China-India Brief #48

China India Brief #48


Published Twice a Month
March 24 – April 15, 2015

Centre on Asia and Globalisation
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy


Guest Column

Musical Chairs in Sri Lanka for China and India?

by David Scott

Between September 2014 and March 2015 there has been a criss-cross of Foreign Ministers and of Heads of Government between India, China and Sri Lanka, in what has accurately been dubbed “the uneasy triangle” between those three countries.

Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited China seven times in his nine years in power from November 2005 to January 2015. These visits witnessed deepening tangible relationship. The relationship was elevated to a “strategic partnership” in 2013. This newly proclaimed partnership had some real substance. The Joint Communique signed by China’s President Xi Jinping and Rajapaksa in May 2013 made a point of deepening defence cooperation, strengthening maritime security cooperation, extending further Chinese infrastructure projects, and expressing Sri Lankan support for a greater role for China in SAARC, an unsettling prospect for India.

During 2013-2014 China achieved significant closeness to the Rajapaksa government in Sri Lanka. To a large degree this closeness of Sri Lanka and China was generated by Chinese military support given to the government in its final and successful drive to crush the Tamil Tigers in 2009. Military closeness was entwined with economic closeness. This was indicated by China’s underpinning for the Hambantota port infrastructure project. A further success for China in this game of musical chairs was in gaining strong Sri Lankan support for China’s Maritime Silk Road initiative. This was publicly emphasised during President Xi’s visit to Sri Lanka in September 2014, the first by a Chinese head of state for 28 years. Xi’s visit brought agreement on the Colombo Port City project, a $1.3 billion plan to build an artificial island off Colombo by the state-owned China Communications Construction Company.

Both the Hambantota and Colombo projects, as well as the wider Maritime Silk Road initiative by China aroused strong misgivings for India during 2013-2014. Worried Indian opinion saw such infrastructure activities as reflecting China’s so-called string of pearls policy, and as representing further encirclement of India through Sri Lanka allowing a Chinese presence on the soft southern underbelly of India. Sri Lanka potentially offered naval berthing facilities for the Chinese navy in a similar way as was emerging for Pakistan’s port of Gwadar, another infrastructure project funded by China. For the first time, Chinese submarines were spotted docking in Colombo; a Song-class diesel-electric attack submarine in September 2014, and a Han-class nuclear powered submarine the Changzheng-2 in October 2014. The fact that the submarine came into the Colombo South Container Terminal (CSCT), a facility controlled by the state-run China Merchant Holdings added insult to injury for worried Indian observers. Comments in February 2015 by the Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi that that he expected “Sri Lanka to become a dazzling pearl on the “Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century” was a linkage that Indian observers noted with concern.

The defeat in January 2015 of Rajapaksa at the hands of Maithripala Sirisena was unexpected and dramatic in this competitive game between China and India. During his election campaign, Sirisena vowed to review foreign invested projects, with his election manifesto containing thinly veiled criticisms of the Rajapaksa government’s approach to China. Sirisena government took up the review immediately after it came to power. The China-funded port city project in Colombo was suspended pending scrutiny on environment impacts and alleged corruption. The timing of this announcement was interesting, one day before Modi’s official visit to Colombo. Sirisena also let it be known that no further Chinese submarine visits would be allowed. The visit of Siresena to China in late March was clouded by Sri Lanka, with the event clouded by Chinese concerns over the Colombo port project, and President Xi warning about Chinese economic interests being jeopardised.

Even as China has been sliding partially off its seat at the Sri Lankan table, India has been sliding onto such a seat. Indian commentators like Raja Mohan were immediately arguing in January 2015 that this “Colombo powershift is India’s opportunity”. Sirisena’s first visit abroad was to India in February 2015. This brought several agreements including one on nuclear energy. Swiftly, and significantly, this Sri Lankan outreach to India was quickly reciprocated by Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka in March 2015. He was the first Indian head of government to have visited Sri Lanka in 28 years. Agreement was reached for India to help develop Trincomalee as a petroleum hub, perhaps an Indian answer to China’s Hambantota project? A significant indication of Indian thinking was reaffirming in Modi’s speech to the Sri Lankan Parliament that “we deeply value our security cooperation with Sri Lanka. We should expand the maritime security cooperation between India, Sri Lanka and Maldives to include others in the Indian Ocean area”. The “others” were the Seychelles and Mauritius whom Modi had arrived in Sri Lanka from, in a three nation trip understood in India to have been designed “as a counter to China’s growing footprint” in the Indian Ocean.

