Tag Archives: China

At the Gateway from East: Where do India’s Neighbours stand on the Belt and Road?

ISSSP Reflections No. 55, June 19, 2017

Author: Seetha Lakshmi Dinesh

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How do India’s neighbours look at the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative of China? What is the current politico-economic framework in the Bangladesh-China, Nepal-China and Sri Lanka-China relations? What could be the possible opportunities and concerns when the Indian neighbourhood takes the new road with China? How do they intend to take the initiative forward?

Sino-centric bilateralism

 China’s tie with Bangladesh has been primarily one of friendly trade and defence cooperation. The International Trade Centre marks the commerce between the two States to be USD 12 billion in 2014 and estimated to exceed USD 30 billion by 2021. However, there seems to be a huge imbalance in trade, in terms of export-import between the two nations. The exports of Dhaka to Beijing seem to have not reached even a billion while on the flip side it enjoys duty free accessibility on a number of Chinese products. Bangladesh intends that the existing and growing imbalance could be tackled if China shows more interest to invest in Dhaka’s sunset industries and improve exports by sending the goods produced to Beijing.

Interestingly, Nepal faces a similar trade-deficit like Bangladesh, that is, the average export has remained at a very low rate compared to its imports with China, though, and trade relations among the duo have been at a steady rise. Nepal has not been able to fight the trade imbalance given the zero tariff entry it enjoys on a number of its goods primarily agro-products. Apart from this, geographical factors leading to poor connectivity have also been a major challenge to improve trade relations with Beijing. Nevertheless, China has been consistently making efforts to improve infrastructure on its part along the Nepal border. It has already connected a suburban plateau in Nepal through railroads.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, has been receiving greater attention from China in recent times as the latter has been seeking to revive its ancient trade routes. This has improved the investment of Chinese Yuan in Sri Lanka. Even so, Colombo’s trade imbalance seems to be in line with other nations. The import from China accounted to USD 3,731.64 million while the imports barely remained at USD 293.05 million during 2015. Sri Lanka does not completely apprehend on this as Chinese imports of raw materials largely provide the foundation for Sri Lanka’s textile manufacturing and its export.

OBOR: Opportunities and Concerns

 The One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative is largely seen as a gateway to expanded commerce by South Asian States. Small economics like Bangladesh and Nepal view OBOR as a prospective tool to improve the present infrastructural deficiencies which is vital for socioeconomic advancement. Dhaka, for instance, intends to meet its annual task of employment generation through the OBOR, which assures speedy growth and an extensive network of trade. Bangladesh also seeks to make use of her geographic position and work towards emerging as a major hub serving all the corridors along the OBOR. However, Dhaka seems concerned about how well it would be able to harness the opportunities to the fullest and reap benefits.

The unofficial border blockade by India has been a major factor which pushed Nepal into having extended ties with China and further into signing the OBOR. Kathmandu seems affirmative towards the initiative and like Bangladesh, Nepal also primarily views connectivity as one of the major breakthroughs to accelerate the economic engine. Kathmandu is a very recent entrant into business with China. It, therefore, becomes important for Nepal to keep a tab on the long term benefits it could gain from the initiative and also analyse on how the rest of  South Asia, especially smaller economies have been carrying their relationship with China forward.

Besides the geopolitical question, Sri Lanka, unlike the rest of her South Asian counterparts seems to remain in bigger dilemmas. The State is sceptical about its way forward due to the debt-laden projects with China it inherited from the previous government. Further, Colombo’s association with Beijing on the OBOR would mostly be on building infrastructure at the Hambantota Port and the Colombo Port for which Sri Lanka would have to respond to the queries of India on alleged Chinese expansion unto the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). But, the island already seems ready to tackle the risk.  Sri Lanka cannot underplay its ties with China, particularly at a time when it plans to move ahead with its projects.


Evidently, China’s motive might not be one of overt power projection along South Asia but covertly, it could also be in order to expand its defence capabilities by familiarising with the region in the first hand. India as a regional power seems to be drifting away from its neighbourhood. Recent policy shifts suggest that India might join hands with USA and Japan on infrastructure projects countering the OBOR. India as a major player in the Asia-Pacific region and China almost leading the superpower race today aggravates the challenges to which States like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka could be exposed in the coming years. But, the prospects of a landmark initiative like the OBOR are undoubtedly humongous. It would not be wise of these States to let go of the enormous connectivity and trade opportunities the initiative pledges to offer. Nonetheless, small economies have to make sure that this win-win drive towards globalisation lets them extract optimally without pushing them to the Chinese laden debt-traps.

