Xi Jinping’s thought on new China escalates paradox of concerns for global powers. He pitched for socialism with Chinese characteristics, global power with non-confrontation and inclusiveness through Belt and Road initiatives (BRI). He asserted to establish a modern socialist country by 2050 and emphasized that China would have a world class armed forces by then. His thoughts are viewed reminiscent of combination of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping ideologies that China would be ruled by Central leadership with market economy, with an alternation that China would not take old and traditional path for global leadership. China would avoid confrontation.
The western elites are unlikely to believe the Chinese proclamation for world power committed to peace with “win- win cooperation”. In the recent visit to India, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson emphasized for deeper cooperation with India “in the broader Indo –Pacific region”. Close on the heel, Japanese Foreign Minster Taro Kondo proposed a top level dialogue with US, India and Australia, unleashing alarm over China’s aggressiveness in maritime expansion under BRI.
India considered China’s modern socialistic characteristics was a domestic problem. “Seeking inclusiveness by releasing influences though Belt and Road initiative” was a ruse. India refused to join BRI. Because it violated India’s sovereignty and integrity by launching CPEC project ( China – Pakistan- Economic – Corridor) – the master deal of BRI. CPEC passes through Gilgit-Baltistan, which is located in Pakistan- occupied Indian territory of Kashmir, India alleged.
The core issue was Chinese economy, which is bogged down by uneven growth in the domestic economy and protracted plight of over- capacity in the manufacturing sector.
The “ new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics “ is to pursue more balanced growth in the domestic economy, a shift from Deng Xiaoping policy of development, which focused on development of coastal regions in the east.
China’s assertiveness for global power through BRI should lend a new thought for India’s foreign policy. In the wake of China becoming the game changer in the polarization of global power, India’s mandate for non-alignment movement, the underlying pivot for foreign policy, underwent into depletion. Modi’s avoidance of 17th NAM summit in Margarita in Venezuela in September 2016 was the clear indication of sidelining the Nehruvian legacy for non-alignment movement and Congress led foreign policy.
Challenging China’s proclamation for global economic power through BRI, India considered China’s rise in power through BRI will escalate more threat than cooperation. In this paradox, India has no other choice but to engage more in strategic partnerships with military and economic prowess, such as USA and Japan, including the nations who are at the brink of falling prey to BRI paranoia( like Vietnam).
Offering American military bases in India and refurbishing India- Japan bilateral relations with defence cooperation are the manifestations for special strategic relations to counter-balance China’s surge in power in Asia-Pacific region. In 2016, India allowed military basing facilities to USA. It was first time that India allowed military basing facilities for a foreign army. It signed Logistic Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with USA , which would allow USA to use Indian ports and military bases. It was viewed a great alliances between India and USA to counter China’s military clout.
Close on the heel, new dimensions in Indo-Japan strategic relation for global partnership are considered green shoots to strengthen India’s clout to counter-balance Chinese aspiration in Asia – Pacific regions. The deepening relation with Japan in defence cooperation and transregional economic partnership in Asia – Pacific region are the manifestations for stronger India- Japan relation. The region has emerged an important turf for Modi’s Act Asia policy. The joint partnership will get a further boost since it has enough opportunities to be embedded in Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor initiative, an initiative of USA to exercise its assertiveness in Asia Pacific.
The Indo-Pacific Corridor initiative can be traced back in ‘US rebalancing’ and ‘Pivot to Asia Strategy” in 2011 under Obama administration. In 2013, under “USA – India Strategic Dialogue “ Indo- Pacific Economic Corridor was hailed as ‘New Silk Road’, which would seek connect India with South Asia, South East Asia and East Asia through Myanmar.
The deepening relation between India and Japan escalated a new concern for China. It suspected that India-Japan partnership for Asia-Africa- Growth- Corridor project (AAGR) was a ruse and depicted it an attempt to counter China’s OBOR. Eventually, AAGR will overlap OBOR route. The Global Times – a English version of China’s official media – jeered at the connectivity , saying “ AACG – connectivity project jointly forged by India and Japan – is an oppositional vision intended to counterbalance China’s Belt and Road initiative”.
Development of Chabahar port in Iran is another case for India’s shifting to strategic partnership with nations other than militarily prowess to counter China’s might. The significance of the port is that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan. It will dwarf Chinese presence in Arabian sea, which China is trying to ensure by developing Gwador port in Pakistan. It is less than 400 km from Chabahar port by road and 100 km by sea. With this , Iran emerges a military ally to India.
Engaging into Comprehensive Strategic partnership with Vietnam during Modi’s visit to Vietnam in September 2016 was another attempt to harness India’s penchant for strategic partnership and counter China’s maritime bully. This rebooted ten year old strategic partnership between India and Vietnam, unleashing deeper meaning for all round cooperation between the two countries. In this respect , India’s commitment for US $ 500 million line of credit for procurement of defence equipment from India and implementation of India- Vietnam Defence Relations underpinned India’s bigger role as a strategic partner of Vietnam in South China sea. In 2014, a dispute erupted in between Vietnam and China over the maritime right when Chinese oil rig company conducted oil drilling inside the Vietnam ‘s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEC).
In summing up, India’s foreign policy will closely be toed on modern China concept and its aspiration for global power. This will led more strategic partnerships with militarily and economically prowess and the nations in the BRI fray. Also, this will usher strengthening defence and more foreign investment in defence manufacturing to bolster strategic partnerships.
Views are personal