China’s Global Times, a daily newspaper run by the Communist Party, put out an interesting piece this week. India and China “can rule waves together”, the piece declares. Is this a Chinese proposal for shared hegemony of Asia’s oceans? Or is China finally getting the message that alienating its neighbors might not be the best long-term strategy in an interdependent region?
It is natural that China and India, as two regional emerging powers, will possess similar and even overlapping maritime interests. However, does it mean that China and India are destined to be rivals? How should the two countries reconcile competing maritime interests? These questions are very important for both sides. As global political forces are undergoing realignment, the future of the Sino-India relationship will affect the entire international pattern.
There are contradictions in China and India’s maritime strategies. However, these can be solved by peaceful communications. China and India also have many common interests, such as the security of international shipping lanes, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, marine search and rescue, peacekeeping, and oceanic environmental protection. There is enough space for China and India to develop alongside each other.
China of course can’t ignore India in the Game of Thrones. India, like China, is expanding the reach of its navy across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Wary of China, India has been reaching out to Japan and China’s other neighbors to deepen military cooperation across the region. The prospects of a China-India detente don’t seem promising.
Indians feel threatened by China’s military rise. Memories of India’s humiliating defeat in the 1962 Sino-Indian war linger. There are also the disputed areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin, which China for good measure recently printed on its passport as Chinese territories (India retaliated by issuing visas to Chinese nationals depicting their own map). And then there’s the issue of the Dalai Lama and Tibet, and China’s activities in Kashmir. All in all, it seems unlikely that China and India will rule the azure main together anytime soon, but we’re glad to see China pondering peaceful cooperation.