About the Author

Seetha Lakshmi Dinesh, Research Intern at ISSSP, NIAS.


East Asia 2017: In the age of Donald Trump

East Asia 2017: In the age of Donald Trump

NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 15 | Author: Prakash Panneerselvam | March 2017

To read the complete report click here

To cite: Prakash Panneerselvam. “East Asia 2017: In the age of Donald Trump,” NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 15. Bangalore: International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, March 2017.

The power relationship in East Asia depends on the interaction between the three big powers – the US, China and Japan. In the age of Donald Trump, East Asian countries are worried about Trump’s precarious view on the alliance system and regional affairs. The sea-change in the US foreign policy has not only created uncertainty on the economic and strategic front but it also significantly impacted the fate of East Asia.

This report examines and assess responses of Japan, Korea and China to Trump besides looking at emerging issues in the region that might pose a serious challenge to the new US administration.

United States 2017: Trump and Asia

United States 2017: Trump and Asia

NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 14 | Author: Amit Gupta | March 2017

To read the complete report click here

To cite: Amit Gupta. “United States 2017: Trump and Asia,” NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 14. Bangalore: International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, March 2017.

On the campaign trail Donald Trump made a series of provocative statements about dealing with China and the broader Asian region. He suggested that his administration could impose 45% tariffs on China, accused Beijing of currency manipulation, and swore to withdraw the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership.

After being elected, President Trump took a congratulatory call from the President of Taiwan and even questioned the rationality of the United States’ decades long one-China policy. Added to these proclamations was the insistence that a Trump Administration would not tolerate a nuclear and aggressive North Korea.

Where is the Trump Administration likely to go in its dealings with Asia?

Findings of the Permanent Court of Arbitration: A Major Diplomatic Setback to China

ISSSP Reflections No. 47, July 14, 2016

Author: R.N. Ganesh

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25-nine-dashed-line-in-the-south-china-seaChina’s claims in the South China Sea are based on its “9-dash line”, which claims virtually the whole of the South China Sea. The 9-dash line is itself based on an ‘11-dash line” published by the Republic of China in 1947, (i.e., before the creation of the Peoples’ Republic of China), which has no valid historic, logical or legal basis. This claim predates the UNCLOS by several decades, and most of the countries of the SE Asian region were not even independent states at the time. China claims sovereignty over the South China Sea and has used military force to interfere with legitimate fishing and oil exploration activity by regional coastal states.  From 1970 the PRC reiterated its demands more aggressively when the Philippines began oil exploration off its coast. The Philippines began oil production in 1984, and today its offshore oil meets nearly 15% of its national requirement.

UNCLOS: Scope of Authority            

The UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea, to which the parties to the disputes in the South China Sea are signatories, lays down the principles based on which the living and non-living resources of the sea bed may be exploited by coastal state. As modified by the lay of the continental shelf and various other factors, it prescribes a limit of 200 nautical miles (approximately 360 kms), as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the coastal state. The Scarborough Shoal, the Spratley islands and the Paracels lie well outside this limit from China. In any case, where the EEZs of two coastal states overlap, they have to be negotiated and agreed based on certain formulae.

The UNCLOS does not rule on issues of sovereignty or national or territorial borders. Rather, it prescribes methods for use of the sea and the exploitation of the resources in and under it, outside of national boundaries. It also lays down how the limits of the EEZ are to be defined and the use and limits for the exploitation of the Continental shelf by coastal states. An important law in the Convention is that rocks and features that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf. This is an issue that is particularly relevant in the case of the South China Sea.

South China Sea Disputes & the Case of Philippines

Taiwan and the coastal states of the ASEAN have 9 different points of dispute concerning maritime boundaries. Of these 7 involve China, and at least 5 states are affected in all but 2 of the disputes with China. China is averse to multilateral discussions and insists on dealing with each state separately so that it can extract the most advantage.

