Geopolitics

India and the US-China Great Game
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Issue Vol 25.4 Oct-Dec 2010 | Date : 20 Dec , 2010

It is learnt that the Chinese authorities are unnerved by this development, as they consider Vietnam to be highly sensitive in their strategic calculus. This factor lately has become even more accentuated because of foreign investment moving to Vietnam from South China because of political, social and economic reasons. Apart from strategic reasons, the US feels that the nuclear deal could provide impetus to the emergence of Vietnam as a rival economic hub to China for which it needs to be ‘energy rich’.

What is unmistakable is the fact that the Chinese regional and global ambitions are being contested by the US in Asia, and increasing use of nuclear diplomacy is the new and essential part of the process.

Implications for India

China’s growth and its ambition of becoming a superpower is also generating insecurity and anxieties amongst the Chinese policy-makers. Its external energy dependency is increasing. As far oil is concerned, it is the second largest consumer and third largest net importer. It is trying to secure its energy supplies both through sea (Indian Ocean), sea-land route (pipeline). It is in fact trying to hedge the risks. For the land-sea route (pipeline), the internal situation in Pakistan (especially Balochistan) and Myanmar remains a worrisome factor. Therefore, as the strategic dependence on these countries grow, China’s stakes in their stability is becoming acute.

Given the Chinese inroads into Gilgit-Baltistan, its manipulation of Kashmir problem, independently or through Pakistan, is likely to acquire even more sinister proportions. As far as Indian in-roads in Myanmar are concerned, the Chinese are trying to disrupt it by reviving insurgency in Indias northeast.

China views India as not only as a competitor in the region, but also a source of vulnerability for the security of its sea-land route of energy supplies through Pakistan, Myanmar, and sea route through the Indian Ocean (Malacca Strait). This partly explains China’s strident posturing with regard to Kashmir. Given the Chinese inroads into Gilgit-Baltistan, its manipulation of Kashmir problem, independently or through Pakistan, is likely to acquire even more sinister proportions. As far as Indian in-roads in Myanmar are concerned, the Chinese are trying to disrupt it by reviving insurgency in India’s northeast.

There are therefore new elements being introduced in India-Pakistan-China triangular relationship. The US-China standoff in the Western Pacific region, which in all certainty will spill over into the Indian Ocean, has direct bearing on the land and maritime security of India. In this the security sensitivities of the US, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Australia, and other ASEAN countries, do coalesce. It is primarily for these reasons that China is loathe to talk to deal with the ‘ASEAN as a bloc’ on contentious territorial and maritime issues like Spartly islands and South China Sea.

Policy makers in the US are more than aware that China’s strategic muscle by way of anti-satellite weapons, ballistic missiles and nuclear submarines has increased manifold in the very recent years. To counter this, they feel that the US needs to infuse much greater strength into US-Japan alliance. In that they suggest that the US must abandon its obstinacy and supply F-22 fighter jets, which Japan has been demanding for long. They contend that missile and nuclear threat from China and North Korea can only obviated by a US sponsored dense missile defence framework in the region, particularly in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. They are of the strong opinion that the US must not lower its defence spending in order to cater to the serious threats being posed by China in the Western Pacific region, where the capabilities and credibility to protect the allies of the US is at test as never before.

Considering the new realities and circumstances, the strategic distraction of China in the Western Pacific region by the US and its allies is of benefit to India. It has the potential to prevent the growing maritime inroads of China into the India Ocean, which is vital for India’s security.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

RSN Singh

is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW and author of books Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and The Military Factor in Pakistan. His latest book is The Unmaking of Nepal.

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