Thursday, June 6, 2013

Today's newspaper articles

Much has been written about America’s “pivot” into the Pacific region, but what about India’s pivot into Asia or Chinese attempts to smooth relations ??

Here are two articles from “The Diplomat” website:

By Pratyush

June 4, 2013

EBG6NYSM4VCJIndia’s aggressive diplomatic engagement with key Asian partners belies the policy paralysis at home amid a raft of corruption scandals, which have severely undermined the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Singh’s recently concluded visits to Japan and Thailand on the heels of high-profile visits by the Chinese and Afghan leaders to New Delhi highlight the fact that the government’s ability to pursue a policy of continued engagement with key strategic interlocutors remains unimpeded despite its depleted reservoirs of political capital.

After all, India’s outreach to several East Asian countries is raising eyebrows. A case in point were the summit-level talks between Singh and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Tokyo last week, which led to the signing of a joint statement that is truly strategic and ambitious in breadth and scope, particularly at a time when mutual wariness of an assertive China is growing.

Besides annual summits, a steady growth in political exchange, dialogue and policy coordination such as the Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue, the Foreign Office Consultations, and the Defense Policy Dialogue have transformed the nature of India-Japan ties in recent years.

In addition to bilateral exchanges, Japan and India also held their fourth trilateral dialogue with the United States this May in Washington. In January, Tokyo and New Delhi also held their first-ever Maritime Affairs Dialogue to coordinate their strategies amid aggressive territorial claims by China in the South China Sea and the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

No wonder, then, that the growing Indo-Japanese rapprochement has caused deep misgivings in Beijing. On May 30, following Singh’s visit, the Global Times, a Chinese state-run daily, ran an editorial warning India against its growing ties with Japan. “Overheated strategic cooperation with the Abe administration can only bring trouble to India and threaten its relationships with the relevant East Asian countries," it warned.

In another development expected to rile Beijing, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has also expressed an interest in cooperating more closely with India in the realm of defense, including collaboration in production. Moreover, Indian Defence Minister AK Antony has made trips to Singapore, Thailand and Australia this week alone, suggesting that India’s own “pivot to Asia” is a well-thought out policy of engagement and not simply a coincidence or whimsical aberration. Reaffirming this view is the fact that Antony’s visit to Australia will be the first-ever by an Indian defense minister to that country.

Incidentally, the visit coincides with the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, the annual dialogue is the pre-eminent forum on security-related issues bringing together defense ministers and other senior military leaders from key Asia-Pacific nations. Last year, it was the venue where the United States formally unveiled its so-called “pivot to Asia” policy – a foreign policy formulation of the Obama administration intended to shore up regional alliances and re-assert America’s intention to remain a Pacific power.

Under the plan, Washington seeks to re-deploy 60 percent of its warships to the region by 2020. This includes six aircraft carriers, a majority of cruisers, destroyers, combat ships, and submarines. The new U.S. policy also seeks to deepen ties with traditional allies, such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines, among others. The policy comes at a time when defense spending in Asia is poised to overtake that of Europe, for the first time in decades.

In 2012, China and India announced 11 percent and 17 percent jumps in defense spending to US$106 billion and US$40 billion dollars, respectively. South Korea and Japan also announced rises in defense spending over the same period. Meanwhile, countries in Southeast Asia spent a collective total of US$24 billion on defense in 2012, a rise of 13.5 percent over previous year, with the figure expected to rise to US$40 billion dollars by 2016.

The latest Indian policy marks a significant shift from a year ago when New Delhi remained ambivalent about its role in the U.S. “pivot” despite being described as a “lynchpin” in the U.S. strategy by then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. That Washington remains supportive of broader Indian presence in the region was evident in the speech made by Panetta’s successor Chuck Hagel to the Shangri-La forum on June 1.

“The world’s largest democracy, India’s role as a stabilizing power is of growing importance with the increase of trade and transit between the Indian and Pacific Oceans,” Hagel said. “The United States considers India’s efforts to enhance its military capabilities as a welcome contribution to security in the region.”

Following the recent border row with China in April, New Delhi seems to have junked its policy of appeasement towards Beijing. While India will resist from formally joining any formal multilateral platforms aimed at containing China, New Delhi seems to be signaling that it will not be dictated by China in pursuing bilateral ties with countries in the periphery such as Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Singapore.

That India is willing to emerge as a net security provider in the region is also evident in New Delhi’s willingness to consider Afghanistan’s request for military equipment – a policy reversal from its earlier deference to Pakistani sensitivities. Further, ASEAN member countries will welcome India’s proactive engagement, which signals New Delhi’s willingness to shoulder wider responsibilities beyond the narrow confines of South Asia.