In the absence of any progress of its efforts to resolve the problems with China and the economic loss caused by inability to exploit its rightful maritime resources, the Philippines took its case to Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague in January 2013. The case dealt with 15 separate complaints about violations of international law by China in the South China Sea. Beijing responded by saying that it would not participate in any proceedings at The Hague, and that the PCA had no jurisdiction in the matter. The PCA undertook a detailed examination of China’s submission and in October last year it published its determination that the case fell within its jurisdiction. It accordingly proceeded with 7 of the 15 issues raised by the Philippines. These dealt with the following aspects:

  1. Role of historic rights
  2. Source of maritime entitlements
  3. Generation of maritime entitlements by certain maritime features
  4. Unlawful activities by China that were in violation of the Convention

Findings of the PCA               

  1. China’s Historic Rights: The Court ruled that the provision of comprehensive and exclusive rights by the UNCLOS had extinguished historic rights as they were incompatible with the concept of exclusive economic zones.
  2. Chinese Control over S. China Sea Waters: There was no historical evidence of Chinese control over the South China Sea waters or its resources
  3. Nine-Dash Line: There was no legal basis for claiming resources within the Nine-dash Line
  4. Maritime Features and Maritime Entitlements: The Court found that some reefs had been heavily modified by construction and land reclamation.  None of the features were capable of sustaining inhabitation in their natural state; therefore they could not have an EEZ, but only a 12-mile territorial limit.
  5. Within Philippine EEZ: As some areas were outside any possible entitlement of China, the Court could declare that these are within the the EEZ Philippine EEZ
  6. Unlawful Actions by China: The Court found that China had violated Philippines rights by interfering in with its fishing and oil exploration, constructing artificial islands, and allowing Chinese fishermen to fish in the Philippines EEZ.  China had also caused great harm to the marine environment by destroying reefs and depleting endangered species such as sea turtles. The Court found that China’s actions were incompatible with the the obligations on a while dispute resolution proceedings were going on.

Implications of the Findings of the Court of Arbitration

China has clearly suffered a setback with the Court of Arbitration so explicitly declaring it a violator of the UNCLOS, and upholding Philippines position. It is quite evident that the dashed lines have no validity and that seems to knock the bottom out of China’s case.

This does not mean that China will resile from its present claims in the South China Sea. Its whole aim there is to acquire the rights to exploit sub-sea resources, particularly offshore oil, and its likely reaction can be predicted. It will harden its position, condemn the Arbitration proceedings and reject the findings (which it has already said it would do) and adopt a tougher and more belligerent posture in its dealings with the USA and the ASEAN, which is already dubious about long-term security support from the US. It may respond to its legal and diplomatic failure with military bravado. It may well become more hard-nosed in its dealings with India, for instance in the border issue and in trade.  Such a reaction will be of a kind with its method of international policy, such as its aggressive postures with Japan over the Senkaku islands, or the ordering of the ADIZ over East China.

The softening of the US towards China has in a sense contributed to matters reaching near-crisis.  America has been aware for more long about the construction and land reclamation in the South China Sea, but its response has been muted, as it is not ideally placed to demand adherence to the Arbitration Court’s findings, not having itself ratified the UNCLOS.

China’s long-term aspiration, however, is to gain status and assert its place at the global  “head table.” This it cannot do if it continues to behave like a maverick. It has to return to its professed policy of a “harmonious rise” This will only happen if the world community takes a firmer stand on its conforming to international agreements.

About the Author

Vice Admiral RN Ganesh (Retd.) has commanded a diesel submarine, a nuclear submarine and the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. His last appointment was as the Director General of the Indian nuclear submarine programme which he continued to head after retirement from active service till 2004. He is adjunct faculty, ISSSP, NIAS.

PLA Rocket Force: Adding fuel to the Dragon’s ‘Fire’?

ISSSP Reflections No. 37, February 22, 2016

Author: Mrunalini Deshpande
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Source: Xinhua/Li Gang

Recently China announced the upgradation of the PLA’s Second Artillery Force to PLA Rocket Force (PRF). Will the inclusion of nuclear and conventional ballistic missiles under the control of PRF make China lethal in terms of new warfare strategies? Is the Chinese End game aimed at keeping US on the edge? Will the PRF and Strategic Support Force be a game changer in terms of modernization of military forces?

The New Rocket Force: Making China’s strategy lethal

The new Rocket Force and the Strategic Support Force was announced in December 2015 by Xi Jinping, as part of the restructuring of the Chinese military. According to the Chinese reports, the PLA Rocket Force’s main mission, like that of the Second Artillery Force, will provide strategic deterrence with nuclear and conventional missiles under its control. Whereas, the Strategic Support Force is expected to provide proper electronic and cyber intelligence back up for the precision missiles strikes during war.

The new Rocket Force, is expected to deploy its nuclear assets on land, sea and air. It is believed to be incorporating the Navy’s strategic nuclear submarine and the Air Force’s strategic bomber. This will make the Force, the world’s first independent service with land, sea and air nuclear components, more integrated than any other country. The formation of PRF serves as a major indicator of China’s ambition to up the ante with respect to strategic and nuclear defence by establishing the world’s most complete missile strike system.

