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India and Security Challenges in the Indo-Pacfic in the new era

2nd KAS-FSI-CLAWS Seminar about India’s security challenges in the Indo-Pacific

By Philipp HuchelJuly 14, 2018

provided by: India Office

Also available in Deutsch

On 12th and 13th July 2018, the Forum for Strategic Initiative (FSI) and the India office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in collaboration with the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) organized a seminar on “India and Security Challenges in the Indo-Pacific in the new Era”. The seminar reviewed the recent developments in the Indo-Pacific region affecting strategic developments, which included issues of denuclearization in Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea build up, perceptions of threats and challenges, future of ASEAN and Indian security concerns.

Nuclear and strategic challenges in the Indo-Pacific

The first session focused on nuclear and strategic challenges in the Indo-Pacific. Lt. Gen. Balraj Nagal, the chair of the session, raised the need to examine the national interest of all the countries in the Indo-Pacific and the need to look at the threats and tackling them. Lt. Gen. Amit Sharma explained first the history of the North Korean nuclear programme and the current nuclear and missile capabilities. He stated that the biggest surprise now is the sudden change of approach by the Dictator Kim Jong Un, announcing a self-imposed moratorium on missile testing as well as destroying their nuclear testing sights. Number of reasons could be possible for this sudden opening up to the world, either because they were confident about their capabilities or China’s advice to them to open up to the world. Dhruva Jaishankar focused on the US Policies in the Indo-Pacific. He emphasized the importance of understanding what the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ really means under the Trump’s administration. Trump’s focus first focus is on all the trade inequities of the US. This led to the withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A second element of Trump’s view of Asia are the inequalities of the alliances. In this issue, Trump did find a worthwhile reason to stay involved, because he sees China as a major challenge, so that the US can take on a bigger military component in its approach towards China. The big weakness is that there is a major disconnect between the security elements and the economic and trade elements of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” strategy by the US. He concluded that it is important to also look into the many uncertainties in the Indo-Pacific policy of the US which could lead to potential complications for India. Brig. Arun Sahgal focused on strategic impact on Japan, China and the possibilities of confrontation in the Indo-Pacific. He sees four possible scenarios for the future: 1) Pax Sinica - An isolationist US cedes strategic space to China, 2) G2 in Asia, 3) Pax Americana based on hub and spokes alliances and 4) Cooperative security architecture: web of bilateral, trilateral and plurilateral security arrangements to maintain a stable security architecture. Dr. Christian Wagner discussed the role Europe has to play in the Indo-Pacific. He explained that the EU is important when it comes to trade issues and development, but it is a weak actor when it comes to security issues. However, new initiatives regarding the involvement in the field of security and defense will be started in the future, because the EU has interests in the region, Dr. Wagner stated.

Economic and Trade Challenges in the Indo-Pacific

The second session of the seminar was on “Economic and Trade Challenges in the Indo-Pacific”, chaired by Dr. Arvind Virmani. Dr. Surjit Bhalla gave a presentation on “India’s Economy – Steady and Upwards”. He argued that the Indian economy is in a much better shape than is believed by economists and analysts across the world. He substantiated his arguments using data on international trade share, investment shares and GDP growth rates over time. Mr. Pramit Pal Chaudhuri subsequently took the floor to give his views on the current trade policy of the U.S., how it fits into and affects the Indo-Pacific region, what this means for India, and why China is nervous. The Trump administration, with its more mercantile views, has dropped Obama-era politics and is now focusing on tariffs and using them as a lever against China. Looking at China, he noted that the government was rather nervous about the trade war. For the Chinese, it is quite clear that they would be disadvantaged, since significantly more is exported to the US, as imported into China. Ultimately, there is uncertainty in the Chinese economy, because an end to the trade war is not foreseeable. India, on the other hand, would largely support Trump's policy towards China.

