Potential risks and gains of China’s ambitious strategy

Assessing Regional Reactions to China’s Peaceful Development Doctrine 

Volume 18 Number 5
April 2008
Brahma Chellaney, Jae Ho Chung, Carlyle A. Thayer

China’s peaceful development doctrine is a broad strategy endorsed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), whose central goal is the transformation of China into a modern and sustainably developed country through rapid economic growth.The greatest challenge for this strategy is that Beijing must reassure regional neighbors that China’s increasing economic, military, and political power do not pose a threat.This issue of the NBR Analysis reveals unique insights by expert scholars into how India, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines perceive the potential risks and gains of China’s ambitious strategy.The assessment of such perspectives provides a valuable opportunity to gauge policy implications in a wide variety of areas, including politics, security, finance, and trade.Such analysis is key both to mitigating the risks of conflict in Asia and to ensuring that China’s rapid development is indeed associated with a peaceful regional environment.The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) solicited these papers in an effort to provide a foundation for future research on this issue and to better inform U.S.policy in the region by raising awareness of Indian, South Korean, Indonesian, Thai, and Philippine views.


Southeast Asian Reactions to China’s Peaceful Development Doctrine: Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand Carlyle A. Thayer

South Korea’s Reactions to China’s "Peaceful Development" Jae Ho Chung

Assessing India’s Reactions to China’s Peaceful Development Doctrine Brahma Chellaney

Assessing India’s Reactions to China’s “Peaceful Development” Doctrine

Brahma Chellaney

NBR Analysis, Volume 18, Number 5, April 2008

(c) The National Bureau of Asian Research, USA

China’s diplomatic “charm offensive” in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Persian Gulf region, and India’s immediate neighborhood has involved major political, economic, and strategic investments that have had the effect of bringing Indian interests under pressure. Such diplomatic penetration has, however, also made some of the courted countries wary of China’s strategic ambitions, leading these countries to search for countervailing influences. That change in turn has helped promote the acceptability of India as a player beyond South Asia. The China factor, for example, motivated the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to make India a full dialogue partner. That same factor helped India to become a member of the East Asian Summit (EAS), which will design the proposed East Asian Community (EAC).

The Indian navy now conducts joint exercises with other states far beyond India’s shores, including in the South China Sea and in the Pacific. In April 2007 India, Japan, and the United States held their first trilateral naval maneuvers near Tokyo, and five months later the three teamed with Australia and Singapore for major war games on the Bay of Bengal. With U.S. encouragement, India provided naval escort in 2003 to commercial ships passing through the vulnerable, piracy-wracked Strait of Malacca. The undertaking, code-named Operation Sagittarius, was primarily designed to safeguard high-value U.S. cargo shipped from Japan passing through the Strait of Malacca on the way to Afghanistan. Through this operation the Indian navy not only demonstrated patrolling the Strait of Malacca to Southeast Asian states but also gained approval to operate in the ASEAN waters.

In several other respects, however, China’s charm offensive has either reared new strategic challenges for India or affected Indian economic or political interests. For one, China has been aggressively seizing energy-related opportunities overseas, at times to the detriment of India. For example Beijing persuaded Burma’s military junta in 2006 to sell to China gas from the partly Indian-owned A-1 and A-3 offshore blocks via a planned 2,380-kilometer pipeline to Yunnan.[1] Burma took India unawares by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China’s state-run PetroChina Company in early 2006 to supply gas to China from those same partly Indian-owned fields over a 30-year period.[2] To New Delhi’s acute embarrassment, the Burmese decision came just as India announced that New Delhi had reached an agreement with Beijing to jointly cooperate on securing oil resources overseas, a move designed to prevent Sino-Indian competition from continuing to drive up the price of energy assets. The loss of Burmese gas to China has created some bitterness in New Delhi, which has been eager to import gas from Burma via a pipeline through Bangladesh.[3]

Beijing also has aggressively sought oil and gas contracts in Iran, which is now the largest supplier of foreign oil to China, delivering 14% of China’s total oil imports. China has planned a 386-kilometer oil pipeline from Iran to link up with the Atasu-Alashankou pipeline between Kazakhstan and Xinjiang. China’s state-owned oil company, Sinopec (also known as China Petrochemical Corporation), signed a $100 billion deal in October 2004 to buy 10 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Iran annually over a 25-year period. In exchange Sinopec secured a 51% stake in the giant Yadavaran oilfield in Iran’s south, leaving a minority 20% stake for a consortium of Indian companies led by the Oil and Natural Gas Company (ONGC) Videsh Limited (OVL).