The PLA Rocket Force has been given a status equal to that of PLA, PLA Navy and PLA Air Force. Along with the nuclear missiles, the Rocket Force would also be in charge of the conventional missiles. This is an indication of the continuation of China’s “dual deterrence” policy which seems to have been intricately woven into the “active defence” policy. Active defence through offensive strategic policies is China’s signature approach towards national security. Also, the formation of the Strategic Support Force is considered as a reflection of how much importance the PLA is granting the new and rapidly growing domain of cyber and space. The Strategic Support Force is said to constitute of an aerospace army, an internet army and electronic warfare troops. Network attacks against satellites and ground based facilities that control the satellites would be China’s modus operandi during a conflict.

Keeping US on the edge

So what is the larger Chinese endgame? Unlike the US and Russia, China is not constrained by any agreements that would cut down their missile production or limit the range of their missiles. This has helped China in establishing a complete ballistic missile strike system with their high precision, medium range missiles being the highlight of their missile system. China’s ambition to establish a military balance with respect to US and Russia is obvious through its serious attempts to establish an army that would be ready to win wars of the information age.

The possible inclusion of submarine launched ballistic missiles into the Rocket Force, is a clear indication of China’s attempts to enhance its sea based nuclear deterrent and second strike capabilities. The enhanced sea based nuclear capabilities could be the Chinese way of gaining an upper hand in the geopolitical tensions with US in the Pacific Ocean region. The Strategic Support Force will aid the military during cyber and space warfare, which only further asserts China’s determination in having an upper hand in all domains of future conflicts.

In November 2015, China conducted the sixth, successful test of its hypersonic maneuvering strike vehicle, DF-ZF (previously referred to as WU-14). The hypersonic glide vehicle is capable of radically changing its trajectory to avoid missile defences. The ability to fly at low, radar- evading altitudes makes them less vulnerable than existing missiles to the strong US missile defence systems. These warheads are capable of performing non- nuclear as well as nuclear precision strikes. China may use this warhead on a future generation of an Anti- Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM).  This has set US on the edge as they try and build a defence that is essentially centered on counterbalancing China. Having been an undeterred nation for a long time, the steady rise of China’s military might is sure to ring alarm bells for the US.

China’s space weapons are proving to be another threat to the US satellites. With its new Strategic Support Force, China is all set to enhance its space weapon capabilities. The congressional US-China Economic and Security Review Commission warned in its most recent annual report that “China is pursuing a broad and robust array of counter space capabilities, which includes direct ascent antisatellite missiles, co-orbital anti-satellite systems, computer network operations, ground-based satellite jammers and directed energy weapons”. While the US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) is in charge of their nuclear, space, cyberspace and electronic warfare operations, it is not in charge of the conventional weapons. The PRF is in charge of China’s conventional as well as nuclear weapons. This added control of conventional weapons gives PRF a slight upper edge over the USSTRATCOM.

Changing the game

As per the military reform guidelines released by the Central Military Commission of China, the overall administration of the PLA, the Chinese People’s Armed Police and the militia and reserve forces will fall under the charge of CMC. The concentration of control of the armed forces with the CMC is a characteristic of this military reform. The current year would witness enhanced military systems, civilian-military integration, improved combat personnel and reform of military academies and armed police forces. The formation of the Rocket Force is seen as a clear departure of the Chinese leadership’s focus on the PLA. As part of the new reform, China is said to be reducing its troops from 2.3 million to 2 million, with special emphasis on the phasing out of outdated armaments and development of new weapon systems. Hence with the PLA Rocket Force being accorded the status of the fourth wing of defence, the navy and the air force will also find themselves being treated at par with the other three Services.

From the Air Force to Navy, Cyber to Space, the Chinese seem to be thoughtfully revamping their military structure to meet their future ambitions. Having realized the importance of space systems, China is developing capabilities that would deny access to these space systems during conflict. This can be viewed as an extension of their access-denial campaign. With its high precision ballistic missile system and an efficiently integrated defence system, China seems to be steadily moving towards its goal of building a modernized military.

The PLA Rocket Force and the Strategic Support Force will play a major role in contributing towards this goal. While the PRF and the Strategic Support Force are aimed at setting US on the edge, this new strategy will also have major implications for India and leading Asia Pacific countries. As China moves towards modernizing and reforming its military, the notion of counterbalancing this strategy could result in stronger defence alliances in South Asia. Thus, China, with its robust military and rapidly developing space capabilities has reset the geopolitical game in its favour.

