to get better access to its neighbouring area and gave it immense military aid after 9/11 to help prevent terrorism from springing from Pakistan (despite Pakistan not being a democracy which goes against the USA idealist claims). However, this changed when India acquired nuclear weapons- with sanctions on it- most challenging by the USA. However, in 2005, the Bush administration brought a historic change in their relations by waving off the sanctions and bringing the two countries closer. Meanwhile, Pakistan was getting closer to China, getting the desired help to develop its own nuclear weapons.
The USA-India relations are now stronger than ever, with the House of Representatives passing an amendment approving “a waiver to India against the punitive CAATSA sanctions“, which made an exception for India despite putting sanctions on Turkey for doing the same (importing the S-400 missile system from Russia), so why make an exception for India? “The US sees India as an important ally in its fight against China. If sanctioned, the Quad collective, of which India is part, could be significantly impacted”. Then, India’s neutrality in the Russian- Ukraine war did not affect the relations much. Despite pressure from the USA to take a stand against Russian aggression on international platforms, India managed to escape that without welcoming any severe repercussions. India is now part of every significant alliance grouping of the USA. They have initiated a new West Asian QUAD called I2U2 (India, Israel, the USA and the UAE) in the Middle East and the QUAD in the Indo-Pacific. It shows how both countries are coming together for security and peace, i.e., against their common enemy- China. India has always been reluctant to invite the USA to help with its border or other issues with China but having the USA on its side does no harm. Both countries benefit from this relationship. Who needs who more is a topic for another debate.
India is the only country in South Asia capable of countering China hence, becoming a vital strategic partner for the USA, especially after its Afghanistan blunder, the USA has lost its control over the region. China’s main card of getting countries to ally with it has been giving loans, massive infrastructure projects or development projects, but those are proving to fail, as seen in Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Countries are now looking for alternatives as they see how China gets control over territories by using diplomacy, which is a game-changer.
The USA underestimated how China would play out in the new world order, i.e., post-World War 2. China which at one time seemed a potential communist country that could be liberalized and eventually democratized, has proved many optimists wrong in their analysis of it- it has chosen its own path, one that makes it stand head-to-head against the USA. Moreover, China prepared itself well for a situation like this; many worry about its influence and consequences. Then, the growing relationship between Beijing and Moscow makes some people believe that we are moving closer to another cold war. Both have stayed close despite the Russian aggression in Ukraine and China’s stance of being neutral.