China’s advantage over India is that, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Beijing wields considerable international clout and can provide political protection to renegade regimes. The fact that China can veto any UN sanctions proposal has not been lost either on Iran or on Burma. Beijing’s ability to provide political cover is a fundamental element of China’s thriving commercial ties with a host of problem states.

With the country’s new wealth, China also has been resourcefully building trade and transportation links to further larger Chinese interests in the countries around India.[4] Such links around India’s periphery are already bringing India under strategic pressure on separate flanks on both sides of the Indian peninsula:

1. China is fashioning a north-south trans-Karakoram strategic corridor stretching up to Pakistan’s new, Chinese-built Gwadar port, at the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz. Opened in the spring of 2007, the deepwater port at Gwadar represents China’s first strategic foothold in the Arabian Sea.

2. Another north-south strategic trail China is developing is the Irrawaddy corridor involving road, river, and rail links from Yunnan Province up to the Burmese ports on the Bay of Bengal.

3. China is also shoring up an east-west strategic corridor in Tibet across India’s northern frontiers, as illustrated by the $6.2 billion China-Tibet railway from Gormu to Lhasa that opened in July 2006. Beijing now plans to extend the Tibetan railway to the Nepalese capital of Katmandu and also to two other points: the tri-junction of the India-Bhutan-Tibet frontiers (in the Chumbi Valley) and the intersection of the India-Burma-Tibet borders.

4. China’s incremental efforts to build a “string of pearls” along the Indian Ocean rim symbolize Beijing’s desire for a fourth strategic corridor that would create a challenge to India from the south. China’s seeks to assemble this “string of pearls”—a term first used in a report for the Pentagon by U.S. defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton—through forward listening posts, naval-access agreements and Chinese-built harbors stretching from Pakistan and Sri Lanka to Bangladesh and Burma. The Chinese interest in the Indian Ocean rim now extends to the Seychelles.[5]

The Irrawaddy corridor has brought Chinese security personnel to Burmese sites close both to India’s eastern strategic assets and to the Strait of Malacca. With the Irrawaddy corridor stretching to the Bay of Bengal, Chinese security agencies have positioned personnel at several Burmese coastal points, including the Chinese-built harbors at Kyaukpyu and Thilawa. These security agencies already operate electronic-intelligence and maritime-reconnaissance facilities on the two Coco Islands in the Bay of Bengal. India transferred the Coco Islands to Burma in the 1950s, and Burma then leased the islands to China in 1994. Today China operates a signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection facility from the Great Coco Island.

Beijing is reinforcing the strategic significance of the new port at Gwadar by linking it with the Karakoram Highway to western China through the Chinese-aided Gwadar-Dalbandin railway, which extends to Rawalpindi. In addition the Chinese-supported Makran Coastal Highway links Gwadar with Karachi, Pakistan’s main port. Gwadar, already home to a Chinese electronic listening post, is a critical link in the emerging chain of Chinese forward-operating facilities that stretch from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal and then to the Gulf of Siam.

Protected by cliffs from three sides and now being extended into a naval base with Chinese assistance, Gwadar will not only arm Pakistan with critical strategic depth against a 1971-style Indian attempt to bottle up Pakistan’s navy, but the port will also open the way to the arrival of Chinese submarines in India’s backyard. Beijing admits that Gwadar’s strategic significance is equivalent to the Karakoram Highway, which since opening in 1969 has helped underpin the Sino-Pakistan nexus and served as the route for covert Chinese nuclear and missile transfers to Islamabad. Linking the Karakoram Highway with Gwadar will likely to create a strategic-multiplier effect. Furthermore, the completion of the Gwadar project will enable the Chinese navy, with its access in Burma, to operate on both sides of the Indian peninsula.