About the Author

Ms Mrunalini Deshpande is Junior Research Fellow, International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. She can be reached at mrunaldeshpande19[at]gmail[dot]com

NIAS IPCS Young Scholars ‘Global Nuclear Politics and Strategy’ Workshop

NIAS IPCS Young Scholars Workshop on “Global Nuclear Politics and Strategy”

May 3-7, 2015, NIAS JRD Tata Auditorium, Bangalore

The Annual Residential Young Scholars’ Workshop (YSW), a flagship programme of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, provides a unique opportunity to students and young professionals to gain meaningful insight into the field of nuclear studies.

This year’s edition – Global Nuclear Politics and Strategy 2015 – the workshop was jointly organised by the IPCS and the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore.

group photo

Group Photo of Speakers and Participants at NIAS-IPCS Young Scholars Workshop (May 4-7, 2015)

An unprecedented number of applications for GNPS 2015, making the competition keen and our task difficult, and the participant selection came in recognition of their academic and professional achievements. In addition to scholars from academic institutions and think-tanks across India, this year witnessed, for the first time, participation from young officers hailing from, among others, the Indian Army, Air Force, Border Security Force, DRDO and the Ministry of External Affairs.

The complete Workshop Schedule and Conference Booklet can be downloaded by clicking the links.

The presentations made by the speakers at the Workshop can be accessed below. 

Prof Sahni Presentation

Varun Sahni – Contemporary Global Nuclear Politics

Varun Sahni - International Arms Control, Non Prolif, Export Control Regimes

Varun Sahni – International Arms Control, Non Prolif, Export Control Regimes

LV Krishnan - Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycle

LV Krishnan – Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycle

LV Krishnan - Nuclear Safety

LV Krishnan – Nuclear Safety

Vijay Shankar - Evolution of Nuclear Strategy and Doctrine

Vijay Shankar – Evolution of Nuclear Strategy and Doctrine

S Chandrashekar - Evolution of Global Nuclear Capabilities

S Chandrashekar – Evolution of Global Nuclear Capabilities

Vijay Shankar - Nuclear Weapons in China's National Strategy

Vijay Shankar – Nuclear Weapons in China National Strategy

Manpreet Sethi - Nuclear Weapons and India's National Sec Strategy

Manpreet Sethi – Nuclear Weapons and India’s National Sec Strategy

S Chandrashekar - Cuban Missile Crisis

S Chandrashekar – Cuban Missile Crisis

Rajaram Nagappa - Introduction to Missiles

Rajaram Nagappa – Introduction to Missiles

A R Sundararajan - India's Nuclear Regulatory Framework

A R Sundararajan – India’s Nuclear Regulatory Framework

Baldev Raj - Nuclear Energy after Major Accidents

Baldev Raj – Nuclear Energy after Major Accidents


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Will the China factor overshadow India’s Sri Lanka reset?

The Hindu Business Line, March 11, 2014

M. Mayilvaganan, Assistant Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies

Business LineDr. M. Mayilvaganan was quoted in Stanly Johny’s article in The Business Line titled “Will the China factor overshadow India’s Sri Lanka reset?”  Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to take up the issue of growing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka when he meets the island nation’s leadership later this week in Colombo, even as experts remain cautious about giving overemphasis on the China factor in India’s engagement with its Indian Ocean neighbour. 

To read the complete article click here

Workshop Report – Asia-Pacific Power Dynamics: Strategic Implications & Options for India

Asia-Pacific Power Dynamics: Strategic Implications and Options for India

Authors: M. Mayilvaganan, Aditi Malhotra, Sadhavi Chauhan, and Viswesh R

To read the complete report click here

Executive Summary

report coverBackground: China’s rise, unresolved maritime disputes in Asia Pacific, and the US pivot to Asia have led to the re-emergence of Asia- Pacific as a strategically important region. This new found focus has created a growing need to understand the regional dynamics in a more nuanced way. Given this backdrop, the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP) of the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore has been engaged in a medium term project focusing on China. A primary objective of this project was to study the behaviour of regional countries in the face of a crisis in the Asia Pacific. As a part of this effort, ISSSP organised a workshop titled ‘Asia-Pacific Power Dynamics: Strategic Implications and Options for India’ on March 11, 2014.

Workshop Agenda & Methodology Validation: The agenda and the proceedings of the workshop were finalised through a number of stages. The first stage involved in-house discussions over potential trigger events that could spur a crisis in the Asia-Pacific. The second stage involved the identification of crisis events and possible scenarios along with the compilation of a database, which included relevant information of all the countries in the region. Finally, the agenda and programme for the workshop were decided upon through a validation exercise, held on August 20, 2013, which brought together area experts and scholars. The validation meetings concluded with a consensus on the trigger events that would facilitate the simulation exercise. It was also suggested that the workshop be preceded by a seminar where subject experts would reinforce the current baseline positions of the various countries of the region.