Indications that China was well aware of renewed opportunities for India in Sri Lanka lay behind comments by the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, hosting the visit in February 2015 to China by the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera; in which Wang announced that “China holds an open attitude towards China-Sri Lanka-India trilateral cooperation and stands ready to actively discuss possible fields and feasible approaches of the trilateral cooperation”. Such trilateral cooperation was later floated by the Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao after the Xi-Sirisena meeting in late-March. It is unlikely that Indian would really welcome such a trilateral format, which would further legitimise Chinese presence in this strategic underbelly of India.

In the event Sirisena’s trip to China in March 2015 saw him reaffirming China’s Hambantota project and Sri Lankan support for the Maritime Silk Road project, with the Colombo city plan also reaffirmed in principle. In retrospect what this did was restore a more level playing field in which Sri Lanka can balance off China and India against each other.

 

David Scott retired from teaching at Brunel University on 31 January 2015. He is still actively engaged in ongoing research and consultancy work on India and China foreign policy, at .

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy or the National University of Singapore.


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News Reports

Bilateral Relations

China ‘welcomes’ India’s proposed visa on arrival move
India Today, March 25
China said on Wednesday it would welcome any move by India to grant visa on arrival for Chinese citizens, amid reports that the Indian government may announce the move when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits China in May. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it would welcome the move and would consider reciprocating the gesture to allow greater travel between both countries. As Mail Today reported on Wednesday, the matter was discussed in New Delhi at a high-level meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday, with visa on arrival proposals being considered for citizens of China, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada.

China, India vow to guard border peace
Global Times, March 25
China and India agreed to properly handle and control their disputes and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in their border regions before the boundary issue is solved. At the 18th round of talks of special representatives for boundary issue, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval exchanged in depth their opinions on the boundary issue, and made strategic communications on bilateral ties as well as international and regional issues of mutual interest.  The two sides said that after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in September, leaders of the two countries have given guidelines for the development of strategic cooperation between the two countries in the next five to 10 years.

Fears over India’s new media university based on China’s state-run institution
South China Morning Post, March 28
The Indian government’s plans to spend US$32 million on a media university modelled on the state-run Communication University of China has come under fire, with critics alarmed that the world’s biggest democracy should seek inspiration on media matters from a one-party state. The new media school – to be run by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry – is hoped to be running in three years. It will function as an umbrella organisation for all Indian universities offering media and film studies. A ministry official said the main goal was to address the growing communication needs of the country by training skilled, world-class professionals. “The Beijing model fits in well with our scheme of things,” he added.

‘Building ties for the 21st century’
The Hindu, April 1
On the eve of the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and India on April 1, 1950, the Chinese Ambassador to India, Le Yucheng, in written answers provided to a set of questions posed by Srinivasan Ramani, emphasised the need for a renewal of China-India ties in tune with the realities of the 21st century. Later, in an interaction in Chennai, the Ambassador identified several areas, which he suggested present new avenues for cooperation between India and China. These include infrastructure development and regional security apart from already expanding ties.

More Men or Better Technology? Government Rethinking Strategy to Counter China: Sources
NDTV, April 8
India is said to be re-thinking a decision made two years ago to raise a mountain strike corps to guard the hilly northern borders with China. Sources said the government is now weighing whether it will make more sense to invest in better technology rather than raise an 80,000 strong force at considerable expense. The Manmohan Singh government of the Congress had hastily cleared the raising of the corp after repeated transgression by Chinese troops in Ladakh in 2013, one of which lasted for over a month.

India extends army ‘shoot to kill’ rule in remote state claimed by China
Channel News Asia, April 8
India has granted the army shoot-to-kill powers to fight militants in a wide swathe of the far-flung northeastern state of Arunchal Pradesh, bordering Tibet and claimed by China. The army was already exercising “special powers” in other northeastern states, where various separatist, leftist and tribal rebels are waging insurgencies, but Arunachal Pradesh has been relatively peaceful until recently. Last month, three soldiers were killed in an ambush in the state that the army blamed on militants from the Naga tribe. Rebel groups have set up camps across the state, the home ministry said in its “special powers” order, and use it as a base to launch attacks in the neighbouring state of Assam, which has been hardest hit by an upsurge in militancy in the region.

