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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

"New Game" in Asia

A column in The India Express "There's a new game in Asia" is an interesting peek into the issues facing the Indian Ocean nations as both China and India develop.
The rapid growth of China’s interests abroad, particularly energy needs, has broadened Beijing’s military’s missions. China’s navy and air force have begun to project power in the South China Sea, where several islands are under dispute and vital oil supplies pass through, and in the East China Sea, where China and Japan are locked in a fight over sea-bed mineral rights and several contested islands. With China-Taiwan tensions on the rise, preventing Taipei from declaring independence has become a national objective and Chinese naval power in the region has acquired a new edge.

As part of its effort to secure its energy interests, China is elevating its military profile from the Persian Gulf to the South China seas. Chinese assistance to the construction of a high profile port in Gwadar on Pakistan’s Makran coast, overlooking the world’s energy supplies from the Persian Gulf, has become emblematic of the new Chinese maritime strategy. According to a report prepared for the Pentagon by Booz Allen Hamilton, the consulting firm, China has developed a “string of pearls” strategy, seeking military-related agreements with Bangladesh, Cambodia and Thailand in addition to those with Burma and Pakistan. Reports in the South Asian media also point to growing Chinese naval interests in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

At the same time, Beijing has stepped up political and diplomatic efforts to convince its neighbours that China’s rise is not threatening to the region. It has unveiled a focused military diplomacy to reach out to neighbours and major powers...

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