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New phase in India-China ties May 23, 2015

Posted by jessebuck in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Vinay Kaura

Despite there being no landmark breakthrough on many contentious issues, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s third meeting within a year with Chinese President Xi Jinping was fairly successful. The visit was undertaken to improve bilateral relations through sustained high-level engagement with Beijing.

There is no doubt that India-China relations are entering a new phase, where there are amazing benefits of mutual cooperation as well as unbound risks of persistent suspicion. Both Modi and Xi have the task of not only avoiding confrontation between their countries but share “a historic responsibility to turn this relationship into a source of strength for each other”. Indeed both of them seem to be investing their personal reputations in a process of reconciliation, as evident in Xi’s decision last year to first land in Modi’s hometown of Ahmadabad before heading to New Delhi, and Modi’s decision to first land in Xi’s home province of Shaanxi before going on to Beijing and Shanghai. The ‘most powerful selfie’ moment of the two prime ministers in Beijing seemed to make diplomacy look exciting and engaging. Would these personal gestures help in a dramatic turnaround in the bilateral relationship full of mutual suspicion, distrust and hostility? The answer lies in their ability to address the long-held negative perceptions of each other.

China’s meteoric rise into the front ranks of the leading powers has set in motion a fundamental shift in the global distribution of political and economic power. China continues to amaze the world, including India, by achieving one success after another. It is no longer a rising power; it has risen on a scale unparalleled in the modern world. China’s impressive resurgence as a great power constitutes a remarkable change in the politics of India-China relations as well. As neighbours, as trading partners, and as regional powers with conflicting geopolitical priorities, the China-India relationship has become increasingly complex.

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A new vision for Australia-India relations December 4, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Sourabh Gupta

Australia and India have not always been the best of friends. Seven Indian prime ministers from across the political spectrum and spanning three decades have come and gone without paying a state visit to Canberra, a record broken only now with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Australia following the Brisbane G20 Summit. Four unreciprocated visits were made by Australian prime ministers during the latter half of this period. Australia’s strategic discovery of a ‘shared values’ partner in India too has been a near-term development. The Coalition government under John Howard did not deem relations with New Delhi to be a significant interest, let alone a significant bilateral relationship, in its first Foreign and Trade Policy White Paper in 1997.

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BCIM Corridor a game changer for South Asian trade July 24, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Pravakar Sahoo and Abhirup Bhunia

The Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor will increase socioeconomic development and trade in South Asia. The initiative seeks to improve connectivity and infrastructure, energy resources, agriculture, and trade and investment. It will connect India’s Northeast, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the Chinese province of Yunnan through a network of roads, railways, waterways, and airways under a proper regulatory framework. The current focus of BCIM talks is on an inter-regional road network. This makes sense, as roads are the cheapest route of trade. NyaungShwe_Conrad2236 The BCIM Economic Corridor is a modern version of the Silk Road, and a revision of the 1999 Track II Kunming initiative between BCIM countries. It is planned to run from China’s Kunming province to Kolkata in India, and link Mandalay in Myanmar and Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh. BCIM initiatives have gained momentum since Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India and the conclusion of the first official meeting of the joint study group of the BCIM Economic Corridor on 19 December 2013.

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Will China ‘wedge’ India and the US? June 5, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

Commentators have generally assumed that the Obama Administration’s wrong-footedness over Modi’s US visa, along with the latter’s pragmatic approach to Chinese investment in Gujarat, signal a new tilt by the BJP away from the United States and toward China. Neville Maxwell, writing in the Times of India, urges India to seize the opportunity offered by Modi’s election to achieve a border breakthrough with China.

Writing in the Global Times, Liu Zongyi, of the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, has hailed Modi as ‘India’s Nixon’ and characterised his pragmatic approach to the conduct of business and foreign relations as ‘very close to Chinese practices’.

India would certainly favour a thaw in relations with China so it can get on with the urgent task of infrastructure development and economic uplift of its people, including with Chinese investment in the otherwise etiolated international investment climate. If we take a long-term view, however, we can discern a number of wildcards that may complicate relations between India and China.

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Defence Minister Johnston and Australia’s role in Pakistan September 27, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

As we wind down in Afghanistan after a twelve-year war, new Defence Minister David Johnston reportedly says we need to keep our counter-insurgency skills honed, including for possible use in Pakistan (SMH, 21 September 2013).

Mr Johnston and his advisers need to think such statements through. Does he mean a limited role in advising Pakistan on counter-insurgency or does he envision a more robust involvement in maintaining stability? Either way, there is no useful role for Australia, either singly or in concert with its friends and allies.

Pakistan is both a supporter of the insurgency in Afghanistan and involved in counter-insurgency against groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) within Pakistan.

In the former role, the Pakistani military and its intelligence service, the ISI, support Afghan anti-government groups like the Haqqani network and harbour the Taliban leadership in Quetta. US intelligence believes the Haqqani network, with support from the ISI, was involved in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008, in which 58 died. The network also allegedly killed the Karzai government’s chief peace envoy, Burhanuddin Rabbani.

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‘A continuum of security requirements’: The US Pacific Command and the rise of the Indian Ocean April 3, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, India, South Asia - General , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

As the US refocuses its attention to the Asia Pacific region, it is also seeking to augment its presence in the unstable and heavily contested Indian Ocean Region. Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, who commands the US Pacific Command, or PACOM, talked to Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe on the programme he is spearheading to reposition the US military footing towards the Indian Ocean and the revitalised strategy to engage South Asia and Australia.