The Emerging Strategic Triangle in Indo-Pacific Asia

By Minghao Zhao

June 4, 2013

EBG6NYSM4VCJFor China’s new premier Li Keqiang, the choice of India for his first foreign trip was a smart one. Li went to New Delhi amid a public outcry in India over the territorial spat with China, and then visited Pakistan at a time when a new government was preparing to take office. The context meant the timing was meaningful.

Li took pains to make it clear to India that “we are not a threat to each other, nor do we seek to contain each other,” and pledged to open China’s markets to Indian products to address the trade imbalance and boost commerce to $100 billion a year. The premier also sought to reassure India over the vexed boundary issue and called on the countries to use their wisdom to find “a fair and mutually acceptable solution.” The challenges are many, but the strong political will of the Chinese leadership to keep the bilateral relationship on the right track deserves recognition.

What Beijing will find disturbing, however, is the Indian public’s growing wariness towards China. A recent poll by the Lowy Institute in Australia suggested that more than 80% of Indians view China as a security threat, even though China has become India’s largest trading partner. Moreover, 65% agree that India should join with other countries to limit China’s influence, although 63% would like to strengthen relations with China.

Australia may be the country that does the best job observing and assessing the evolving dynamics between Asia’s two giants, China and India. Chinese strategists keep a very close eye on the research outlets and debates within Australia. One of the most powerful intellectual innovations by Australian international relations scholars in recent years is the concept of “Indo-Pacific Asia”. It is a concept that has inspired many Chinese strategic thinkers and planners to begin to look at China’s grand strategy across a wide Indo-Pacific swath.

And it is true that a power game of great significance has unfolded in Indo-Pacific Asia. The United States, India, Japan and other players are seeking to collaborate to build an “Indo-Pacific order” that is congenial to their long-term interests. China is not necessarily excluded from this project, and it should seek a seat at the table and help recast the strategic objectives and interaction norms that bind all participating states.

The biggest challenge in Indo-Pacific Asia is the grand accommodation among one hegemon and two rapidly rising giants. The pressing task for China, the U.S. and India is to build and sustain substantial and purposeful dialogues to find viable mechanisms for communicating their interests and concerns to each other, managing the impending rivalry and generating synergy for regional stability and prosperity.

The deployment of U.S. Marines to Darwin, a location that can be viewed as a crossroads between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, indicated that the U.S. is adopting a new two-ocean strategic framework, and is part of the U.S. military pivot to the region.

A U.S. strategic guidance document released in January 2012 emphasized “the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia” and specifically highlighted that “the United States is also investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region,” echoing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s encouragement of India not only to “Look East”, but also to “Go East”.

Undoubtedly, China does not want to see India become the linchpin of the U.S. alliance system in the Indo-Pacific region. In June 2012, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted, “America is at a turning point. After a decade of war, we are developing a new defense strategy…In particular, we will expand our military partnerships and our presence in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia. Defense cooperation with India is a linchpin in this strategy.”

However, neither the U.S. nor China should make the mistake of assuming that there is a natural Indo-U.S. alliance vis-à-vis China. Since independence, India has pursued strategic autonomy as a guarantee for its leading role in world affairs. Most Chinese observers are very confident that India will stick to that creed and will manage its relations with both China and the U.S. effectively.

Indeed, Beijing and Washington might find a “Non-Alignment 2.0” strategy potentially adopted by India quite palatable, since it would allow India to play an important role in sustaining equilibrium within the region.

So, in what areas could the emerging strategic triangle be helpful? Many, in fact. Take Afghanistan, for example. India worries about stability in its front yard, China is concerned about its economic investments and American fears terrorism.

Each has a considerable stake in keeping Afghanistan from becoming a failed state. The three powers have much more in common than not when it comes to stabilizing Afghanistan.

Nor should we forget Pakistan, which is also struggling through a very difficult period, but which has an opportunity now under its new government to enjoy belated economic development and normalized relations with India. While helping to mediate conflicts between North and South Korea and between Palestine and Israel, China could do more to facilitate a reconciliation between Pakistan and India.

Most important, the three sides should immediately compare notes on their own Indian Ocean strategies. Secure maritime navigation from Africa and the Middle East to East Asia is vital to energy and resource access. In light of its high dependence on the Indian Ocean sea lanes, China has legitimate rights to safeguard its geoeconomic interests. Beijing has no intention of squeezing the presence and interests of India and the U.S. and contesting for primacy, and cannot afford to do so at any rate. But it should not shy away from articulating its concerns over Indian Ocean security.

The three sets of bilateral ties (China-U.S., China-India and America-India) are today quite fluid. Strategic planners in Beijing, New Delhi and Washington would do well to approach their work with an awareness of this emerging triangle in Indo-Pacific Asia as one of this century’s decisive regions. 

Minghao Zhao is a research fellow at the China Centre for Contemporary World Studies, the think tank of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. He is also executive editor of China International Strategy Review and a non-resident fellow at the Center for International and Strategic Studies (CISS), Peking University.



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