Chinese actions over the last few years reflect an increasing assertiveness bordering on domination. While the relationship between India and China could be considered stable at the strategic level as borne out by burgeoning economic ties and cooperation at the international level on issues such as climate change, continued Chinese intransigence at the tactical level raise serious questions about Chinese intentions. These range from increased military presence in the border regions, incursions into Indian Territory in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, the issue of stapled visas to Indian citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, denial of visa to the Commander in Chief of the Northern Army and the like.
Increased troop presence opposite Ladakh and in the Gilgit Baltistan region of Pakistan have much to do with Chinese attempts to get a secure overland route for supply of oil from the Central Asian Republics and from the Gulf via Gwadar.Their
Chinese assertiveness is not limited to the border regions but encompass other areas as well. A number of port construction projects by China just outside India’s periphery such as Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Kyaukpyu in Myanmar give rise to concerns that China is trying to encircle India through a string of pearls policy, each of the above ports representing a pearl in the string. China has also increased its troop presence in the Gilgit Baltistan region of Pakistan. Of greater import is the recent objection by China to ONGCs oil exploration projects in two Vietnamese blocks in South China Sea claiming that the area is disputed.
China has asked India to refrain from any activity, commercial or otherwise, in what they term as ‘Chinese maritime territory’. India has brushed aside Chinese objections claiming rightly that India’s cooperation with Hanoi for oil exploration is in accordance with international law and is set to grow. The Chinese media has commented widely on this issue and has warned that such actions on the part of India will harm Sino-Indian relations in the long term. In fact, the continual reference in the Chinese media is for India to play a constructive and beneficial role for stability in the region and not to venture into the South China Sea which evidently Beijing is trying to propagate as ‘China’s Sea’. That assumption is fatuous. Just as the Indian Ocean is not ‘India’s Ocean’, so also the South China Sea is not ‘China’s Sea’.