NE India & Sino-Indian rivalry
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled on July 12 that China has no historic title over the waters of South China Sea. China claims most of the energy-rich waters through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Whereas the USA and Japan have raised serious concerns over what they called aggressive Chinese activities in South China Sea, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have their claims in South China Sea. In fact, South China Sea has become a serious bone of contention among these countries. Back in India, many China watchers and policy analysts remarked that the tribunal’s ruling which quashed China’s historical claims regarding the ‘nine-dash line’ could have implications for the India-China territorial dispute in Arunachal Pradesh. China analyst Claude Arpi said, “For the first time an international verdict has rebutted one of China’s numerous claims. This could be important for India”. Apart from territorial disputes, there is a deep rooted rivalry between India and China. The rivalry between India and China, befittingly called Asian giants on account of their huge populations, territories and fast growing economies, is rooted in their diverse geopolitics and intersecting economic interests. Indeed, the theoretical arc of operations of Chinese fighter jets at Tibetan airfields includes India. Indian space satellites are able to do surveillance on China. In addition, India is able to send warships into the South China Sea, even as China helps develop state-of-the-art ports in the Indian Ocean. And so, India and China are eyeing each other warily.
Despite significant improvement in bilateral relations, geopolitical rivalry for influence and domination is intensifying between the two Asian giants in the post-Cold War era. Nowhere is this contest for regional hegemony between China and India more evident than in Myanmar, which occupies a critical strategic position between the two countries. China’s inroads into Myanmar since 1990, specially the build-up of naval facilities in the Bay of Bengal and its possible use by the Chinese military, are, from New Delhi’s perspective, serious encroachments into India’s sphere of influence. Indian strategists now see China as a threat in the East as well as in the North. The growing military nexus between China and Myanmar has prompted the Indian Government to reassess its policy towards Yangon and to emphasise the complementarity of interests between India and the United States, India and ASEAN, and India and Japan in containing China’s growing economic and military influence in the Asia-Pacific. After Sukhoi-MKI fighter jets, the Government of India deployed surface to air Akash missiles in the North East since 2014 to deter Chinese jets, helicopters and drones against any misadventure in the region. Apart from purported incursion by Chinese troops into forward areas of India, Arunachal Pradesh still remains an intractable bone of contention between the two countries. The contest for regional hegemony between China and India is starkly evident than in Myanmar which is then deflected to the Northeastern region as exemplified by the deployment of India’s most potent fighter jets followed by Akash missiles. Enhanced militarization of the North East is one obvious fall out of the Sino-Indian rivalry. What is even more tragic is that people of the region are in no position to help themselves out of the precarious situation. We can only hope that India and China resolve all their bilateral issues on the negotiating table rather than through military might.
NE India & Sino-Indian rivalry