Skip to main content

India’s role in resisting Chinese maritime hegemony


By S K CHATTERJI

The Sydney Morning Herald ran a fine opinion article, Great powers stepping up on China, on June 4 regarding the recently concluded Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. The author, Peter Hartcher, said successive speakers at the forum talked about the rules-based order in the South China Sea, and the further their countries were from the strategically vital waterway, the  louder their condemnation of China tended to be.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also shared his views of the Indo-Pacific: “India’s own engagement in the Indo-Pacific Region – from the shores of Africa to that of the Americas – will be inclusive.”

The dailyReport

Must-reads from across Asia - directly to your inbox

In his assessment, Hartcher said the countries whose territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea was threatened “tiptoed carefully around the subject and had little or nothing to say.”

With the South China Sea forming a part of the Indo-Pacific, Modi definitely made his position clear. Without making a reference to China, in his remarks about the region, he said, “We should all have equal access as a right under international law to the use of common spaces on sea and in the air that would require freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law.”

Hartcher said Modi’s speech was “a departure from India’s longstanding passivity.” He added, “The Philippines and Vietnam have been intimidated into quiescence.”

There is a lot of truth in Hartcher’s assessment. Apparently, the countries of the South China Sea are quite intimidated by the aggressive posturing of the Chinese. Even after winning its legal battle in the International Court of Justice, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has not pressed his case regarding territorial rights with the Chinese in the South China Sea.

Many of these countries look to India to provide some stability in the region. The Indian interest to its east goes beyond the South China Sea and the Asean member states to countries across the Pacific, including Japan, Australia and the two Koreas.

India’s Look East policy was initiated in 1991. The objectives were both economic and geopolitical. However, never has the pursuit of these objectives been as vigorous as after Modi became India’s prime minister four years ago. He upgraded the policy from “Look” to “Act” East.  Highlighting this new geopolitical orientation, on January 26, the Indian Republic Day Parade featured all 10 Asean heads of states as guests.

However, it would be unreasonable to state that India can thwart Chinese hegemony by itself. Its defense budget of less than US$50 billion is paltry in comparison with China’s allocation of over $175 billion. The modernization of China’s military has been ongoing for years now. India’s efforts, however, have been hamstrung by a lack of resources.

The Chinese already have infrastructure in place along the Indo-Tibet border and other border areas. Their land borders can be defended against any threat, and they have the capability to undertake punitive aggressive action. Having created defenses along their land borders, they have turned their attention to the seas. Currently, they are projecting power in the South China Sea while concurrently building capabilities in the Indian Ocean. The Belt and Road Initiative allows them to further extend their influence into Central Asia and Africa.

China’s tendency to aggressively impose its will in the region has been met with considerable criticism. The South China Sea has been the scene of greatly stepped-up international naval activity in recent years. The battle in the South China Sea today is mainly about the littoral states, the European powers, the US and, of course, India wanting to keep the sea lanes and skies open for international traffic.

The battle in the South China Sea today is mainly about the littoral states, the European powers, the US and, of course, India wanting to keep the sea lanes and skies open for international traffic


The Indian counterstroke so far was best summed up by General VP Singh (Retired), the Indian minister of state for defense, while replying to a question in parliament. He said, “India has upgraded its relations with Southeast Asian countries in a big way to strategic partnership with Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, Singapore and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. We have Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements with Singapore, Japan and South Korea. Free Trade Agreements with Asean and Thailand.”

India and Indonesia recently upgraded their relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.  The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is being negotiated by Asean, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, and would embed India more deeply with Asean.

The Chinese agenda is defined best by its Nine-Dash Line, which covers most of South China Sea. Beyond the islands of the South China Sea, the Chinese are creating facilities along the Myanmar coast at Kyaukpyu, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, where they have acquired a lease for 99 years, Gwadar in Pakistan, which they have for the next 40 years, and a full-fledged naval base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. The Chinese have also been keen to fund port construction in Bangladesh.

Indian efforts to establish infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific includes logistics arrangements recently made with Indonesia and Singapore. A few Indian initiatives have suffered setbacks recently. Maldives seems to be leaning more towards Beijing lately and the Ascension Island deal with Seychelles is also wavering.

The major naval exercises that the Indians have been conducting along with other countries in the region to foster greater solidarity are Exercise Milan, a biennial exercise that has been running since 1995, with five countries participating in its first edition.  The last edition was conducted in March 2018 with 16 nations participating in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The participating countries were Australia, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Oman, Vietnam, Thailand, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya and Cambodia.

SIMBEX 17, one of the oldest exercises conducted by the Indonesian and Indian navies, has been running for 25 years. India also runs the biennial Malabar exercises with the US, which Japan is now participating in. The Australians were keen to join it this year, but their entry has been postponed


http://www.atimes.com/indias-role-in-resisting-chinese-maritime-hegemony/

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Balochistan to establish first medical university

https://www.dawn.com/news/1366135

The Newspaper's Staff CorrespondentOctober 25, 2017QUETTA: The provincial cabinet on Tuesday approved the draft for establishing a medical university in Balochistan.Health minister Mir Rehmat Saleh Baloch made the announcement while speaking at a press conference after a cabinet meeting.“The cabinet has approved the draft of the medical university which would be presented in the current session of the Balochistan Assembly,” he said, adding with the assembly’s approval the Bolan Medical College would be converted into a medical university.Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2017

5 Shia Hazara community members gunned down in Pakistan

http://m.hindustantimes.com/world-news/5-shia-hazara-community-members-gunned-down-in-pakistan/story-CHWR4lYByRHzf2KjHjMloI.html



Five members of the minority Shia Hazara community, including two women, were killed on Sunday in an attack by unidentified gunmen in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province.This is not the first time that members of the Hazara community have been targeted in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan.(Reuters File Photo)Updated: Sep 11, 2017 00:20 ISTBy Press Trust of India, Press Trust of India, KarachiFive members of the minority Shia Hazara community, including two women, were killed on Sunday in an attack by unidentified gunmen in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province.The gunmen targeted a car in Kuchluck area of Quetta while it was coming from the Chaman border crossing area, police said.The firing took place when the travellers had stopped at a filling station to refuel their vehicle. Five people of the Shia Hazara community, including two women, died in …

China’s 'Digital Silk Road': Pitfalls Among High Hopes

https://thediplomat.com/2017/11/chinas-digital-silk-road-pitfalls-among-high-hopes/


Will information and communication technologies help China realize its Digital Silk Road?By Wenyuan WuNovember 03, 2017In his speech at the opening ceremony of China’s 19th Party Congress, President Xi Jinping depicted China as a model of scientific and harmonious development for developing nations. Xi’s China wants to engage the world through commerce but also through environmental protection and technological advancement. This includes Beijing’s efforts to fight climate change with information and communication technologies (ICTs) that it plans to export along its “One Belt One Road” initiative (OBOR). Xi may have ambitious plans, but could China be throwing up obstacles in its own way?In his speech, the Chinese president emphasized the need to modernize the country’s environmental protections. The Chinese state is taking an “ecological civilization” approach to development and diplomacy, with a natio…