China's Strategic Eggs in South Asia
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By B Raman
Issue Net Edition | Date : 12 Jul , 2011

After Pakistan, Sri Lanka provides a good example of the use of a military supply relationship by China to advance its strategic interests. Over the years, we had seen how China uses its military supply relationship with Pakistan in the nuclear and conventional fields for keeping Pakistan closely tied to it and for countering India. In recent years, we have been seeing the use of a military supply relationship with Sri Lanka for increasing the Chinese influence in Sri Lanka. The Chinese readiness to supply modern and heavy arms and ammunition to the Sri Lankan Armed Forces without worrying about the moral implications of its actions played an important role in helping the Sri Lankan Army crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ruthlessly. Next to an infrastructure development relationship, a military supply relationship has become an important addition to China’s basket of strategic eggs.

I will make a passing reference to the incipient Chinese interest in the Maldives, which has emerged as a favourite tourist destination of Chinese tourists. China has been helping the Maldives in the fields of house construction and modernising some aspects of its banking infrastructure such as the installation and operation of Automatic Teller Machines for the benefit of foreign tourists. We have to closely monitor the evolution of its interest in the Maldives.

It is important for India to challenge China’s monopoly in the infrastructure development sector in the South Asian region. Presence in the infrastructure sector has a strategic importance. We must be able to find the funds and the required number of construction engineers for this.

India has three advantages over China which it must exploit vigorously to increase its strategic presence in the region and to counter the Chinese presence.

-Firstly, India provides a huge market next door for the products of these countries. Their traders value the Indian market more than the Chinese market. We should be generous in our trade concessions in order to keep them attracted to India and prevent them from drifting towards China.

-Secondly, India could play an important role in helping these countries develop their educational facilities such as institutions for technology studies.

-Thirdly, culturally, the people of these countries still look up to India and not to China. India’s soft power has to be effectively utilised for strengthening our presence and influence in these countries. China is not in a position to compete with us in soft power.

Book_threat_from_ChinaWhether India should compete with China in selling arms and ammunition and nuclear technology to these countries has to be carefully considered keeping in view the implications of the likely use of Indian arms and ammunition by these countries against their dissident elements, which often look up to India for moral support. As regards the supply of nuclear technology, India may not be in a position to provide the kind of financial back-up that China provides.

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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

B Raman

Former, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai & Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat. He is the author of The Kaoboys of R&AW, A Terrorist State as a Frontline Ally,  INTELLIGENCE, PAST, PRESENT & FUTUREMumbai 26/11: A Day of Infamy and Terrorism: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

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