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Beijing Bites

Discussion in 'World Affairs' started by samv, Aug 17, 2010.

  1. samv

    samv SENIOR MEMBER

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    Beijing bites

    “China has entered India’s sphere of influence.”

    The Hambantota port project, whose first phase Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa unveiled to the world on Sunday, has the potential to propel the island into a global transshipment hub. Situated on the islands southern tip, Hambantota is just a few nautical miles north of the east-west shipping lane used annually by around 70,000 cargo ships. The port will initially handle 2,500 ships. This capacity will grow manifold with completion of the entire project. Besides a port, a liquefied natural gas refinery, aviation fuel storage facilities, facilities for ship repair and construction, as well as for bunkering and refuelling will come up by 2023. Sri Lanka has moved a step closer towards achieving its long-standing dream of becoming South Asia’s Singapore.

    Much of the funding for the $1.5 billion Hambantota project is coming from China. Around 85 per cent of the funding for the first phase has come through a soft loan from Beijing, which has already pledged more money towards the second phase. Hambantota project is now being held up as a symbol of Sino-Sri Lankan relations. Indian security analysts are drawing attention to the implications that the project has for India. Some have pointed that a Chinese naval presence in Hambantota will provide Beijing with one more pearl in its string of pearls strategy. As part of this strategy, China is reportedly building strategic relationships with countries along sea lanes from West Asia to the South China Sea. Its funding of Gwadar port in Pakistan, its robust role in reconstruction of ports in Myanmar and now the Hambantota project must be seen in this context. Colombo has sought to assuage Indian fears by clarifying that China will not be allowed a naval presence. Still Chinese presence so close to India’s southern coast is reason for concern. Hambantota port is among the dozens of high-profile projects in the island that Beijing is involved in.

    If China’s presence in the island today is as big as that of India, Delhi has only itself to blame. India could have been the one executing the Hambantota project. After all it was to India that Sri Lanka turned first with the plan. Lethargy and shortsightedness contributed to Delhi turning it down and China snapped up the opportunity. In the process, China has bitten into India’s sphere of influence yet again.

    Beijing bites
     
  2. samv

    samv SENIOR MEMBER

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    Stonewalling history

    M K Bhadrakumar

    Our small neighbours like Sri Lanka, Nepal or Bangladesh disagree with our strategic community’s perceptions regarding China.


    The Sri Lankans are ace practitioners of diplomacy. The sheer coincidence is breathtaking that they chose India’s Independence Day to hold the first memorial service at the IPKF memorial in Kotte for the brave Indian soldiers who laid down their lives between 1987 and 1990 — as well as to unveil Sri Lanka’s new China-funded port at Hambantota.

    Colombo poses a riddle in neighbourhood diplomacy. From all accounts of what Indian diplomacy is up to in Kathmandu, Delhi may have a long, painful learning curve ahead in its dealings with its small neighbours.

    Take Sri Lanka. The first phase of the $1.5 billion Hambantota port development project (with a Chinese credit line of $425 million) has been successfully completed despite Delhi’s aversion to the project on geopolitical grounds and its spurning of the Sri Lankan offer to be its sponsor. Colombo has made clear that India cannot dictate its developmental programme.

    Now, contrary to the hullabaloo by the security czars in our strategic community, it appears Hambantota is not a ‘pearl in a string’ that Beijing is kneading to tighten its hold on India’s jugular veins, but it is essentially what it is proclaimed to be — a vital transportation hub in the Indian Ocean sea lanes.

    Conceivably, Hambantota is of immense interest to China as a key, almost-irreplaceable link in a new transportation route to the markets in the Persian Gulf, Africa and Europe that bypasses Malacca Strait which is under American control. Period.

    Now the Indian dilemma really begins. Colombo has once again approached Delhi as its first choice as foreign partner to fund and spearhead the construction of the second phase of Hambantota. In short, Delhi has been given the great privilege of topping up the jewel in China’s crown in Sri Lanka. Will Delhi accept the offer? If it doesn’t, the likelihood is that Colombo may again approach Beijing. Look at the deep irony of what the Sri Lankan demarche with Delhi means: Colombo seeks Delhi’s help to expand a regional transportation hub in the Indian Ocean a principal user of which could, conceivably, be Beijing.

    The timing of the two events in Kotte and Hamobantota on Sunday underscores Colombo's message that it is ultimately the monarch of all it surveys with regard to Sri Lanka's interests and it shall have India and China to fulfil specific roles that serve its interests.

    This stark message from the southern tip of India resonates all the way to the Himalayan foothills. It is about time before Nepal too teaches India a thing or two about neighbourhood diplomacy. The Indian interference in Nepal’s domestic affairs is rising dangerously close to the threshold of Delhi’s shenanigans in Sri Lanka in the early 1980s.