The Groups: The workshop was structured into five groups, keeping in mind the alliances and the major power blocks in the Asia-Pacific region. The first four groups comprised of China and its allies, US and its allies, ASEAN, and India. There was a fifth group, the Control, which included all the other countries, coordinated the events and documented the responses of the other four groups. The groups were made up of area experts hailing from the defence and diplomatic services, academics, and scholars.

Workshop Findings: The Workshop revealed the following strands of strategic thinking amongst the different groups:

The US

The workshop commenced with a baseline position wherein the US did not want to confront China but only deter it. However, the workshop exercise suggested that if the current tensions transform into a crisis that could escalate into a confrontation, the US will be willing to escalate the crisis and would not yield to Chinese threats.

  • The workshop revealed that the US maybe willing to reassert its dominance in the Asia-Pacific if needed; this was displayed by its assertive actions in the region.
  • As events progressed in the workshop, America’s stand transformed from deterrence to containment and eventually from containment to possible confrontation with China.
  • The responses also suggested that the US looks at the region as an integrated entity. Specifically, the US clubbed the East China and the South China Seas, and the Indian Ocean region as one domain, when dealing with China. Thereby, it hoped to invoke a multilateral response to the China threat. This was achieved by a strengthening of ties with its current regional allies (Japan, Korea), and seeking more allies in the South China Sea (Vietnam) and the Indian Ocean Region (India).
  • Although the US wanted India to be a part of its alliance, it was not willing to get involved in India’s bilateral issues with China.


  • Unlike the US, China did not view the Asia Pacific region as an integrated entity. Whether this was a conscious part of its strategy or whether it was an inherent flaw in the way they think remained unclear.
  • China’s treatment of regional and global issues seemed to reveal an absence of a clear link between them. Though Taiwan, the East China Sea and the South China Sea issues are all connected especially through geography, China chose to deal with them separately.
  • The divide and rule approach adopted by China was also revealed in its preferences for bilateral negotiations even though many of the maritime disputes in the region are multilateral ones.
  • China’s strengthening of its military and political partnerships with South Asian countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh were aimed to check India, which Beijing identified as a crucial US ally.
  • China’s responses highlighted its aspirations to attain parity with the US in a new bipolar world order, where it enjoys the same status and power that the erstwhile USSR commanded during the Cold War Era.


  • ASEAN’s responses to the events reflected the lack of unanimity amongst its member countries.
  • During crisis situations, ASEAN preferred to use diplomatic negotiations to defuse tensions.
  • The workshop reflected that ASEAN is interested in an enhanced US presence in the region that allows its members the luxury to trade with China, without the problem of political domination by China.
  • Though ASEAN seemed comfortable with the current power structure in the region, an unleashing of Japanese power seemed to have been a matter of grave concern to them. The group’s responses established that ASEAN was as concerned about Japan as it was about China. This is understandable since many of the member countries have been victims of Japanese aggression in the past.
  • Looking at the overall scenario, it can be inferred that ASEAN’s ability to respond in an affirmative manner remains restricted to diplomatic endeavours. Though individual members of ASEAN such as Vietnam or Cambodia could be important from the viewpoint of the US or China, the ASEAN collective did not seem to be a major force in a crisis escalation scenario in the region.


  • Throughout the crisis, India practiced strategic restraint and made conscious attempts to stay out of a China-US conflict.
  • India’s responses made it clear that it did not view crisis events in the South China Sea as important enough for it to take any actions.
  • The only time New Delhi contemplated military action was when its territorial interests were in peril.

Issues and Questions: The workshop raised a number of issues to be addressed in greater detail. These issues arise from the various assumptions that went into the formulation of the baseline positions, the trigger event for the crisis and other events that lead to crisis escalation.

  • Under what circumstances (that threaten its current dominant position) will the US move from a strategy of deterrence or containment of China towards a more aggressive posture of reasserting its dominance?
  • Is China’s current aggressive posture, which has transformed a number of neutral countries into potential adversaries, a part of a broader grand strategy? Or is it based on an ad hoc judgment of its interests by vested parties within the Chinese establishment?

