Rising China- Challenges for India
|Image credits-Christophe Meneboeuf /Wikimedia|
It has been two months since I last wrote an article. The North Korean crisis is nearly over and India has moved away from Doklam. But Doklam has taught us many truths, primary of them being that China as a power is here to stay. The world has moved on. But the omnipresence of China cannot be ignored.
China over the years has spread it's presence in the Indian Ocean region, with strategic investments in countries ranging from Myanmar, Bangladesh to Srilanka, Maldives and Pakistan. In these countries, in extension of it's Belt and Road Initiative, China is investing in infrastructure ranging from ports to roads and railways, all these steps mainly to recreate the ancient silk route. The Silk Route in it's modern avatar has two components, the land route and the maritime phase. The land route connects China to Europe via Central Asia and Europe, a sort of Eurasia route. Even though China will derive little or no economic benefit from the land route, what China intends to do is exert it's influence by making these countries dependent on it's economy. Now on paper, all these projects look good. But the real problem for China is that most of the countries that China is investing in have unstable administrations. Hence there is no guarantee that China will get the returns on the investments that it made in these countries. But China is forced to invest so that it can utilise the industrial surplus infrastructure that is lying dormant in China.
|Credits- Australian Cowboy / Wikimedia|
Coming to the Indian context, India needs to be very concerned about the Chinese expansion to the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean has always been India's sphere of influence. But recently China has been investing much in the countries of the IOR with the intention of exerting their influence. The most prominent of the countries are Maldives and Pakistan. The Maldives has always been a close ally of India. The Maldives which sits on the main shipping route has significant strategic importance. But lately, things have changed. The Maldives has been moving towards China. India over the years has lost much of her influence in the country. The recent issue wherein the incumbent President declared an emergency and virtually subverted the entire judicial organs is a case in point as he had the full support of China. There is little India could do. But this should be a wakeup call to India. Pakistan is another case in point. Pakistan is deeply involved with China's BRI project with China Pakistan Economic Corridor and is actively considering stationing Chinese troops in Pakistani soil/.India should take steps to further deepen the relationship with other quad countries to exert influence and pressure on China. India should also further strengthen it's defence apparatus so that when the time comes, India will be strong enough to counter China.
But the picture is not that bleak. India has a few aces up it's sleeve. India has over the years built an excellent relationship with many countries and many trust India. India also has strong maritime and military relationship with other major powers including the USA, Japan and France. India also controls the mouth of the Malacca straits through it's massive presence in the Andaman and Nicobar Isles which can effectively be used to blockade Chinese shipping. China which relies on shipping to augment it's economy will choke. Further, China with all the commitments in East and South China Sea will find it pretty difficult to commit troops and assets to IOR. Hence India is in a safe position. But India shouldn't relax but be prepared for the time when China will be strong enough to exert it's influence in IOR.