Beijing is planning to build an energy pipeline from Gwadar to western China as a way to reduce the time and distance for transporting oil to China from the Gulf region. Beijing sees Gwadar as providing a more secure corridor for energy imports from the Gulf states. In the event of a strategic confrontation with the United States this safe corridor would prevent the interdiction of oil shipments to China’s resource-hungry economy. Gwadar, along with Burma’s Sittwe port (from where a separate energy pipeline to Yunnan is to be built), would help reduce China’s reliance on the Strait of Malacca, through which 80% of Chinese oil imports now pass. Given Beijing’s decision to substantially widen the Karakoram Highway and upgrade it to an all-weather passageway, China also has displayed likely plans to export and import goods through Gwadar.

In addition China is stepping up military and economic engagement with India’s other immediate neighbors—Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Beijing’s broad-based military cooperation agreement with Dhaka—Bangladesh’s first military accord with any country—has four apparent objectives: to bring Bangladesh into the Chinese strategic orbit, to gain naval and commercial access to the strategically important port of Chittagong to connect Bangladesh with Burma, and to secure a doorway to India’s vulnerable northeast.

Far from moderating Indian fears, Beijing’s deepening ties with India’s neighboring states have made New Delhi increasingly concerned over Chinese activities. There is growing recognition in New Delhi that China’s rising power has become the single biggest cause of qualitative change in the geopolitical landscape. Despite New Delhi’s continuing emphasis on cooperation with Beijing, China is unlikely to shy away from investing more resources into activities and capabilities antithetical to Indian interests and security.

Sino-Indian Relations in the Next Five to Ten Years

India and China are old civilizations but new neighbors. The two countries became neighbors only in 1951 when the disappearance of the traditional buffer—Tibet—brought Chinese troops to what is now the 4,057 kilometer-long Sino-Indian frontier. As relatively new neighbors with no historical experience in dealing with each other politically, India and China face a steep learning curve while seeking to build equilibrium in their relations. Today both countries have a stake in maintaining the peaceful diplomatic environment on which the economic modernization and security of both depend. Yet the wounds of the 1962 Chinese invasion of India have been kept open by Beijing’s public and assertive claims to Indian territories. Nonetheless, compared to the troubled state of Sino-Indian relations three decades ago (before full diplomatic ties were restored following Mao Zedong’s death) relations today are more stable and marked by booming trade.

Looking ahead the China-India relationship is likely to remain complex and difficult, marked by cooperation in some areas but by competition, either latent or overt, in other areas. The underlying wariness or even suspicion that each has of the other’s intentions is unlikely to go away. Yet both countries will continue to feel the need to publicly play down the competitive dynamics of their relationship and emphasize cooperation.

It is in India’s interests to stress cooperation while at the same time working to reduce the power disparity with China by building greater stability and equilibrium in Asia through strategic ties with other democracies, including the United States and Japan. For China, a continued emphasis on cooperation would be consistent with Beijing’s larger “peaceful rise” strategy.[6] Indeed China’s choir book has been centered on one ingenious song—that the country’s emergence as a great power is unstoppable and that it is thus incumbent on other nations to adjust to China’s rise.

It is important to bear in mind, however, that the India-China strategic dissonance is rooted not only in their contrasting political ideals and quiet rivalry but also in Beijing’s relentless pursuit of a classical, Sun Tzu–style balance-of-power strategy. While presenting itself as a see-no-evil, do-no-evil state, Beijing is zealously working to build up China’s power capabilities to engage the world on Beijing’s own terms. In order to avert the rise of a peer rival in Asia, China has sought to strategically tie down India south of the Himalayas.

Over the next decade, India and China are likely to remain business partners rather than become friends. Neither side, however, would like to see their quiet competition slide into confrontation. Managed competition is thus likely to define the relationship between these two demographic titans in the coming years.

Trade

Bilateral trade between China and India—which jumped 15-fold from $2.3 billion in 2000 to $38 billion in 2007, with China enjoying a trade surplus of $10.7 billion last year—is likely to continue to expand, positioning China as India’s largest trading partner within the next couple of years.[7] There is, however, no Sino-Indian congruence on geopolitical issues. That is why the proclaimed “India-China strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity” remains devoid of any content other than a rapidly growing trade relationship.

