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Australia-India relations: looking for respect? December 4, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Brewster, David, India , comments closed

David Brewster

Auriol Weigold in ‘A media-driven view of the Australia-India relationship‘  has captured well the type of difficulties that Australia is likely to face in trying to develop a closer political relationship with India.

Weigold highlights the types of issues which many in New Delhi (and not just the Indian media) see as inhibiting the further development of the relationship. She nominates: Australia’s neutral stance on India’s border dispute with China; Australia’s failure to join the proposed Quadrilateral dialogue in 2007; and Australia’s refusal to supply uranium to India. There is some value in considering each of these issues in turn in order to understand what they really mean for both India and Australia.

First, is the question of Australia’s position on the long-running Sino-Indian border dispute. While India naturally wants as much international support as it can get in its dispute with China, it is difficult to see how Australia would have any interest in taking a position on an argument over the validity of colonial-era territorial claims. There would be significant costs to Australia from inserting itself into this dispute between these two Asian giants – for what gain?

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India’s string of pearls November 26, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Brewster, David, India, Maldives , comments closed

David Brewster

A recent deal to establish an Indian air base in the Maldives is an important step in India’s goal of creating a network of military facilities and relationships across the Indian Ocean.   In August, India signed a defence pact with the Maldives involving the use of the old British airbase on Gan island by Indian naval aircraft and the establishment of a system of electronic monitoring facilities across the country.   According to the Maldivian President, the installations are to protect the Maldives’ large EEZ from illegal fishing.  Perhaps India is also mindful of the unique position occupied by Maldives, astride the major sea lines of communication between the Middle East and East Asia.

The Maldives base is the latest in a string of military facilities established by India outside of South Asia.  In continental Asia, India operates an air base in Tajikistan and electronic monitoring facilities in Mongolia.  In the Indian Ocean, India has built a major naval and air base in its own Andaman Islands as well as electronic monitoring facilities in Madagascar. India has also entered into security agreements with Indian Ocean states as far afield as Oman , Mozambique , Mauritius, Seychelles and Indonesia.

India’s strategy in the Indian Ocean arguably has two motivations.   First, India is following its ‘manifest destiny’ of gaining naval predominance in the region. Whether India is capable of achieving this ambition remains to be seen. Second, and perhaps more worrying, is India’s strategy of ‘countering’ what it perceives as China’s illegitimate incursions into the Indian Ocean – what has been called China’s ‘String of Pearls’ strategy.   The ‘String of Pearls’ – a term coined in a 2003 report to the Pentagon by the Booz Allen consultants – posits that China is building its own string of naval bases and security relationships in the Indian Ocean, including in Pakistan, Burma, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.  The ‘String of Pearls’ has become a clarion call among many in New Delhi for the need to develop India’s naval capabilities to counter China’s ‘strategic encirclement’ of India.  In some quarters, maps of the Indian Ocean are covered with Chinese (and not Indian) flags. (more…)