India, China hold talks to boost defence ties
The Tribune, April 8
Top defence officials of India and China today held preliminary talks to improve relations between the two militaries ahead of their Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD). A high-powered Indian military delegation headed by Defence Secretary RK Mathur, which arrived here today, held preliminary talks as the two sides had a wide agenda for the ADD besides exchanging views on a number of regional and global security issues of mutual concern. The seventh round of the ADD will be formally held on April 10 and aims at improving military ties.

India, China hope to strengthen border mechanism
The Hindu, April 10
India and China on Friday held their annual defence dialogue, expected to earmark four additional points of emergency interaction between border personnel in the Ladakh sector, and establish new nodes for confidence building, including joint forays to tackle humanitarian disasters at sea. Ahead of the talks, highly placed sources told The Hindu that discussions could be wrapped up on designating Track Junction, Pangang Tso Lake, Demchock and Chumar — all in Ladakh — as points for emergency meetings between the border personnel, during talks.

Arunachal status still a bone of contention: China
The Hindu, April 10
China has backed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on the Sino-Indian border issue but, in response to a question, observed that the status of Arunachal Pradesh continues to remain a bone of contention between the two sides. “We have taken note of remarks made by Prime Minister Modi. China has always taken a positive attitude on the China-India boundary question,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. During his interview, Mr. Modi had said: “Insofar as the border is concerned, the most important point right now is that peace and tranquility must not be disturbed. That would create conditions for us to arrive at a mutually-acceptable solution. This is a complicated and old problem and needs to be addressed with care and with deliberation. President Xi [Jinping] also shares my optimism.”

AAPSU Protests Over China’s Statement, Says AP Part of India
Indian Express, April 11
The All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU) today protested against the recent statement of China on Arunachal Pradesh and said the state was an integral part of India. “Our state is not a disputed territory, but an integral part of India. We strongly oppose the remark made by Beijing,” AAPSU President Kamta Lapung said here. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hu Chunying had recently said that there is a “huge dispute” with India over Arunachal Pradesh and it is an “undeniable fact”. Lapung said that the statement carried no meaning as Arunachal was not a disputed territory.

Railway station at China border a ‘milestone’ for India’s security’: experts
Business Standard, April 12
Defence experts on Sunday welcomed the government’s decision to build a station in Arunachal Pradesh near the India-China border, terming it a ‘milestone’ for the country’s security. “China has made a number of railway stations and roads along the border with India. We have not done so and I think we are 30 years behind. The decision by the government to build a railway station in Arunachal Pradesh, on the border, is in itself a milestone,” Wing Commander (retd) Praful Bakshi said.

China falls short of backing India for a permanent U.N. seat
The Hindu, April 13
China, on Monday, fell short of backing India for permanent membership of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC), despite supporting New Delhi’s aspiration of playing a big role in international institutions. Asked to comment on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assertion that India deserved a rightful place in the UN Security Council, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei acknowledged that “India is an important developing country in international affairs”.

Chinese hackers target govt, businesses in India
The Hindu, April 13
Hackers, most likely from China, have been spying on governments and businesses in Southeast Asia and India uninterrupted for a decade, researchers at internet security company FireEye Inc said. In a report, FireEye said the cyber espionage operations dated back to at least 2005 and “focused on targets – government and commercial – who hold key political, economic and military information about the region.” China has always denied accusations that it uses the Internet to spy on governments, organisations and companies. Neither the Foreign Ministry nor the Cyberspace Administration of China, the Internet regulator, immediately responded to written requests for comment on the FireEye report on Monday.

 

News Reports

China and India in the Regions

India Votes Against Gay Couples in UN along with China and Islamic Nations; Faces Twitter Ire
International Business Times, March 25
India, China and most Middle Eastern nations voted in favour of a Russian resolution to strip homosexual employees in the United Nations’ staff and their spouses of marital benefits, but were shot down by 80 nations who voted against it in the General Assembly committee. The Russian-drafted resolution had proposed that same-sex couples working at the UN should not be given the same benefits extended to other staff. However, 80 nations voted against the proposal, thus allowing the UN to continue recognising gay couples even if homosexuality is illegal in their respective countries.

Chinese military bases in South China Sea worries India
The Economic Times, March 26
India has raised eyebrows over artificial islands that China is building in the South China Sea (SCS) region — which can allow Beijing to deploy naval and air forces — in the strategic waterway that is imperative for Delhi’s Asia-Pacific outreach as well as energy investments. Delhi has stated that stability in the region is necessary for economic prosperity and asserted that threat of force should not be used to settle disputes. Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had recently appealed to India to play a bigger role in the ASEAN region as Delhi does not harbour hegemonistic ambitions.