As a corollary to the above, the following questions may also need more detailed investigation:

  • Do China’s actions in the region display a prioritisation of its interests? Would it help if China asserted its maritime territorial claims after it has resolved the Taiwan issue? By creating multiple adversaries in the Asia-Pacific, is China creating problems for itself?
  • Is the US approach of looking at the region as an integrated whole the right way to look at the problem?
  • Why does China continue to breach the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), even though it is a signatory to it? Is there some well thought component of a Chinese grand strategy behind some of its overtly irrational and inconsistent behaviour in the region?
  • Under what conditions will India play a more proactive role in an Asia-Pacific crisis?

For the Indian strategic community, there is an undoubted need to gain a deeper understanding of the evolving regional dynamics of the Asia-Pacific, as a result of China’s rise. ISSSP intends to conduct a series of workshops on this theme in the coming years. Future workshops would incorporate more countries and participants, in order to make the events, scenarios and proceedings more realistic and relevant.

Asia-Pacific Power Dynamics: Strategic Implications and Options for India

Asia-Pacific Power Dynamics: Strategic Implications and Options for India

Authors: M. Mayilvaganan, Aditi Malhotra, Viswesh R., and Sadhavi Chauhan

To read the complete report click here

Executive Summary

seminar coverIn the emerging geopolitical discourse today, the Asia-Pacific region has emerged as a major centre of geostrategic interest. Accompanying this change in perception is a change in scope, with strategists not just considering the typical Indian Ocean, but also the western, and sometimes even central Pacific Ocean. The Asia-Pacific ranges from East Africa to the western and central Pacific, including Japan and Australia. Asia-Pacific concept reflected a new reality shaped by the rise of China and India, a revitalized Japan, along with the continued primacy of the United States and also signifies the accelerating economic and security connections between the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean thus creating a single strategic system.

Based on the proceedings of the seminar, the following inferences on the behaviour and strategies of the major players in the Asia Pacific Region can be made.

  • China’s economic performance and its military modernization have made it a major power in the Asia Pacific Region.
  • Though there is a great deal of economic inter-dependence between China and the US, there is great trust deficit that spills over into the strategic and military domains. This has created a new Cold War type situation between the two countries.
  • There was agreement among the participants that China is behaving in an increasingly assertive and aggressive way with its neighbours in the region. This assertive behaviour is particularly prominent in the East and South China seas. This behaviour was directed not only at US allies but also at other countries in the region.
  • China’s aggressive behaviour seems to have the full support of the Party and the PLA. The PLA remains under the firm control of the Party. Participants felt that this assertive behaviour would continue.
  • China’s relations with prominent US allies such as Japan and Philippines have become significantly worse following a string of maritime incidents. Other countries such as Vietnam have also been subject to Chinese harassment.
  • China’s behaviour towards the ASEAN group of countries also suggests that it thinks it has a dominant power position.
  • There seems to be a gap between Chinese local bullying behaviour and the overall strategy that seems to advocate a more reasoned rise.
  • Participants described this variously as “psychological flux”, “muscular leadership” and “no clear sense of direction”.

The seminar proceedings raised a number of questions related to the motives behind China’s behaviour. Some questions are as follows:

  • Is China’s increased belligerence based on the premise that US power is on the decline and that it can now match the US at least in the region?
  • With the presence of “US pivot” and the notion of “Air Sea Battle,” does China believes that it has in place a strategy to deter the US from intervening in the region? or
  • Is the increasing assertiveness based on the belief that the US wants to deter China from bullying its neighbours but will not move towards containing China?
  • By implication does this mean that China does not take the “US pivot” and the “Air Sea Battle” as a hindrance to or a constraint on its actions? or
  • Is the Chinese behaviour a consequence of a gap between the local and global strategies or between the tactical and the strategic? What are or what could be the reasons for this gap? Or
  • Is China’s assertiveness a part of a well thought out integrated approach towards the eventual re-establishment of China’s dominant position in the region?
  • Though some participants raised the question of a new world order with China and the US as dominant power centres, the issue did not emerge as a major point deserving serious consideration.
United States

According to the seminar participants the recent US pivot to Asia Pacific region could be interpreted in many ways.

