Smart- balancing China 

Smart- balancing China 

Context:      

The recent revival of the ‘Quadrilateral’ and the consequent talk of an ‘Asian NATO’ have brought the India-China rivalry back to the limelight.

Introduction:

  • The alleged China connection to the recent ‘regime change’ in Zimbabwe is a harbingerof things to come.
  • It would ensure that its access to overseas resources/markets and the oceanic trade routes are unhindered.
  • Denying India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, blocking UN sanctions against Pakistan-based terrorists, and ignoring India’s sensitivity over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor are outcomes of this vision.

Area of concern:

  • Chinese revisionist claims in the land and oceanic space have been a major source of concern.
  • Beijing’s deployment of naval assets to enforce its claims across the South China Sea, construction of artificial islands in the region, and the rejection of a UN tribunal judgment on a complaint filed by the Philippines, last year have only strengthened this feeling.
  • China has also been increasing its naval presence, including dispatching its nuclear submarines on patrol, in the Indian Ocean.
  • Along with military assertion, Beijing has also been stepping up its political and economic footprint in the region, dismissing New Delhi’s protests.
  • Ever-strengthening China-Pakistan military alliance and its implications for the country.

India’s strategies to ‘checkmate’ China

  • The current Indian strategies to ‘checkmate’ China seem more zero-sum and less efficient.
  • New Delhi has chosen to adopt an unequivocal U.S.-centric strategy to deal with Beijing, most recently the Quad.

Problems with this :-

  • The U.S. is a quickly-receding extra-regional power whose long-term commitment to the region is increasingly indeterminate and unsure.
  • U.S.-China relations are far more complex than we generally assume and Australia is caught between the U.S. and China.
  • While India may have shed its traditional reticence about a strategic partnership with the U.S., it would still not be what Japan is to the U.S., nor should it.
  • The second broad policy direction seems to be to compete with China for regional influence in South Asia.

Way ahead:

  • India should use its $70 billion-strong trading relationship with China as a bargaining chip to check Chinese behaviour. However, doing so would hurt both sides.
  • India-China bilateral trade is heavily skewed in favour of China, let’s not forget that China’s exports to India comprise under 3% of its total exports (and India’s exports to China is 3.6% of its total exports).
  • New Delhi would be better served by adopting a more nuanced balancing strategy, a strategy of ‘smart-balancing’, towards Beijing, one that involves deep engagements and carefully calibrated balancing, at the same time.

A possible road map:

  • It would involve co-binding China in a bilateral/regional security complex: that is, view China as part of the solution to the region’s challenges (including terrorism, climate change, piracy, infrastructural/developmental needs) than as part of the problem, or the problem itself.
  • Some efforts in this direction are already under way such as India-China joint anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden.
  • The two countries could consider initiating regular, structured consultations in this regard.
  • In other words, enhancing security cooperation with China is a sure way of alleviating the persistent security dilemma between them.
  • A mutual ‘complex interdependence’ in economic, security and other domains should be strengthened and front-loaded over zero-sum competition
  • Security cooperation should most certainly be enhanced in the Indo-Pacific where India should, even while being part of the Quad, talk of cooperating with China
  • India urgently needs to develop a clear vision for a stable regional security order and work out what role India would like China to play in that vision and how it can nudge China towards that.
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