China’s role and ambitions in the Indo-Pacific

Ambassador Ashok Kantha chaired the third session on China’s Emerging Role and its Impact on the Indo-Pacific Security. Nayan Chanda gave his presentation on China under Xi Jinping. He emphasized the apparent contradiction between Xi Jinping's international presence and China's very uncertain domestic political situation. He emphasized that Xi Jinping is very different from previous leaders, especially in the way he rejected Deng Xiaoping's caution: “Bide for your time, hide your capability and don’t claim leadership”. With the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the demonstration of military capabilities in the South China Sea and Xi Jinping's open statement to aim for a leadership role in the world, he has acted exactly contrary to Xiaoping's doctrine. Within China, there is a repressive government that controls the media and monitors the public almost completely. This is a clear sign of insecurity within the nation. Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli focused on “China’s Foreign and Security Policies after the 19th CPC”. He described the road map for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA): the raising of integrated joint troops, mechanization and IT applications and building a “World Class Military” by 2050. Another point that was brought up in the 19th CPC was how to build new and better international relations. The 19th CPC also spoke of the topic of ‘Good Negligence Policy’, where Xi had earlier in a speech told the other Asian countries to stand up for themselves, indirectly indicating to them to break their alliances with the US. This also would pave the way for Chinese leadership in the Asian region and would pose a challenge to India. Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (Retd.) gave his presentation about promoting peace and stability along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). There still exists a major dispute between India and China regarding the actual demarcation of the Line of Actual Control. China occupies little over 4300 square km of India’s territory and claims parts of Arunachal Pradesh. It is now the longest disputed border in the world, but it is also the most peaceful disputed border in the world, with the last shot being fired in October 1975. Though things have been peaceful, there is a potential of a rise of a conflict in the near future. The peace and tranquility of the LAC is under stress, as seen in the encounter at Doklam. There have been diplomatic discussions recently to calm the issue, such as the recent meeting at Wuhan, but there is still uncertainty. For assuring peace, the military cannot be left to handle the issue alone. There must be a military cum diplomatic cum information dissemination effort that need to come together to resolve the issues. We have succeeded in one way as seen in Doklam, with proper diplomatic resolution from both sides. Dr. Zorawar Daulat Singh focused on the India-China relations in the coming decade He stated that the nature of India-China competition, at the most fundamental level, is over sub-regional balance of power. The actors are not just India and China, but also the US and Pakistan. This basic, quadrilateral, geopolitical framework is not going to change in the next decade. China is going to play a much bigger role in Pakistani affairs in the coming decade, but it will not displace the US. Both will be competing for shaping domestic as well as regional space. The second level of competition is for the hearts and minds of different South Asian states. In limited ways, China is already a political security provider to regimes in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. These countries have seen pressure from Western powers in their domestic political affairs. For both sides to take South Asia as a common neighborhood, the following strategies would be needed: 1) Coordinating policy in third states, 2) Coordinating geo economic plans, and 3) Maritime cooperation and understanding each other’s sensitivities. The question that still lingers is whether competitive co-existence would exist as a stable framework?

Policy options for India

The fourth session outlined policy options for India in the coming decade and was chaired by Major General Banerjee. Dr. Arvind Virmani spoke about India’s Economy and analyzed the current situation of the Indian economy. He pointed out that India’s investments are doing well and the size of economy is growing in India. But India needs to work on its external integration and domestic reforms are necessary. Vice Admiral Pradeep Chauhan started his address by outlining the conceptual challenges that face India while formulating Indo-Pacific Policy for India wherein he outlined five prerequisites for a successful Indo-Pacific policy for India: 1. Attaining cognitive coherence at political, bureaucratic, and military levels. 2. Recognizing and understanding the Indo-Pacific as a quintessentially maritime domain. 3. Choosing between a proactive regional maritime policy or one that is reactive to that of China. 4. Balancing China through regionally-sensitive constructive engagement. 5. Countering China’s regional geopolitical gameplay of ‘capacity-building’ with India’s regional geopolitical gameplay of ‘capability-enhancement’. After that Ambassador Vijay Nambiar spoke on India’s diplomatic options. The democratic character of India needs to be preserved to succeed in the future. He pointed to the fact that what is happening in China is not a dream of the Chinese people but of the Communist party under Xi Jinping, but nevertheless, China and India should be partners, too. Despite a good relationship with US, there is still insecurity about how much India can rely on US. ASEAN will be a hub of the free and open maritime region and should be one of India’s major partners in the region, he added.


ImagePeter Rimmele
Resident Representative India
Phone +91 11 26113520

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