Although the official Chinese media claims that the rapid development of Sino-Indian trade is due to “sound political relations,” political issues continue to be an obstacle even in trade.[8] New Delhi is not only wary of the idea of a free trade agreement (FTA) with Beijing but also continues to be concerned over Chinese dumping of goods and investments in strategic sectors in India. To Beijing’s loud protest, New Delhi has excluded from Indian contracts some Chinese firms that are tied to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or the Chinese Communist Party. For example India blacklisted the state-run China Harbour Engineering Company—which has developed the Gwadar deepwater port in Pakistan—from bidding for any Indian port contract.

Additionally the composition of Indian exports to China is not flattering to India. In the first half of 2007 iron ore comprised 52% of Indian exports to China. Overall, raw materials made up 85% of India’s total exports. India has been increasingly exporting low-cost raw materials while importing value-added Chinese goods—a pattern that is not sustainable. Indeed India must guard against becoming a raw-material appendage of the Chinese economy.

Political problems do not constrain interstate economic ties in today’s market-driven world. Even if Sino-Indian trade overtakes U.S.-Indian trade (which is a likely scenario) political issues will continue to divide Beijing and New Delhi. If growing trade was a barometer of political progress, Japan and China—with a trade volume almost ten times higher than that of India and China—would be allies. Similarly, Japan and South Korea, who engage in a much higher volume of trade than China and India, are finding it hard to manage their prickly bilateral political relationship, despite both being military allies of the United States. History testifies that when strategic animosities remain unaddressed, interdependent commercial ties do not guarantee moderation. Therefore, even as trade with China continues to grow, India’s strategic interests will increasingly lead New Delhi to search for ways to countervail Chinese power.

Territorial Disputes

India and China have continually disputed the border between the two countries since 1981. The two countries came to blows over the issue in 1962, the wounds from which still persist in negotiations over the border today. China’s assertive claims and overall stalemate in the negotiations have impeded the successful resolution of the border issue. As a result, China continues to occupy one-fifth of the original state of Jammu and Kashmir.

China’s recent claim over the entire Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and aggressive patrolling of the border region signify that China is not interested in maintaining the status quo. As a result more than 300,000 Indian soldiers remain tied down in the region. Negotiations have been rich in symbolism but ultimately unproductive as the two parties have struggled to move past developing “principles,” “concepts,” and a “framework” for an overall settlement. Although the border issue ostensibly could be settled with a fairly straightforward compromise—e.g., India foregoing claims to territories lost to China and China abandoning claims to Indian-held areas—China does not seem interested in a settlement based on the status quo. China’s position, furthermore, is unlikely to change over the next decade.

Geopolitics of Oil and Water

In Asia energy is increasingly intertwined with geopolitics. As a result energy and security are inseparable today. With competition for the world’s oil and gas resources sharpening, Asia faces the specter of a 21st-century version of an energy-related Great Game in which India and China are likely to be major players.

A cash-rich China has shown time and again that the country can nimbly outmaneuver India in bids for energy contracts in third countries. Nonetheless, some in India have imaginatively proposed cooperation with China on energy issues. The reality, however, is that China is a larger and more aggressive player willing to take major risks and has a track record of greater success; China therefore has little to gain from such cooperation with India. Thus in the coming years China and India are likely to continue to compete for energy resources to meet the needs of their rapidly growing economies.