Sri Lanka promises port project to resume after problems “sorted” – China
Reuters, March 26
China said that Sri Lanka’s visiting president had promised work would resume on a controversial Chinese-backed port development in Colombo that his administration had earlier suspended. Citing a lack of government approvals, Sri Lanka halted the $1.4 billion port city project, straining ties with its biggest investor. China defends the project, saying it is in line with local laws and any cancellation would deter foreign investors. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena told Chinese President Xi Jinping that work would resume after problems are “sorted out”, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official told reporters on the sidelines of visit.

China receives Norway’s application to join AIIB
Global Times, April 1
China confirmed the reception of Norway’s application to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). “We have received the application. The AIIB is an open multilateral institute and welcomes countries in and out of Asia to apply for joining,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily press briefing.  She confirmed that 30 nations have been approved as prospective founding members of AIIB.

China ‘appreciates’ Sri Lanka’s stance on Dalai Lama invitation
Voice of America, April 3
China on Friday said it appreciated Sri Lanka’s stance on the Dalai Lama, as it seems unlikely their government would grant him a visa to visit. Sri Lankan Buddhist monks have invited exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to make his first visit to the island, after a strongly pro-China government was voted out in January, but an official said Colombo was unlikely to allow it. The top foreign minister told Reuters the government “may not grant a visa” even if the monks invited the Dalai Lama.

China evacuates foreign nationals from Yemen in unprecedented move
Reuters, April 3
A Chinese naval frigate has evacuated 225 foreign citizens from strife-torn Yemen, its foreign ministry said, marking the first time that China’s military has helped other countries evacuate their people during an international crisis. Ten different nationalities were among the evacuees picked up on Thursday afternoon from Aden, Yemen’s second city, and transported to Djibouti, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its website.

China’s Silk Road diplomacy willing to enmesh India’s projects
The Hindu, April 6
China is signaling to India and its neighbourhood that it is ready to reorient its foreign policy to address regional concerns, ahead of a defence dialogue with New Delhi and the launch of a fresh drive to hard sell its Silk Road initiatives. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying said in response to a question regarding India’s “Spice Route” and “Mausam” projects that, “China is ready to work with South Asian countries, including India, Sri Lanka, to strengthen policy communication, identify the meeting point of their development strategies, explore effective ways of mutually beneficial cooperation and common benefit of the region, countries and the people.”

India ends Yemen evacuation, rescues people from 41 countries
Reuters, April 10
India has won many friends by evacuating nearly 1,000 nationals of 41 countries from warring Yemen, with the operation led by an irascible former general coming as a welcome moment of pride for a nation that aspires to emerge as a global player. Foreign office minister V.K. Singh returned to a hero’s welcome on Friday, having joined several Air India flights into the Yemeni capital Sanaa to evacuate people from the conflict there to Djibouti.

Lakhvi affair to affect Modi visit to China, Xi visit to Pakistan
Times of India, April 11
India expects China to use its influence over Pakistan to resolve the delicate situation thrown up by the release of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attack from prison, informed sources said.  India has also conveyed its expectation from Beijing to Chinese authorities, sources said. Though China is unlikely to publicly express its displeasure over the action of Pakistan, whom it regards as all-weather friend, Beijing can still use diplomatic channels to express its concern at Lakhvi’s release.

 

News Reports

Economy and Trade

India’s growth rate to surpass China
Global Times, March 24
Developing Asia will maintain strong economic growth in 2015 and 2016 as a pickup in India’s economy and Southeast Asian economies will offset slowing growth in China, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said. Developing Asian economies will grow 6.3 percent in both 2015 and 2016, unchanged from the pace in 2014, and they have contributed nearly 60 percent of the world’s annual GDP growth since 2009, ADB said in its latest Asian Development Outlook report.  Economic growth in China will continue to decelerate to 7.2 percent year-on-year in 2015 and 7 percent in 2016 as the government targets lower growth to proceed with structural reforms, the report showed. India’s economy is projected to expand 7.8 percent in 2015, a significant rise from 7.4 percent in 2014, and the momentum is expected to build to 8.2 percent growth in 2016, according to the report.