How is the Indian Ocean of relevance to the US Asia Pacific rebalance?

Admiral Locklear: Whether the name is Indo-Pacific or something else, when I am sitting in my office looking at a pretty detailed chart of my entire jurisdiction, I view it as a continuum of security requirements, not broken down by historical perspectives of the different oceans. I think ‘one continuum’ is a good concept. However, it’s not just about the Indian Ocean. It’s about the connectivity of these large economies, the large core populations, and how things have to move.

Take that to the next level and you have the cyber commons and the space commons. Ships and airplanes travelling across the Indian Ocean, whether it be to the Arabian Gulf or through the Straits of Malacca, are critical for trade and flow of energy sources. The PACOM helps protect these routes.  (more…)

India: which way will the ‘swing state’ swing? June 8, 2012

Posted by sandygordon in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan, Uncategorized , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

According to a leading article in The Times of India, India now finds itself in the enviable position of being courted by both the US and China, thus confirming its status as a ‘swing state’ of Asia.

Two recent meetings highlight India’s emerging role in Asian security.  On 6 June, American Secretary for Defense, Leon Panetta, told a think tank in New Delhi that India is a “linchpin” in America’s re-engagement with Asia.  He also promised India access to significant military technologies.

Following that meeting, Mr Panetta bypassed Islamabad and warned from Kabul that the US is “losing patience” with Pakistan.

Meanwhile, in the wings of the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Beijing, Chinese vice premier Li Keqiang – widely expected to be China’s next premier – told Indian foreign minister S.M. Krishna that Sino-Indian ties would be the most important bilateral relationship in the twenty-first century. According to The Wall Street Journal, in return Mr Krishna made a strong pitch for full membership of the resource-rich SCO.

US Defense Secretary Panetta and Indian Defence Minister Anthony from 'The Hindu'

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Burning for freedom May 21, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Features, Powers, John, South Asia - General , comments closed

John Powers, Australian National University

In April 1998 in Delhi, a Tibetan exile named Tupden Ngodup doused himself with petrol and calmly set himself alight. He then knelt and brought his hands together in a gesture of prayer as the flames consumed him. Despite the agony he must have endured, his physical demeanor remained calm as horrified bystanders watched him burn. His action sent shockwaves through the Tibetan community, both in exile and in the Tibetan Plateau. This was the first time a Tibetan had engaged in self-immolation, and opinions were divided. Many hailed him as a hero in the struggle against Chinese oppression, while others described his suicide as contrary to Buddhist principles. Most Tibetans acknowledged the depth of his commitment to the Tibetan struggle for freedom and human rights, but none chose to follow his example in the aftermath of his dramatic public demonstration of Tibetan discontent.

Ngodup’s suicide was an important event in an ongoing campaign of protest against the actions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Tibet. It began in 1950 when Chinese troops crossed the Drichu River, the traditional border between Tibet and China, and marched to the capital, Lhasa. They announced that they had come to ‘liberate’ Tibetans from the feudal theocracy of the Dalai Lama’s government and that they would depart as soon as this was accomplished. Soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had been assured by their leaders that they would be welcomed as saviors by the oppressed Tibetans, and so they were shocked and angered to hear people shouting “Han go home!” as they marched into the city.

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The India–US–China–Pakistan strategic quadrilateral May 14, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Merrington, Louise, Pakistan , comments closed

Louise Merrington, ANU

Although the disputed border between China and India is often highlighted as the major sticking point in Sino–Indian relations, in reality it has remained relatively peaceful since the end of the 1962 war, and the potential for overt military conflict in the region remains minimal.

Of much greater concern is the strategic quadrilateral relationship in South Asia involving China, India, the United States and Pakistan. It has both regional and wider implications. At the heart of this matter is the India–Pakistan conflict over Kashmir, and continuing US involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The relationships between these four actors are extremely complex. China’s support for Pakistan in its conflict with India is a serious and ongoing source of tension in the Sino–Indian relationship, while the US relationship with Pakistan is looking increasingly fraught even as its relationship with India improves in the wake of the 2008 civilian nuclear deal. Growing closeness between India and the US has caused some concern in China about the possibility that the US may be establishing a policy of containment or encirclement, and this concern in turn affects China’s relationship with both the US and India. Understanding this complex web of relationships is key to understanding the issues which are at the heart of China–India relations and which affect markedly how these two countries interact in the region.

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Indian Ocean ‘strategy’: don’t make China nervous March 30, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Weigold, Auriol , comments closed

Auriol Weigold

To borrow from an earlier piece published here at the start of this year (8 Jan 2012), I cited President Obama’s Defence Strategy Review, (5 Jan 2012) in which it was stated that “we will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific Region …”, and I take this as an element in raising Chinese concerns.

In his excellent piece  “Indian Ocean: don’t militarise the ‘great connector’”, (29 Mar 2012) Sandy Gordon set out the security dilemma in the Indian Ocean region, and argued against any proposals, whether Indian ‘commonalities’ with the US in terms of strategic outlook, or borne of the US-Australian alliance, that make China nervous.

India, he has argued, is in a strategic ‘box seat’ in the Indian Ocean. Another view is that Australia is also in a box seat in the Indo-Pacific region. As a middle power able, if it chooses to do so, to take an independent stance in its own national interest – including its long-term engagement with China that is much broader than trade – and on its relations in the Indian Ocean region, notably with India and the US. (more…)