The energy-related Sino-Indian rivalry, however, has obscured another emerging area of competition—water resources. Given Chinese control over the aqua-rich Tibetan Plateau (which is the source of most of Asia’s major rivers), China has a clear competitive edge. Tibet’s vast glaciers and high altitude have endowed the region with the world’s greatest river systems. These glaciers represent a crucial water source not only for China and India but also for numerous countries in Asia, including Bangladesh, Burma, Bhutan, Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The internal disputes that arise over water resources could potentially degenerate into interstate conflict. Many of the current water disputes are related to Chinese damming and redirection of Tibetan water. One such project, the gargantuan South-North Water Transfer Project, aims to redirect billions of gallons of water from the Yangtze River in the south to China’s parched Northern Plain where over-intensive farming, increasing urbanization and industrialization, desertification, and a generally drier climate have strained the region’s major river, the Yellow River, to the breaking point. The project’s stillborn western line aims to divert precious water resources from the Tibetan Plateau, thus threatening to diminish the water flows of other countries’ major river systems, including the Indus, Salween, Mekong, Brahmaputra, Karnali, and Sutlej systems. If such a large-scale rerouting were to begin, the action would constitute the declaration of a water war on lower-riparian India and Bangladesh.

Several Chinese projects in west-central Tibet have a bearing on river water flows into India, but Beijing is reluctant to share information. After flash floods occurred in India’s northern state of Himachal Pradesh, however, China agreed in 2005 to supply New Delhi with data on any abnormal rise or fall in the upstream water level of the Sutlej River, on which China has built a barrage. Discussions are ongoing to persuade Beijing to share flood control data during the monsoonal season for two Brahmaputra tributaries—the Lohit and Parlung Zangbo Rivers—as China has done since 2002 on the Brahmaputra River, which China has dammed upstream at several places. When Chinese president Hu Jintao visited India in November 2006, the two countries agreed to set up a joint expert-level mechanism on interstate river waters. Beijing now seems to be having second thoughts on setting up such a mechanism.[9]

India’s Relations with the United States and Japan

Beijing has not hidden its unease over the larger strategic implications of India’s improving relations with the United States and Japan. The direction of the newly launched Quadrilateral Initiative between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, which is founded on the concept of democratic peace, is still undecided owing to differing perceptions within the group. This quartet, however, represents the likely geopolitical line-up in the Asia-Pacific in the years ahead.

China, India, and Japan represent a strategic triangle in Asia. If China is A, and India and Japan are B and C, the sum of B plus C would be greater than A. India and Japan appear to be natural allies, and China’s accumulation of power will drive the two countries closer together. The relationship between the United States and India is also rapidly changing. In the words of a senior U.S. official, “now that we’ve consummated the civil nuclear trade [agreement] between us [the United States and India], if we look down the road in the future, we’re going to see far greater defense cooperation between the United States and India: training; exercises; we hope, defense sales of American military technology to the Indian armed forces.”[10]

The newly emerging geopolitical equations are likely to reinforce Sino-Indian suspicions and complicate the development of the bilateral relationship between Beijing and New Delhi.

The Economic, Trade, and Security Implications of China’s Peaceful Rise for India

Given the size, ambitions, and proximity of India and China, both countries are naturally concerned by the expansion of each other’s capabilities. India’s greatest concern regarding China’s rapid accumulation of power is not that Beijing would carry out another 1962-style military invasion, but rather that China would employ the threat of such a military invasion to shift the overall regional balance of power in China’s favor. New Delhi wishes to forestall this strategic shift because of the likely adverse implications for India’s security and well-being.

Yet the rapid and wild rise of China is transforming the Asian geopolitical landscape like no other development. Not since Japan’s rise under the Meiji emperor has another non-Western power become as consequential to the future of the international order as China is today. The future of Asian security is likely to be heavily shaped by whether China continues to rise in a linear fashion under an autocratic leadership. For India the implications are stark. Just as India bore the brunt of the rise of international terrorism because of country’s proximity to the Pakistani-Afghan epicenter of global jihad, India will be directly affected by the growing power of an adjacent opaque empire. Therefore, India can ill afford to be complacent.

Despite China’s meteoric rise, conflict between China and India is not inevitable. A peaceful diplomatic environment is essential for the continued economic growth and security of both countries. Furthermore, India and China account for one-third of the world’s population. How their relationship evolves thus will have an important bearing on Asian geopolitics, international security, and globalization.[11]

It has become commonplace to compare the Indian and Chinese economies and project future growth on the basis of the present relative advantage of each country. The comparisons inexorably pit India’s services-driven growth and institutional stability, founded on pluralism, transparency, and the rule of law, against China’s resolute leadership, high savings rate, good infrastructure, and manufacturing strength. Overlooked, however, is that globalization threatens China’s autocracy, not India’s democracy.