China’s Alibaba to fund mobile commerce start-up incubator in India
Global Times, April 1
China’s Alibaba group will set up a start-up incubator for mobile internet and mobile commerce in the southern Indian city Bangalore. The project will be set up with the Globals, a Bangalore-based mobile and analytics solution company, after a meeting between Alibaba chairman Jack Ma and Globals founder Suhas Gopinath. The two companies want to focus on mobile internet as e- commerce is moving rapidly to mobile.

India’s growth exaggerated, yet its economy well-poised
Global Times, April 8
Recently the claim was made, including in international media, that China had lost its position as the world’s most rapidly growing major economy to India. It was stated in the last quarter of 2015 that India’s GDP growth was 7.5 percent compared with China’s 7.4 percent. The IMF predicted that in India’s fiscal year starting in April economic growth would be 7.5 percent – higher than China. If true this major economic development would have other consequences. If India’s economy accelerates while China’s slows, India’s attractiveness for foreign investment will increase.

Make in India
Global Times, April 9
Chinese companies should explore the possibilities of investing in India, Secretary of Department of Industrial Policy Promotion in India, Vice Minister Amitabh Kant said during a recent “Make in India” seminar in Shanghai to discuss investment opportunities in India for Chinese entrepreneurs. Kant, leading a trade mission delegation of 10 private-sector leaders from India, made his pitch to representatives from 170 Chinese and Indian companies attending the seminar. Citing a predicted 9 to 10 percent annual growth, Kant urged Chinese companies to use India as their base for supplies and manufacturing. “India has a huge domestic market and cheaper labor costs,” he said.

Chinese economy faces growing ‘downward pressure’
Reuters, April 11
China’s economy faces increased downward pressure, the premier has said, as the country prepares to announce first-quarter economic growth. The government must “stand up to the downward pressure,” Premier Li Keqiang said late on Friday, to avoid an impact on employment and incomes, according to a statement on the government’s website. “At this time, the national economy is running smoothly, but downward pressure continues to grow,” Li said. Li also called for speeding up reforms in the northeast, a centre of mining and heavy industry that has been lagging in growth. The central government will funnel more support to the region for infrastructure, agriculture and equipment export, he said.

Risks for entrepreneurs in India remain despite Modi
China Post, April 13
With its economy growing faster than China’s and a business-friendly premier who has rolled out the welcome mat to foreign investors, India may appear an enticing prospect to European investors. But as Narendra Modi headed to France and Germany, European firms already operating in India say no one should underestimate the challenges of doing business in the world’s second largest country. Prime Minister Modi was expected to use his visit to the eurozone’s two largest economies to promote his “Make in India” campaign, designed to encourage greater foreign investment in Asia’s third largest economy.

Chinese firms keen on Digital India, infra
The Hindu, April 13
When invited by Chief Minister Mr. Naidu to set up an industrial zone, Sinomac vice-president informed that they would come to Andhra Pradesh in June or July. China-based companies have evinced interest in participating in Digital India, setting up industrial parks, infrastructure and urban transport projects in Andhra Pradesh during the second day of Mr. Chandrababu’s Naidu’s visit in China.

 

News Reports

Energy and Environment

Indian demand for energy is good news for coal miners
Forbes, March 25
India appears set to achieve its decades-long goal of overtaking China as the Asian giant with the fastest growing economy and if that achievement can be sustained it could be the spark which re-ignites the fading Australian coal mining industry. India is one of the countries heavily reliant on coal, and while it has abundant local supplies they have been unable to meet demand thanks to a combination of operational inefficiencies and government interference in the industry.

China to surpass US as top cause of modern global warming
Reuters, April 13
China is poised to overtake the United States as the main cause of man-made global warming since 1990, the benchmark year for U.N.-led action, in a historic shift that may raise pressure on Beijing to act. China’s cumulative greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, when governments were becoming aware of climate change, will outstrip those of the United States in 2015 or 2016, according to separate estimates by experts in Norway and the United States.

India requires $100 billion/year investment for energy needs: IEA
Deccan Chronicle, April 13
India needs an investment of USD100 billion a year to meet its growing energy needs, a task which requires right pricing and legal framework, the International Energy Agency said on April 13. “India is the third largest energy consumer in the world after China and US. Its energy use will continue to increase,” said IEA chief economist Fatih Birol at a workshop on India Energy Outlook in New Delhi.