    Interference in Nepal

    Indian diplomacy is determined that the Maoists who despite holding a solid 40 per cent bloc of seats but has fallen short of an absolute majority in the highly-fractured Nepalese Constituent Assembly needs to be ‘punished’ and cannot be allowed to lead the government — and in particular, the Maoist candidate for prime minister Prachanda. Delhi’s antipathy toward Prachanda bears striking similarity to its antipathy toward J R Jayewardene in the early 1980s — except, of course, that while Jayewardene’s cardinal ‘mistake’ was his ‘pro-American’ leanings, Prachanda’s would be his perceived ‘pro-China’ leanings.

    Is Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa ‘pro-Chinese,’ too? There has been a sharp upward curve in the Chinese presence in Sri Lanka under Rajapaksa’s dispensation. But one has to be really woolly-headed to overlook that Rajapaksa is first and foremost a nationalist. Arguably, Prachanda will be no different.

    Like in Sri Lanka where we tried and failed miserably to dictate the terms of the ebb and flow of its domestic affairs, Delhi’s diplomacy in Kathmandu — essentially, blatant arm-twisting and crude blackmail — is destined to crashland. Simply put, the Rajapaksas and Prachandas represent the forces of history and if Delhi’s diplomacy is to be savvy, it must learn to be on the right side of history. Conversely, as our miserable, ill-fated Sri Lankan saga testifies, we simply don’t have the wherewithal to stonewall the forces of history.

    Small countries possess surprisingly high levels of tenacity in defining their self-interests. As the Kotte ceremony poignantly shows, Sri Lankan diplomacy astutely redefined the original IPKF expedition to serve as its instrument and a painful point came when all we wanted was to cut and run away.

    Paradoxically, the Colombo political elite gave us a short breather and then they came looking for us to extract all the help they needed to crush Tamil separatism — so that India won’t have any leverage to interfere in Sri Lankan affairs and would instead settle for its due role as a responsible neighbour.

    To rub salt into the wound, Rajapaksa is now underscoring to us the wisdom of working shoulder to shoulder with China for the development of his country. There is another big lesson here for Indian diplomacy. Our small neighbours like Sri Lanka and Nepal — or Bangladesh, for that matter — completely disagree with our strategic community’s perceptions regarding China.

    They see China’s rise as offering a huge window of opportunity for their economic development. In the ensuing geopolitical paradigm, we will only end up as losers unless we reset our neighbourhood policy to dovetail it with the choices and national priorities of the small neighbours who share our region.

    Stonewalling history
     
  3. challenger

    challenger BANNED

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    He also wrote that "now that President Barack Obama’s administration has directly challenged China, the US should expand its relations with ASEAN 'by building on our Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines.'

    "The US should negotiate a commercial agreement for access to logistic support facilities in Subic Bay," [18] where the U.S. maintained a naval base until the Philippine Senate ordered it closed in 1991.

    Washington's project for an Asian NATO designed to surround and neutralize China is not limited to Southeast Asia and ASEAN.

    The U.S. is currently leading this year's Khaan Quest (pronounced like conquest) military exercises in Mongolia on China's northern border with troops from military partners Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Previous Khaan Quest exercises going back to 2003 trained Mongolian troops for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. [19]

    On August 16 U.S. and British troops will begin ten days of military drills in Kazakhstan, on China's northwest border, in the 2010 Steppe Eagle "multinational exercise, part of NATO's Partnership for Peace programme...."

    "The exercise is intended to assist Kazakhstan's Ministry of Defence in its stated aim to generate a NATO inter-operable peace support operational capability," according to British military attache Simon Fitzgibbon. [20] Kazakhstan deployed a "peacekeeping" contingent to Iraq in 2003 and may be tapped for one to serve under NATO in Afghanistan.

    To China's south, a senior Indian Air Force official recently disclosed that his government is upgrading another air base near the Chinese border to accommodate warplanes. According to the U.S. Defense News website, "The moves are part of the effort to strengthen India's defenses against China."

    In June India approved a $3.3 billion deal to purchase 42 more Su-30 air-to-air and air-to-surface jet fighters, bringing the planned total to 272 by 2018.

    Regarding a joint Russian-Indian long-range multirole jet fighter/strike fighter adaptation of the Su-30, the same Indian official said "a nuclear-armed Su-30MKI could fly deep inside China with midair refueling."
    [21]

    On China's Western flank where a narrow strip of land connects the two countries, the U.S. Defense Department announced on August 11 that, in addition to 30,000 U.S. forces not so assigned, "The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan now has almost 120,000 troops from 47 different countries assigned to it," [22] including forces from Asia-Pacific nations South Korea, Mongolia, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand.

    The noose is tightening around China.

    U.S.-China Conflict: From War Of Words To Talk Of War