Thursday, 20 June 2013

China’s border row with India has misfired, says regional security expert

China’s three-week border stand-off during April in Ladakh, in Indian-administered Kashmir, had misfired, an Indian security expert told a forum in Manila, saying Beijing’s move galvanised Indian leaders into finally sealing an historic security deal with Japan.

The dispute strained ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours, but both sides pulled troops back ahead of a visit to New Delhi by Premier Li Keqiang, who agreed to fresh talks to settle their long-running border row.
[India could help provide] security architecture in the region to restrain China

Retired army major general Vinod Saighal, saw the subsequent India-Japan deal last month as possibly a signal that Japan and India were in the process of setting themselves up as the linchpin of a new security system in Asia, that could attract Vietnam, the Philippines, South Korea and Myanmar.

He said Australia and Indonesia would also be viewing it favourably.

“The US had been pushing India in this direction as part of its rebalancing strategy. After the US used the term Indo-Pacific, Australia and Japan have embraced it,” he said.

Saighal, who wrote Restructuring South Asian Security, was speaking at a forum on “India’s expanding maritime interests in Southeast Asia” at the University of the Philippines Asian Centre.

Saighal said India could help provide “a security architecture in the region to restrain China so that the cost of aggression would be much too heavy. If you have that architecture in place, China will not attempt anything”.

Saighal said India was in a position to contribute to that set-up, citing a recent successful underwater maiden test firing of a BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from a submarine in the Bay of Bengal.

He hinted at its implication in disputes over the South China Sea. “There is cautious talk in some strategic circles that were India to provide the BrahMos missile to Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, it has the potential to become a game changer.”

He said India’s role would be to restrain China “from dreaming its new-fangled dream in a manner that conflict breaks out in the region”. He described mainland China’s dream as a “dynamic expansion model” fuelled by fast economic growth and a desire to push beyond its core interests in Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang – and into India’s Arunachal Pradesh province, most of the South China Sea, and the Diaoyu islands, which Japan calls the Senkakus.

Saighal noted that a white paper on defence, that China issued in April, for the first time in many years omits the promise that China will never be the first to use nuclear weapons.

A senior Philippine navy official said India and the Philippines had developed a “relationship where the Philippine navy now sends [to India] some of its officers to train in … anti-submarine warfare”.

Commodore Caesar Taccad, deputy commander of the Philippine navy, agreed that India could potentially complement the US as a regional stabiliser and become the “friendly partner” that the Philippines and other “Southeast Asian countries which suffer China’s aggressiveness in the South China” are looking for. But Taccad said that China was likely to retaliate if India waded into the South China Sea dispute.

Philippine coastguard Captain Rudyard Somera said India had the third largest naval force in Asia and if it collaborated with Japan, their combined forces would pose a credible challenge to Chinese forces.

The Philippines sent a fresh batch of marines and supplies to a shoal in the disputed South China Sea, where a Chinese warship and surveillance vessels appeared last month and triggered a new stand-off, Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said yesterday.

The marines replaced troops at the Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin Shoal. They are stationed in a decrepit military hospital ship that ran aground in 1999. It has since become an awkward symbol of Philippine sovereignty.

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