India, Australia speed up uranium supply talks
The Economic Times, April 14
India and Australia will hold their first meeting next week, since the Delhi-Washington understanding on operationalization of the nuclear deal this January, for finalising the administrative arrangements for supply of the much needed uranium to this country with the hope of fixing the framework agreement by this year for exports from Canberra. While the Indo-US arrangement announced during President Barack Obama’s visit and earlier administrative arrangement with Canada do not serve as templates for India and Australia, they are significant for Canberra’s policy, noted visiting Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. She informed that the officials of the two countries will meet next week for discussions on administrative arrangements for supply of uranium from Australia to India. The meeting will be held in Australia.

 


Analyses and Commentaries

Industrial zone solution to cut trade deficit
Global Times, March 24
In September 2014, during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to India, an agreement to establish Chinese industrial parks in India was signed. Recently, the program has once again been in the spotlight after Secretary General of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of India D. S. Rawat proposed setting up a “Chinese Manufacturing Zone” in Uttar Pradesh state. According to Rawat, there are around 50 Chinese companies that are interested in investing in the state. “If the government provides land and some rebate in taxes to these willing companies, then they will create a zone on their own … The Chinese companies will develop their own townships, including school, hospital and other amenities,” he said, noting that if the program is successful, it will provide 30,000 to 40,000 jobs for local residents and the image of Uttar Pradesh will be improved not only in India, but worldwide.

Cooperation best route for Beijing and Delhi over maritime objectives
Global Times, March 26
Ever since the “One Belt and One Road” initiative was mapped out by Chinese President Xi Jinping, India has been showing vacillation and hesitations over whether to join the project.  Granted, there is no easy way of persuading a rising power in China’s neighborhood to recognize that its mega project is not seeking for influence or striving for hegemony. Yet the recent remark that “the One Belt and One Road initiatives can also be linked with India’s Spice Route and Mausam projects,” by Chinese Ambassador to India Le Yucheng might provide a blueprint for cooperation that could create tangible benefits for both sides and help India to set suspicions aside. The Mausam project was launched in June 2014, aimed at re-establishing India’s ancient maritime routes with its ancient trade partners in and along the Indian Ocean. Similarly, the “Spice Route of India” refers to the ancient network of sea routes that linked Asia, Europe and Africa.

Sri Lanka recognizes value of Chinese friendship in post-election era
Global Times, March 26
At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena will make his first China visit since he took office in January. During the visit, he will attend the annual Boao Forum for Asia. His state visit has been warmed up by Sri Lanka’s foreign minister and financial minister, who visited China in February. Although bilateral relations have witnessed some twists and turns after Sri Lanka’s latest presidential election, it could be anticipated that this meeting will herald a more progressive bilateral relationship. Sri Lanka’s strategic goals will be better guaranteed if Colombo can integrate them with China-backed projects such as the 21st century maritime Silk Road and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Expand Foothold in Buddhist Block to Contain the Dragon
Indian Express, March 28
PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka was geared to achieving multiple objectives. Combined with earlier visits of Seychelles and Mauritius, the visit to Colombo laid the basis to securing a substantive role for India across the sea lanes of the Indian Ocean. Agreements were reached during these visits, for significantly enhancing India’s presence in its maritime neighbourhood, especially in the wake of assertive diplomacy by China, to obtain a strong foothold across India’s maritime frontiers. Modi stressed the “shared heritage” from “Bodh Gaya to Anuradhapura”, while cherishing diversity and pluralism. He laid emphasis on healing the wounds of the ethnic conflict by moving towards a meaningful devolution of powers. Former President Rajapakse had assured India of devolution of powers beyond what was envisaged in the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lanka Constitution.

Can China Woo India to the Maritime Silk Road?
The Diplomat, April 7
Last September, as Chinese President Xi Jinping promoted the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) during a tour of Indian Ocean states, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepared to launch India’s own plan for maritime integration: Project Mausam. That initiative envisions India as the center of the “Indian Ocean world,” which stretches from Africa in the west to Southeast Asia in the east. Like China’s Maritime Silk Road, Project Mausam would boost regional commercial and cultural linkages – but where the MSR would have all roads leading back to China, Project Mausam seeks to return India to its role as the center of Indian Ocean trade.