Whether China follows a stable or violent path to political modernization will determine the country’s continued unity and strength.[12] In most respects, China knows what is required for becoming a great power. Though India’s emergent realism has yet to overcome traditions of moral posturing, Beijing epitomizes strategic clarity and pragmatism, zealously erecting the building blocks of comprehensive national power.

Although both China and India are ascendant powers, enjoying high GDP growth rates, the conditions for the rise of these countries are different and reflect the relative strengths and weaknesses of each country. That difference in turn underscores the power disparity between the two countries, and points to the economic, trade, and security implications of China’s peaceful rise for India.

India’s white-collar, services-led economic growth contrasts sharply with China’s blue-collar, manufacturing-driven expansion. More striking is that in India the private sector continues to fuel economic growth while China’s economic growth is largely state-driven. India performs poorly wherever the state is involved, while the strength of the Chinese state as the primary catalyst of accumulating power carries significant strategic ramifications.

Most startling is that although both states possess similar competitive advantages, such as a large pool of skilled manpower and low wages, an increasing export surge drives China’s economic growth while India’s import-dependent economy relies primarily on domestic consumption for growth. Indian imports currently exceed exports by as much as 60%. India’s dependency on imports also sets the country apart from the Asian “tiger” economies, which are all export-oriented.

The contrast between India and China is stark in terms of military capabilities as well. India’s weaponry remains subcontinental in range, whereas China’s weaponry is intercontinental. Even when China was poor and less developed, Beijing consciously emphasized building comprehensive national power. China developed its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the 12,000-kilometre DF-5, in the 1970s. New Delhi, in contrast, has not yet started development of its first ICBM, even though ICBMs are potent symbols of power and coercion in international relations.

Beijing has sustained double-digit increases in military spending for two continuous decades; in terms of percentage of GDP China’s military spending has risen the fastest in the world. By contrast, in that same two-decade period India’s defense expenditure has declined appreciably as a percentage of the country’s GDP.

Even though the official Chinese military budget—a figure few believe—is double the official level of Indian defense spending, how defense funds are utilized, rather than size, is what makes the contrast between the two states interesting. China’s priority for decades has been twofold: boosting the country’s indigenous capabilities, especially with respect to conventional and nuclear deterrence, and working to shift the military balance in Asia in China’s favor. Today Beijing’s increasingly sophisticated missile force is at the heart of China’s military modernization. Even as Beijing imports high tech conventional weaponry from Russia, China has emerged as one of the biggest arms exporters in the world. Additionally, China’s three biggest arms clients are India’s immediate and troubled neighbors—Pakistan, Burma, and Bangladesh, in that order.

India, in contrast, relies on arms imports for meeting basic defense needs. New Delhi’s addiction to weapon imports ensures that the country’s domestic armament-production base remains weak and underdeveloped. Furthermore, though China apportions 28% of the country’s military budget for defense-related research and development, India apportions just 6% for research and development.

Given China’s deep-rooted authoritarianism, vibrant state-driven economy, growing military might, and unconcealed aim to dominate Asia, India must narrow the power disparity with Beijing through a commitment to the development of economic and military power. That need is further underscored by the likely arrival of Chinese submarines in India’s strategic backyard, the Indian Ocean, which is vital to world trade and the supply of oil. Close to half of the world’s overseas commerce, and one-fifth of global oil and gas supplies, pass through the Indian Ocean rim. The region is also critical for energy-poor India, who imports 75% of the country’s oil and gas supplies by sea. The security of sea lanes in the Indian Ocean rim is thus vital to India’s economic and security interests.

As the growing asymmetry in power with China puts New Delhi at a disadvantage when dealing bilaterally with Beijing, broader security arrangements or initiatives will become increasingly attractive to India. Such arrangements or initiatives can help build the security of vital sea lanes and contribute to wider power equilibrium in Asia.