  • It can be seen as a move away from a dominant or hegemonic position towards a rebalancing position.
  • It can also be seen as a US response to contain a rising China. Many participants mentioned that this was the position that the Chinese were taking in response to the “US pivot” and the concept of “Air Sea Battle”.
  • There seemed to be a broad acceptance amongst the participants that the US actions were not aimed at containing China but rather directed towards deterring China’s bullying tactics.
  • The view that the US sees India as an important ally in its rebalancing strategy also seemed to find acceptance.
  • When the sessions on China and the US are viewed together, the seminar proceedings seemed to suggest ambiguities in both Chinese and American perceptions regarding each other’s motives and intentions in the Asia Pacific area. These grey areas could sow the seeds for future conflicts in the region.
  • Russia would like to remain relevant as a major power centre in the region. The mature status of the European markets for oil and gas, and the growth prospects for them in the Asia Pacific region (especially in China) will force Russia to look eastwards rather than westwards. If China’s response is positive especially in terms of economic investment in Russia’s eastern regions, Russia may not have any problems in sharing power with China, as a part of the new political order in the region.
  • Developments in Ukraine and their consequences will also move Russia closer towards China to counter the moves from NATO and the western alliance. A Sino-Russian alliance of sorts could well happen soon.
  • Japan
  • The seminar proceedings suggest that Japan is seriously worried about the rise of China and its increasing aggressive behaviour towards it. It is also worried about China’s power and influence over a nuclear and missile capable North Korea that can be used to threaten and coerce Japan.
  • Japan has responded to these developments by strengthening its alliance with the US. As a part of this alliance it will once again allow US bases to operate out of Japan.
  • It is also improving its defence capabilities and if the constitution can be amended it is signalling the setting up of a self-defence force for the country.
  • By signing security pacts with Australia and India it has also indicated its intentions to form alliances with other like-minded countries to counter China’s aggressive behaviour.
ASEAN Countries

The ASEAN as a collective body is divided on how it should deal with China’s increasing assertiveness. Some fall clearly within the Chinese camp while others fall within the US camp and many others would like to remain neutral.

  • Most of the approaches adopted by them to build integrated security architecture with all the major players in the region such as the EAS have not delivered any great results so far.
  • As a consequence, countries are pursuing their own approaches when dealing with this situation.
  • Cambodia and Laos appear to be closely linked to China.
  • Indonesia, the largest country of the ASEAN is trying to remain neutral by providing space to China but also seems to be worried about Chinese actions in waters close to it. It is looking new ways and means in dealing with these problems.
  • Malaysia like Indonesia originally favoured a security architecture that recognized China’s major role but after the spate of maritime incidents, it has moved along with the Philippines towards a multilateral code of conduct approach with the involvement of countries like the US and Japan.
  • Singapore and Thailand are trying to work out arrangements which would favour the continuity of trade with China but also enable them to be linked to a security umbrella under the US.
  • South Korea appears to be moving closer to China both in terms of trade and also because it believes that China can control North Korea. However, in case a major conflict breaks out, it might still look to the US to guarantee security.
  • Given this large variation in interests, it appears unlikely that a grand alliance against China can materialize, even under US leadership. However new security arrangements between countries with similar interests that may include other major powers are already beginning to emerge. This may be the trend for the next few years.
  • India does not have a clearly articulated strategy for dealing with developments in the Asia Pacific region including the rise of China. The articulation of such a strategy that includes both hard and soft power components came out as the top Indian priority.
  • Though Indian and US interests are increasingly aligned against China in many ways, India should not become a formal part of the US rebalance strategy. India should also make sure that it has the capabilities to deal with any problems with China on its own without having to depend on other countries.
  • India should continue to actively engage with China in all areas while continuing to be watchful about Chinese actions and intentions.
  • India needs to be proactive in its approach to the region especially with regard to the maritime domain. It must exploit emerging opportunities to send strong signals to all players, that it will preserve and protect its strategic interests. The absence of a clear ‘Look East’ strategy is currently hampering such efforts.
  • In spite of the many problems within ASEAN, India should continue to engage actively and constructively with it.
  • Apart from strengthening bilateral ties with countries like Russia India also needs to look at trilateral agreements with the countries to strengthen its strategic position.


China’s ballistic missile system for targeting aircraft carriers

The Hindu, March 5, 2014

China’s Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile: Game Changer in the Pacific Ocean

S. Chandrashekar,  R.N. Ganesh, C.R. Raghunath, Rajaram Nagappa, N. Ramani and Lalitha Sundaresan

An ISSSP Report titled ‘China’s Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile: Game Changer in the Pacific Ocean’ was quoted by The Hindu to highlight the Chinese system of using land-based ballistic missiles to deter America’s powerful nuclear-powered aircraft carriers from coming anywhere near its coast. The link of the entire story which appeared on March 5, 2014 is given below.

For the entire link click here

The study was undertaken by a group at the ISSSP, NIAS to make an analytical assessment of China’s capability to design and develop an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile directed against an Aircraft Carrier Strike Group (CSG), and also the Chinese ability to create the technical infrastructure required to transform this missile into an operational weapon system.

To read the complete report click here
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