India and the challenges of the Chinese presence in the Indo-Pacific region

The last decade was characterized geographically in Asia by the escalation of China’s role in the Indo-Pacific, its increasing influence, and its ability to control vital strategic choke points in the region, this prompted India, as another major regional player, to mobilize and try to limit the repercussions of the growing Chinese political and economic power, resulting from the Belt and Road Initiative announced in 2013, which in turn led to the acceleration of the Indian-Chinese rivalry.

In June 2020, the Indian-Chinese relations were subjected to increased pressure, when a deadly clash involving forces from both sides along the disputed border in the Himalayas, which perhaps reflects this rivalry, and reveals an increasingly tense situation between two nuclear superpowers.

From the US point of view, India’s role in the region is vital in confronting China, to the extent that the US changed the name of its command from the Pacific Command to the Indo-Pacific Command.

As the only Asian country that shares a disputed land border with China, and has the ability to stand up to the emerging superpower, India has strategic importance and is considered a key component in the US strategy to contain China.

As China approaches India’s shores and establishes close relations with its neighbors, New Delhi is attempting to counterbalance Chinese efforts by deepening relations with countries bordering the Indian Ocean, as well as actors outside the region such as the United States, France, and Japan, in addition to strengthening collective security, and undermining any conducive effort to by a single power to dominate the region.

India views the Belt and Road Initiative as a plan to dominate Asia with the support of the expanding Chinese naval capabilities strategy called the “Pearl Thread”, which extends along bases that support the Chinese navy and air forces from Hainan Island in the South China Sea to the Strait of Hormuz.

These efforts challenge the US military presence in the region’s seas and aim to secure oil and gas import routes from the Arab countries, Iran, and Africa however India sees that as a threat to its national security, and an encirclement of its lands.

Moreover, Chinese support for Pakistan in the form of helping to build the port of Gwadar is seen as a threat that compounds India’s fears of Beijing establishing a naval base there, which could enable it to wage wars in the Indian Ocean.

In conclusion, the future may hold difficult years regarding redrawing the maps of this region in light of the competition for interests and influence.

Al Jundi

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