China Encircles India

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While US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been visiting India this week, US ties with Pakistan have taken a new, downward twist with the decision by the US Justice Department to charge two men with being in the pay of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

The last few months have been tumultuous for US-Pakistan relations, with the recent halting of $800 million* in military aid marking a new low. And, as Pakistan looks for support elsewhere, it seems inevitable that China will be waiting in the wings to capitalise on the spat. All this raises the question of how Clinton’s hosts will cope with the China-Pakistan alliance at a time when Nepal, Burma, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are all already being slowly drawn into China’s orbit.

But back to the US decision for a moment – was it a strategic mistake to push Pakistan toward China with the aid suspension announcement? From a domestic political perspective, with the United States embroiled in a partisan budget battle, the Obama administration may have had little choice – US taxpayers are understandably reluctant to keep sending vast sums of money to a government that has proved ineffective at best, and duplicitous at worst. That Osama bin Laden was able to take refuge for so long in Pakistani territory was perhaps the final straw. Still, the rank and file Pakistani military will no doubt see the suspension of aid as an affront at a time when they are fighting bloody battles in Waziristan as part of what many of them perceive as ‘America’s War.’

China, without the same domestic pressures (or economic constraints, one might add) that the United States faces at the moment, is able to offer a shoulder for Pakistan to cry on. As the Pakistani prime minister recently noted, China is an 'all-weather friend' – he didn’t add ‘not like those fickle Americans,’ but that was clearly the implication.

Of course the current tensions between the United States and Pakistan aren’t what first sparked Pakistan into drawing nearer to China. As The Financial Times noted in a fascinating piece recently, there have been numerous ongoing efforts by China to deepen its relationship with Pakistan militarily and politically: dam construction on sensitive river systems, Chinese construction of the Arabian Sea port at Gwadar, increased sales of military hardware to Pakistan and (perhaps most sensitive for India) claims by the Indian military that Chinese troops are stationed along the Kashmiri Line of Control.

All of this has significant implications for the future of US-Pakistan relations, and a Pakistan less reliant on the United States must make India extremely nervous. China now stands as a clear rival to Indian influence in Nepal, where it has built major cross-border highways from Tibet, and is in the process of extending its rail network to Kathmandu. The same is true of Bangladesh, where China is assisting in the development of a deep-sea port at Chittagong. In Sri Lanka, that other Indian backyard, China is now the country’s largest aid donor, and is helping to build a major new port terminal at Hambantota. And, as the West has put pressure on India to be firmer with the military junta in Burma, China has enjoyed free rein there.

India may be holding the US ever-closer, but it can’t be pleasant to watch itself slowly, but surely, encircled. And while the United States may seek to improve its relations with India, it faces its own economic and military limitations on the extent to which it can influence events in South Asia. 

India now accounts for 9 percent of global arms purchases, and has increased its defence budget by around 11 per cent year on year. It’s a trend that a wary Delhi is likely to continue. 

*Corrected from $800 billion.

Stewart Watters is an editorial assistant with The Diplomat

Comments
33
Lokesh
September 22, 2011 at 13:23

As an Indian I can tell you… All south asians(except pakistan) feel that India is a bully and as a friend too. But you are listening to only bully word. We all share same culture and everything, they’ll always be with India whatever china will do to them. I hope to see united South Asia (SAARC= Greater India) soon.

Ding dong
September 15, 2011 at 12:26

Well Said Mr MUHAMMAD NAZEEF ALI

Ashutosh
August 21, 2011 at 07:16

I agree with Mahummad. From as far as back as we can go into history India and China were the largest economies in the world till 1820 (possibly 1830). It is the natural order as these 2 countries have the resources and climate and cultures(v.imp) to support large population. The rise of the west is mainly due to wars and colonialism. If there are no major wars and trade the natural order would be restored soon.

Ali
August 13, 2011 at 10:17

I agree…India and China should work together to dominate and divide the loot much to the anger of the white man! Asians should learn from the fate of Africa in regard to the depth of evil harbored by the white western man….they never stop dividing and causing mischief all across the world

asdsad
August 12, 2011 at 11:22

When India & Pakistan went to war twice, many expected Malaysia & Indonesia being muslim states will support muslim Pakistan, but they didn’t. All Asean countries & Japan stood back and watch. It’s not their business..!!, besides national interest is not driven by the South China Seas issue alone.

Whatever, India is big and strong enough today to capably handle her matters, without outside instigation.
Reply

tamilian
August 10, 2011 at 18:21

well said bob.balkanisation of india is the only solution to all problems in south asia. it is inevitable too!!.india has insulted nepal and srilanka by rejecting their unification request with india.only after this incident these two states turned anti india(by helping china etc).india is paying the price for it’s arrogance!!!!!

Stephen
July 26, 2011 at 19:48

India a bully? You are wrong and having illusions! Its China ho is a bully and is the most arbaric nation. China will use India’s neighbours and when its done it will throw them away like a trash.

NR
July 25, 2011 at 14:36

Richard Simms: “Divide and rule”? India and Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, India and [etc.] are already divided, if you hadn’t noticed. These countries seek in China an ally to counterbalance the regional bully that is India, as well as of course Chinese investment to develop their economies. There’s no question of “Divide and Rule”. Your analysis is wrong-headed.

ozivan
July 25, 2011 at 07:35

@Brad. International politics is a very strange business.

When India & Pakistan went to war twice, many expected Malaysia & Indonesia being muslim states will support muslim Pakistan, but they didn’t. All Asean countries & Japan stood back and watch. It’s not their business..!!, besides national interest is not driven by the South China Seas issue alone.

Whatever, India is big and strong enough today to capably handle her matters, without outside instigation.

ozivan
July 25, 2011 at 07:14

haha..not only that !! John Chan has created many other interesting terms too.

Leonard R.
July 23, 2011 at 21:33

Yes. It’s very important for China to demand respect from the West. The great humanitarians in the CCP should demand tribute from the barbarians. First, teach them to kow tow. If they don’t, thesouls should stomp on the food, thump on their chests and threaten the ingrates with fire. That approach always scares them into submission.

Why should China demand less? It’s the Middle Kingdom. It has a technocracy of fifty million Little Emperors. It is clearly the envy of the world.

Cyrus
July 23, 2011 at 16:12

This is a very ill conceived comment.

Wonder where you got this idea. India was even bitter when Pakistan was created how much more you prayer of partitions. Why not do it to China though? Tibet would jump for joy if that happens.

MUHAMMAD NAZEEF ALI
July 23, 2011 at 14:48

CHINA AND INDIA SHOULD BECOME BEST FRIENDS RATHER THAN INDIA WITH U.S.A.
INDIA AND CHINA BOTH HAVE GREAT HISTORY SINCE ANCIENT TIMES.
THESE COUNTRIES HAVE GREAT CIVILIZATION FOR SEVERAL CENTURIES .
THERE ARE SEVERAL CHANCES TO BECOME BEST FRIENDS .
WE CANNOT BELIEVE U.S.A.
THEY HAVE NO RIGHT TO INTERFERE IN ASIAN COUNTRIES.
U.S.A. ALWAYS TRY TO CONTROL OTHERS , THAT IS NOT CORRECT. SEE THE FATE OF AFGHANISTAN , IRAQ , LIBYA , VIETNAM .WHY 50 MILLION NATIVE INDIANS or RED INDIANS WERE KILLED IN AMERICA. WHY SO FAR NOT A SINGLE NATIVE INDIAN or RED INDIAN BECOME U.S.A. PRESIDENT ??? WHY ???

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