Modi’s warm reception in Europe marks slow steps toward India’s emergence
Global Times, April 8
In an effort to bolster his “Link West” diplomacy, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicks off his maiden visit to Europe on Thursday since assuming office in May last year, with stops at France and Germany before he travels to Canada.  As the pragmatic prime minister is eager to boost the country’s stagnant economy, his primary goal is bringing forward India’s economic and trade ties with these countries and attracting investment to India, which is short of capital, by advertising India’s investment climate during the eight-day trip. France and Germany, financially powerful and with big sway in Europe, are reasonable choices for starting a tour of the 28-member bloc. India has no substantial grudges or divergences on political issues with the three countries, but bilateral relationships with them have long maintained aloof as their attention is seldom given to the emerging country apart from regular meetings.

India ambiguous on China’s regional plans
Global Times, April 10
Since China envisioned in 2013 the initiative of the Silk Road economic belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, known as “One Belt and One Road,” India has been following it closely. With a strong sense of its sphere of influence, New Delhi rejects the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, as well as the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor and the China-Pakistan economic corridor.  In particular, some Indian strategists and those from the military believe Beijing has geopolitical goals for its “One Belt and One Road” project and therefore spare no effort to prevent South Asian and Indian Ocean countries from participating it. India first underlined that it has had interconnecting and interworking projects with its neighbors, especially Myanmar and Bangladesh. Then it proposed some countermeasures.

Chinese Nuclear Subs in the Indian Ocean
The Diplomat, April 12
The deployment of a Chinese nuclear submarine – presumably a Type 093 Shang-class – as part of the anti-piracy patrol of two ships and a supply vessel operating off the Gulf of Aden has set alarm bells ringing loudly in the Indian Navy. The implications of such a strategically significant move are simply enormous, as analysts try to decipher the real reason behind deploying such a platform in the region.

Dragon’s game: India needs to reformulate its China policy
Hindustan Times, April 13
The hype over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s China visit next month is likely to obscure the underlying strategic dissonance and tensions between the world’s two most populous countries on issues extending from land and water to geopolitical aims. India must stop seeing options only at the extreme ends and build a credible counter-strategy. China indeed is trying to limit India’s options by leveraging its economic clout, including as a major supplier of power and telecom equipment and active pharmaceutical ingredients and as a lender to financially troubled Indian firms. China is already India’s largest source of imports. Prudence demands denying China the leeway to continue distorting commerce and boosting its trade surplus year after year, even as it keeps India under mounting strategic pressure without incurring political costs.

 


Journal Articles

Pakistan, India, and China After the U.S. Drawdown From Afghanistan
Stimson South Asian Voices, 2015
As American involvement in South Asia enters a new phase after Washington’s impending military withdrawal from Afghanistan, much uncertainty prevails with respect to the most appropriate strategy for maintaining stability in the region. Domestic political instability in Pakistan—an important American ally—continues, cross border tensions rage between India and Pakistan, and terrorism continues to threaten civilian life in Pakistan, India, and in the Xinjiang province of China. All this further enhances concerns about the nature and character of the regional strategic environment in the coming years. This paper, written by Rabia Akhtar and Jayita Sarkar, examines the strategic future of South Asia in the wake of the U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan through three key research questions: first, how does the U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan affect the regional security and economic interests of India, Pakistan, and China? Secondly, what kinds of responses to terror attacks by India, Pakistan and China could further destabilize the region? Thirdly, what key steps can the United States take to prevent further instability in this context? This paper’s research methodology involves the use of relevant secondary sources and interviews of strategic experts based in think tanks and federal agencies based in Washington, DC.

Food Security Policies in India and China: Implications for National and Global Food Security
Food Security, April 2015
Food insecurity is a much more serious concern in India than China. In addition to income and poverty differences, this paper, written by Wusheng Yu, Christian Elleby and Henrik Zobbe, argues that differences in food policies can further explain the different food security outcomes across the two countries. First, India mostly uses price-based input subsidies to support agricultural incentives whereas China has recently adopted direct transfers to support agricultural incentives, which are believed to be less distorting and more efficient. Second, the two countries apply quite different approaches to address poor consumers’ access to food, with India adopting a widely criticized public distribution system and China mainly using direct income transfers and other social safety nets. Third, although both committed considerable fiscal resources to insulating their respective domestic markets, especially during recent food price spikes, India’s heavy dependence on price-based measures causes relatively larger and more volatile fiscal burdens, thereby likely making it more vulnerable in dealing with similar events in the future. These findings have important implications for food policy and food security in the two countries in the future.

 


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