One of the more striking images of the 2008 earthquake in China was of a Japanese destroyer steaming into a Chinese port as part of a relief mission, the first such instance since the end of World War II. The Chinese were quick to reciprocate with a similar offer of aid following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Disaster relief operations as an opportunity to engage in diplomacy is not a new phenomenon but seems certainly to have picked up pace in recent years, particularly in Asia, where disasters are frequent and more often than not are accompanied by heavy losses to life and property.
Presentation: Jabin T. Jacob, “Interpreting China’s ‘Forward Policy’ on Kashmir,” Conference on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir: Internal Dynamics and Externalities, Department of Strategic and Regional Studies, University of Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir, 28 March 2011.
Summary: While Pakistan remains a vital cog of China’s South Asia policy it is important to note that the superlative is not applicable in Sino-Pak relations; rather, a range of factors influence Chinese policy including India, the United States and now the progress and consequences of the American drawdown in Afghanistan. Kashmir is but one factor in the larger Chinese calculus.
Further, as important as China’s geopolitical interests in the region are, it has other wider interests globally on which India, more than Pakistan, is an important actor. Thus, whether on climate change or global trade negotiations and in a variety of multilateral organizations ranging from the Kunming Initiative to the Russia-India-China trilateral and the BRICS grouping, India is a key player that China has to engage with. Against such a backdrop, China tries both to prevent India from truly rising to challenge China as well as to ensure that it can work together with India when necessary. Given Indian sensitivities over Kashmir, China’s Kashmir policy forms a useful leverage with India. But there is a fine balance that China needs to achieve which will be increasingly difficult as India grows more powerful on the world stage and if Pakistan continues to remain unstable. China will therefore, have to make some important choices in this regard, in the future.
Meanwhile, India too can contribute to modifying China’s Kashmir policy in its interests. On the positive side of things, showing greater interest in border trade across the LAC with both Tibet and Xinjiang and through them with the rest of China is one way. But most measures will have to be non-Kashmir-specific in nature including greater openness of the Indian economy as a whole to Chinese investments and trade with China. In the more negative set of actions are of course, classic geopolitical games such as balancing with the US or a host of China’s smaller, neighbours fearful of its rise.
What methods China or India will adopt, however, remain to be seen.
Original Lecture: “Chinese National Security and International Relations,” Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 29 October 2010.
Summary: An essential first step to understanding Chinese national security imperatives from the outside is to shed stereotypes and preconceived notions of China as a monolithic, monochromatic or well-ordered unitary entity. As a country of over a billion people, politics and implementation issues are incredibly complex in China and Indians should if anything, be able to better grasp this complexity.
Chinese national security policy is influenced by a number of internal issues, of which history and strategic culture are important variables, together with the overwhelming priority that Chinese leaders accord to maintaining political and social stability and thereby, their legitimacy and grip on power. Maintaining economic growth is a key national security consideration in this respect which then has implications for the way China looks at its external relations. Thus, traditional security issues such as its relations with Taiwan or non-traditional security issues such as energy security can both be affected by internal considerations. Meanwhile, China’s security policymaking process displays great complexity in terms of actors and interest groups ranging from the Communist Party, the PLA, and the MoFA to the state-owned enterprises and provincial governments. What is more, there are frequent conflicts of interest among the various players.
China has certain key concepts that it uses frequently in its external discourse that have specific meanings and need to be understood carefully. These include among others such concepts as ‘core interests’ – interests that China will go to war over – and the three ‘evils’ – extremism, terrorism and separatism. There is also a changing terminology used to describe China’s intentions such as ‘peaceful rise’ / ‘peaceful development’ / ‘harmonious world,’ each of which has different emphases. Finally, how China implements these concepts in practice is a different issue altogether.
Originally published: 29 September 2010
When a Chinese fishing vessel apparently rammed into two Japanese naval vessels on 7 September, few imagined that the ensuing standoff would continue for as long as it did. The incident occurred in waters off the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea claimed by China, Taiwan and Japan. The Japanese released all of the crew but for the captain of the vessel within a week, detaining the latter for well over a fortnight. Whatever the incident says about Sino-Japanese relations, it is notable also for three important reasons involving Chinese external policymaking and regional responses in general. Continue reading Another Sino-Japanese spat
Original Article: “The EU, China and India: The Promise of Trilateral Engagement,” Asia Forum, Clingendael Institute (the Hague), 1 February 2010.
Abstract: In the Asian century, the dynamics created by the simultaneous rise of China and India will have important political, economic and security implications for the world. There are both new and old problems between the two countries, ranging from those of a bilateral nature to conflicts of interest that are engendered by larger global ambitions, as well as those caused by differences in political systems and values. While China’s ‘peaceful rise’ is much talked about, its legitimacy as the United States’ successor has not hitherto been questioned. India’s rising global economic and political profile means, however, that it will become an increasingly serious challenger to China. How can the EU intervene in a positive and creative manner to ensure that a ‘new cold war’ does not develop between the two Asian giants? While the EU does engage with China and India in multilateral forums that it promotes, such as the Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM), a more focused and regular trilateral engagement is likely to be more effective over the longer term in influencing and shaping the Sino-Indian relationship.
Original Presentation: “Disaster Relief: Politics, Security Implications and Foreign Policy,” 4th Berlin Conference on Asian Security 2009, 28-30 October 2009, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP, Berlin).
This essay highlights some key characteristics of disaster relief operations in Asia, with a particular focus on the southern Asian region. The thrust of the paper is not so much at the mechanics of disaster relief as at the politics of disaster relief. That there is clearly politics – foreign policy interests and domestic factors of both donor and recipient nations – involved in humanitarian relief and assistance has been well documented. In Asia certainly, as important as the aid itself is, is who provides it and how. As a continent of mostly developing countries it is inevitable that disaster-struck nations often find themselves short of the capacity required to deal with the aftermath. What capacity exists is usually state capacity, often acting through the agent of military forces rather than adequate civilian response. Often, there is foreign military support required as also the resources and capabilities of international NGOs (INGOs).
Beginning with a brief exercise in defining what constitutes disasters, the essay draws attention to three key factors affecting disaster relief operation in Asia – prestige or image issues, security implications and foreign policy goals.
Defining Disasters in Asia