Asia’s New Triangle

India + JapanChina’s aggressive assertion of its territorial claims causing general concern, it has taken to wooing one of its major rivals, India. While not spurning China’s move, India is striving to broaden its diplomatic and military support. After ignoring India and its security concerns, Beijing’s new political leaders decided to make India a foreign-policy priority with Chinese premier selecting India for his first foreign visit. Days after the Chinese incursion into Indian territory, Indian prime minister, though, traveled to another rival of China’s, Japan, and even extended his planned visit by a day. And as the Indian prime minister landed in Tokyo, the Chinese media attacked Japan for vitiating Indian minds against China. All this, in a matter of weeks! 20-day standoff between Chinese and Indian soldiers in the western sector of their disputed boundary in Ladakh has exacerbated distrust between the two nations. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India in May was supposed to assuage Indian anxieties. But Beijing has failed to explain why Chinese soldiers took provocative action. During Li’s visit, India did not receive a satisfactory explanation, only a reassurance that the two sides should continue to talk about border problem. The Chinese premier did offer India a “handshake across the Himalayas,” underlining the need for world’s two most populous nations to become a new engine for the global economy. But there was no break through on key issues bedeviling Sino-Indian ties. Given serious nature of bilateral problems, the three pacts signed during Li’s visit were rather lame, aimed at boosting the export of buffalo meat and fishery products from India, and other trade in health products. Border disputes threaten the Sino-Indian bilateral relationship. But the Indian prime minister and Chinese premier could only ask their special representatives to examine the existing mechanisms and devise more measures to maintain peace along the border, hoping to reinvigorate boundary negotiations that are at a virtual standstill despite 15 rounds of talks. Bilateral trade is touching $70 billion mark with the two states aiming for $100 billion by 2015. But the Indian companies want better access to Chinese market, and New Delhi remains concerned about the ballooning trade deficit in China’s favor. India has concerns about the effects on lower riparian states of activities in the upper reaches of shared rivers and wants greater Chinese transparency on Beijing’s plans to develop water resources of the Brahmaputra River. Li’s visit did not result in a full river treaty, as many in India had hoped, Beijing agreed to share data on river flows. China remains non-committal on providing advance information on the construction of dams on rivers leading to India. Longer-term implications of the border crisis remain unclear, but new robustness in India’s dealings with China was evident during Li’s visit. India was vocal in demanding reciprocity and made it clear that peace on the border remains foundation of the relationship and that other aspects of relations will suffer if incidents like the Chinese incursion into Despang Valley continue (…..)



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Consultor Internacional

4 Responses to Asia’s New Triangle

  1. For China’s new premier Li Keqiang, the choice of India for his first foreign trip was a smart one. Li went to New Delhi amid a public outcry in India over the territorial spat with China, and then visited Pakistan at a time when a new government was preparing to take office. The context meant the timing was meaningful. Li took pains to make it clear to India that “we are not a threat to each other, nor do we seek to contain each other,” and pledged to open China’s markets to Indian products to address the trade imbalance and boost commerce to $100 billion a year. The premier also sought to reassure India over the vexed boundary issue and called on the countries to use their wisdom to find “a fair and mutually acceptable solution.” The challenges are many, but the strong political will of the Chinese leadership to keep the bilateral relationship on the right track deserves recognition. What Beijing will find disturbing, however, is the Indian public’s growing wariness towards China. A recent poll by the Lowy Institute in Australia suggested that more than 80% of Indians view China as a security threat, even though China has become India’s largest trading partner. Moreover, 65% agree that India should join with other countries to limit China’s influence, although 63% would like to strengthen relations with China. Australia may be the country that does the best job observing and assessing the evolving dynamics between Asia’s two giants, China and India. Chinese strategists keep a very close eye on the research outlets and debates within Australia. One of the most powerful intellectual innovations by Australian international relations scholars in recent years is the concept of “Indo-Pacific Asia”. It is a concept that has inspired many Chinese strategic thinkers and planners to begin to look at China’s grand strategy across a wide Indo-Pacific swath. And it is true that a power game of great significance has unfolded in Indo-Pacific Asia. The United States, India, Japan and other players are seeking to collaborate to build an “Indo-Pacific order” that is congenial to their long-term interests. China is not necessarily excluded from this project, and it should seek a seat at the table and help recast the strategic objectives and interaction norms that bind all participating states (…..)

  2. (…..) The deployment of U.S. Marines to Darwin, a location that can be viewed as a crossroads between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, indicated that the U.S. is adopting a new two-ocean strategic framework, and is part of the U.S. military pivot to the region. A U.S. strategic guidance document released in January 2012 emphasized “the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia” and specifically highlighted that “the United States is also investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region,” echoing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s encouragement of India not only to “Look East”, but also to “Go East”. Undoubtedly, China does not want to see India become the linchpin of the U.S. alliance system in the Indo-Pacific region. In June 2012, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted, “America is at a turning point. After a decade of war, we are developing a new defense strategy…In particular, we will expand our military partnerships and our presence in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia. Defense cooperation with India is a linchpin in this strategy” (…..)

  3. (…..) Most important, the three sides should immediately compare notes on their own Indian Ocean strategies. Secure maritime navigation from Africa and the Middle East to East Asia is vital to energy and resource access. In light of its high dependence on the Indian Ocean sea lanes, China has legitimate rights to safeguard its geoeconomic interests. Beijing has no intention of squeezing the presence and interests of India and the U.S. and contesting for primacy, and cannot afford to do so at any rate. But it should not shy away from articulating its concerns over Indian Ocean security. The three sets of bilateral ties (China-U.S., China-India and America-India) are today quite fluid. Strategic planners in Beijing, New Delhi and Washington would do well to approach their work with an awareness of this emerging triangle in Indo-Pacific Asia as one of this century’s decisive regions.

  4. However, neither the U.S. nor China should make the mistake of assuming that there is a natural Indo-U.S. alliance vis-à-vis China. Since independence, India has pursued strategic autonomy as a guarantee for its leading role in world affairs. Most Chinese observers are very confident that India will stick to that creed and will manage its relations with both China and the U.S. effectively. Indeed, Beijing and Washington might find a “Non-Alignment 2.0” strategy potentially adopted by India quite palatable, since it would allow India to play an important role in sustaining equilibrium within the region.


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