New Delhi’s ability to avert the emergence of a Beijing-oriented Asia will hinge on India’s success in retaining the country’s major role in the Indian Ocean. A China that expands its presence in the Indian Ocean and exerts increasing influence over the regional waterways—as well as over Burma, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal—will pave the way for a Sino-centric Asia and for a greater strategic squeeze of India.[13]

Events in the Indian Ocean rim as much as in East Asia, therefore, will determine the balance of power in Asia.[14] For India to keep the Chinese navy out of India’s backyard, New Delhi must exert naval power at critical chokepoints. If India does not guard the various gates to the Indian Ocean—for instance, through strategic partnerships with key littoral states—the country will have to confront the Chinese navy in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea before long. Not surprisingly, India is now seeking to build defense ties, conduct joint military exercises, cooperate on energy, and hold strategic dialogues with countries in the Indian Ocean rim and beyond. For India the maritime arc stretching from the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Malacca to the South China Sea and the Sea of Japan constitutes the “new silk route.” Building maritime security in this arc demands cooperation and strategic partnerships among countries sharing common interests and values.


[1] Two Indian energy firms, ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) and Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL), own a combined 30% stake in the adjacent Burmese gas fields A-1 and A-3.

[2] The memorandum of understanding (MOU) was followed by a $84 million soft loan from Beijing and a technical survey by PetroChina for laying the pipeline from the Burmese gas site at Kyaukphyu to Ruili in Yunnan Province. See Sanjay Dutta, “Gas Pipeline: Myanmar Takes India for a Ride,” Times of India, March 27, 2006.

[3] Amitar Ranjan, “Myanmar Gas Bid Lost, MEA and Petroleum in War of Words,” Indian Express, July 30, 2007.

[4] John W. Garver, “Development of China’s Overland Transportation Links with Central, South-west and South Asia,” China Quarterly, no. 185 (March 2006): 1-22.

[5] Brahma Chellaney “China Covets a Pearl Necklace: Dragon’s Foothold in Gwadar,” Asian Age, April 7, 2007, http://chellaney.spaces.live.com/Blog/cns!4913C7C8A2EA4A30!249.entry.

[6] The theory of China’s “peaceful rise” originated in a book published in April 1998 by Chinese strategic scholar Yan Xuetong and three of his colleagues. The book discusses China’s strategy to emerge as a great power without facing Cold War–style containment. The theory was quickly embraced by the communist leadership. Yan Xuetong (ed.), Zhongguo Jueqi: Guoji Huanjin Pinggu [For China to Rise: Assessing the International Environment], (Tianjin, China: Tianjin People’s Publishing House, 1998).

[7] The trade pattern, however, disturbingly shows India as a raw-material appendage to China’s rising industrial might. At the end of fiscal 2006-07, more than 50 percent of Indian exports to China comprised just one item—iron ore. When other primary commodities were added, that figure totaled 85 percent of the exports. In return, India has been importing more and more Chinese processed goods, to the extent that it has become import-dependent on China for steel tubes and pipes.

[8] “China-India Trade to Gear Up,” People’s Daily Online, August 2, 2005.

[9] Brahma Chellaney, “Averting Water Wars in Asia,” International Herald Tribune, June 26, 2007.

[10] R. Nicholas Burns, “On-The-Record Briefing on the Status of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative and the Text of the Bilateral Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation (123 Agreement),” (U.S. Department of State press briefing, July 27, 2007, http://www.state.gov/p/us/rm/2007/89559.htm.

[11] Brahma Chellaney, Asian Juggernaut: The Rise of China, India and Japan (New Delhi: HarperCollins India, 2006).

[12] Joydeep Mukherji, “China, India, and the Fate of Globalization,” Standard & Poor’s, January 3, 2005, http://www2.standardandpoors.com/portal/site/sp/en/ap/page.article/2,1,1,2,1104429838302.html.

[13] Mohan Malik, “China’s Peaceful Ruse: Beijing Tightens Its Noose Round India’s Neck,” Force, December 10, 2005.

[14] Donald L. Berlin, “India in the Indian Ocean,” Naval War College Review 59, no. 2 (Spring 2006): 58–89.

Brahma Chellaney is Professor of Strategic Studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. He can be reached at chellaney@gmail.com .

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