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India, Southeast Asian Countries Step Up Maritime Cooperation to Counter China

India, Southeast Asian Countries Step Up Maritime Cooperation to Counter China

Maritime alliance comes amid India’s ongoing border row with China

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is rolling out the red carpet for the leaders of Southeast Asian countries on the eve of India’s Republic Day. What is being described by the Indian media as a diplomatic ‘coup’ in India’s ongoing territorial row with China, ten heads of states from Southeast Asian countries will finalize the details of a new maritime mechanism with New Delhi and attend tomorrow’s Republic Day parade, an annual event that showcases India’s military prowess.

Last year, Indian and Chinese troops brawled with each other over a territorial dispute in the western Himalaya region. Both countries went to war in 1962 over similar border disputes. Nearly 55 years later, the two Asian countries continue to face off each other along 2,000 miles of contested mountainous border.

Video: A scuffle between Chinese and Indian soldiers (summer 2017):

In recent years, China has leased ports in countries around India’s periphery, such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, making New Delhi nervous over the Chinese Naval presence close to its commercial ports and naval facilities.

An agreement with the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations seeks to “promote maritime security in a region dominated by China,” the news agency Reuters reported ahead of today’s summit.

India is gathering the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Regional Cooperation (ASEAN) for a summit on Thursday to promote maritime security in a region dominated by China, officials and diplomats said.

India has been pursuing an “Act East” policy of developing political and economic ties with Southeast Asia, but its efforts have been tentative and far trail China, whose trade with ASEAN was more than six times India’s in 2016-17 at $470 million. (…)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited the leaders of all ten ASEAN nations to join him in the Republic Day celebrations on Friday in the biggest ever gathering of foreign leaders at the parade that showcases military might and cultural diversity.

Indian newspaper Times of India covered the details of the maritime understanding reached between India and the Asean member states on Thursday:

India and ten Asean countries on Thursday agreed to establish a mechanism for greater cooperation in the maritime domain, a move which comes in the wake of growing concerns in the region over China’s rising military posturing in the South China Sea.

The consensus on setting up of a mechanism for deeper maritime cooperation was reached during a retreat session hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the ten Asean leaders. (…)

The move to set up a mechanism for greater cooperation in the maritime domain assumes significance as a number of Asean countries have territorial disputes with China in the resource-rich South China Sea.

The maritime alliance comes amid rising tensions between China and Taiwan. The hostilities intensified over Beijing’s repeated military drills aimed at Taiwan and the threat by a senior Chinese diplomat, last month, to invade the island nation.

“No one can exclude this possibility. We will need to see whether their policymakers are reasonable policymakers or not,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen told a domestic TV network on Monday when asked whether a Chinese strike was imminent.

“In terms of China circulating around Taiwan or carrying out other military activities, our military is carefully following every action and movement in the scope of its monitoring,” President Tsai added.

Not just India or Taiwan, but Southeast Asian countries are equally alarmed over China’s massive naval and military build-up in the South China Sea. Beijing has ongoing border disputes with 18 of its Asian neighbors.

Despite territorial disputes with its immediate neighbors, China is working on an impressive multi-national infrastructure initiative. The One Belt, One Road ­project, initiated in 2013, seeks to make massive investments in roads, railways and power grids in nearly 70 countries spread across Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. The project, if successful, would open new land and sea trading routes for Chinese exports.

If China has been unapologetic about translating its economic strength into military muscle to intimidate its neighbors, Beijing’s might not have qualms about weaponizing it’s ‘Belt and Road’ ­network in case of a conflict. People’s Liberation Army’s involvement in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Chinese naval bases in Pakistan and Horn of Africa are the signs of things to come as China emerges as a major global player.

Video: China’s One Belt, One Road initiative:

[Cover image via YouTube]


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Based on my thin knowledge from travel in that part of the world, SE Asia has some very bad historical experience with strong outsiders — Japan, France, and Britain. I can see why they would be nervous about China.

Sorry for the random thought, but that is one weird photo. Her head looks like it is photo shopped onto a skinny body and why is she clutching her purse like that? Is she afraid someone will steal it?

A competing economic market would be a positive means to tame the Chinese dragon.

legalizehazing | January 26, 2018 at 2:26 pm

Well that’s good. China is a bad actor. Hopefully the equitably size and developing country will be a stronger counter balance.

I find that it is a positive development that countries are acting independent of the US to protect their own interests in such a strategic manner. History has shown that the US may not be all that dependable given which President may be sitting in the Oval Office.

Among the humongous failures of the the Obama administration and its Clinton/Kerry crafted foreign policy will be their “Pivot to Asia” (TM). In fact, I believe it was one of the most consequential yet least appreciated failures of the entire time.

Anybody who was capable of grasping the basics, such as looking at our 30 year ship building plan, could tell we weren’t “pivoting” toward Asia. We were “pivoting” away from the M.E. and toward domestic spending.

Dutarte, whatever you think of him, could read the tea leaves.

“In a state visit aimed at cozying up to Beijing as he pushes away from Washington, the Philippine President announced his military and economic ‘separation’ from the United States.
‘America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow,’ he told business leaders in Beijing on Thursday. ‘And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.'”

You can not “pivot” to Asia diplmatically in such a maritime intensive theater without muscle behind it. Yet, under Obama, no muscle. Leaving our SCS allies dangling in the wind.

Now we have all those fortified islands the Chinese have built up to deal with. Never would have happened except for our government’s fecklessness. Or, I would posit, complicity. Obama made it pretty damn clear that as a leftist he saw the US as uniquely evil. Or, what part of fundamental transformation didn’t you understand?