China and its Neighbourhood: Perspectives from India and Vietnam

Jabin T. Jacob and Hoang The Anh (editors), China and Its Neighbourhood: Perspectives from India and Vietnam (New Delhi: Pentagon, 2017).

Vietnamese edition: Trang Quoc voi lang Gieng: Quan Diem Viet Nam va An Do (Hanoi: Vietnam Social Sciences Press, 2017).

Summary

This volume is an attempt to develop a more nuanced understanding of China’s foreign, security and economic policies by bringing together perspectives from two of its most important neighbours, India and Vietnam. This is a unique exercise because these two countries have a long history of both contending and cooperating with the People’s Republic of China. Even as India’s boundary dispute and Vietnam’s maritime territorial disputes with China have persisted, both countries have, in recent decades, also managed to successfully develop close economic relations with their northern neighbour as well as cooperated extensively with Beijing on regional and global issues of significance and mutual interest. Yet, the growth of China’s capabilities and ambitions, and the decline of its impulse towards multilateralism present challenges for India and Vietnam in their neighbourhood. It is against this backdrop that the authors in this book examine China’s bilateral relations and its role in regional multilateral organisations as well as the balancing behaviour of other powers in the region. In the process, this work also seeks to strengthen the sinews of the comprehensive strategic partnership between India and Vietnam by building closer ties between the research communities in the two countries and giving it greater analytical heft.

In India, Vietnam has the image of an uncompromising bulwark against China and almost any discussion of India’s external options vis-à-vis China is not complete without bringing Vietnam into the picture. Hanoi, meanwhile, sees India as a big neighbour to China and that while the relationship between the two countries has had its ups and downs in history, New Delhi now seems to be both cooperating and competing with China. India’s experience of dealing with China holds lessons for Vietnam. At the same time, it is extremely essential for policymakers and strategic analysts in India to keep a close eye on the dynamics of the China-Vietnam relationship itself. How relations between the two most successful communist regimes in the world – politically and economically speaking – will develop remains to be seen. There are both lessons to be learnt and cautionary tales here. New Delhi should have a realistic assessment of the lengths to which Vietnam will go in countering China’s assertiveness in the region given that it is the smaller country. At the same time, given Vietnamese history, there is also scope for calibrated measures to support Vietnam’s national capacity.

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China Courts the Maldives

Originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘China’s Maldives Strategy: How Much of a Threat to India?’, Policy Wonks, 9 September 2015.

Indian analysts have long considered the Maldives as a potential pearl in the ‘string of pearls’ strategy that they believed China is engaged in. There was even a name for the specific island in the Maldives – Marao – which saner minds however, have dismissed as a figment of the imagination. Nevertheless, all the concern about the Maldives falling into the Chinese embrace was not enough to generate a coherent Indian policy towards the island nation with policy even held hostage by private Indian entrepreneurial interests. While it is true that the Maldives’ domestic political dynamics – political contestation as well as the gradual rise of Islamist forces – left New Delhi in a vulnerable and sticky situation, China has used the same interregnum to ramp up its ties across a range of issues.

Upswing in China-Maldives Ties Read more

A Framework for Understanding Sino-Indian Ties

Presentation titled, ‘India and China:Competition or Cooperation?’ at International Workshop on Recent Security Challenges in the Asia Pacific and India-China Relations, Institute of Chinese Communist Studies, Taipei, Taiwan, 30 July 2013.

Outline

What framework can we use to understand the current Sino-Indian relationship?

A.  two bookends of the relationship

  • the boundary dispute
  • the need for bilateral cooperation to both transform the current global order and to tackle their own internal problems

B.  the regular stuff in the relationship

  • regular ‘incursions’ at the Line of Actual Control
  • frequent high-level visits between leaders

C.  the irregular stuff in the relationship

  • infrequently organized people-to-people exchanges in the form of cultural shows, film festivals, etc.
  • sporadic attempts at military-to-military exchanges

D.  the framework Read more

Sino-Indian Military CBMs: Efficacy and Influences

Abstract

India and China have yet to resolve their long-standing boundary dispute. But in recent years they have built a carefully crafted architecture of Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) to prevent possibilities of any adverse developments along the disputed border. What is the state of current CBMs as perceived by leading experts from India and China? How have these held up to the pressures of recent years? Where do national perceptions merge or contend? What additional measures might be needed to strengthen those CBMs that already exist?

Mil CBMs-Banerjee-Jacob

Published as co-author with Dipankar Banerjee, ‘Sino-Indian Military CBMs: Efficacy and Influences’, in Dipankar Banerjee and Jabin T. Jacob, Military Confidence-Building and India-China Relations: Fighting Distrust (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2013), pp. 1-11.

Hillary Clinton’s India Visit: Chinese Elephant in the Room

During her visit to India for the 2nd Indo-US Strategic Dialogue, last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called upon India to “not just to look east, but to engage east and act east as well”. But the problem in New Delhi might well be an incapacity to ‘think east’ beyond the boundary dispute with China or trying to retain a toehold against Chinese dominance in Myanmar.  What engagement there is occurs in the economic domain but India remains overcautious in its political and military outreach to the Asia-Pacific. Read more

Interpreting China’s Defense White Paper 2011

When the People’s Daily announced the release of China’s seventh Defense White Paper at the end of March, it began by stating that one of the aims was to “boost the world’s trust in [China’s] commitment to peaceful development.” Besides indicating how increasingly important the world’s opinion is to China, this was also a clear acknowledgement by Beijing that the world and its neighbours in particular, continue to view its military modernization as threatening. For India in particular, the Chinese document holds several implications. Read more

Charting India’s China Policy for the Next Decade

Original Article: Jabin T. Jacob, “Alternative Strategies towards China: Charting India’s Course for the Next Decade,” IPCS Issue Brief, No. 162, February 2011.

Summary: Sino-Indian bilateral ties at the start of the 21st century saw the two sides putting behind them the contretemps that followed India’s 1998 nuclear tests and rapid growth of their economic interactions. It soon began to be claimed that economic imperatives would be the new driver in their relationship, one that many held also would be the defining relationship of the new century. However, neither the sentiment nor the expression that it engendered, namely, ‘Chindia,’ retains much salience now at the beginning of a new decade.

What should India’s China policy for the next decade look like? How can India maximize its strengths in diplomatic and other arenas vis-à-vis China in a manner that can push forward the positive aspects of the bilateral relationship while at the same time reduce chances for actual physical conflict of even a limited nature?

Read more