China's Strategy of Containing India

Tensions brew between burgeoning world powers

| February 23, 2006


There has been a lot of talk lately about the end of American economic hegemony. The National Intelligence Council, an affiliate of the CIA, put it simply, 'The international order is in the midst of profound change.' Economists have even coined a term, BRIC (standing for Brazil, Russia, India, China), for the countries in the best position to step up as superpowers. But to view these countries as a unified bloc ignores the significant cultural differences and traditional rivalries between them.

A clear example of the lack of cohesion is the tension between India and China. Writing for the Power and Interest News Report, Dr. Mohan Malik, a professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, explores the growing rivalry between the world's two most populous countries. China and India have been cooperating economically lately, but as their shares of the world market increase, competition between them seems inevitable.

As Malik reports, China has taken the lead in terms of 'economic and military capabilities,' but India is not without its defenses. India has a sizable nuclear arsenal, and lately has been trying to increase its nuclear leverage through joint efforts with the United States. In a move that has been criticized by many in China, the US announced last summer that it entered into talks to supply India 'civilian nuclear technology and conventional military equipment,' according to the Washington Post . This would boost India's energy supply and military arsenal, but many suspect that it is part of the US strategy to strengthen India in order to balance the rise of Chinese power.

China's response to growing Indian power has been a policy of 'containment,' according to Malik. China has been cozying up to many of India's neighbors in an effort to assert control over the region. The communist government has begun to acquire naval bases in Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, India's longtime rival. And Malik points to Chinese patrols' numerous crossings of the border between India and China as a tactic meant 'to test Indian resolve, psychology, vulnerabilities, and border intelligence.'



Although conflict may be brewing under the surface, for now India and China are working together. Trade between the two countries is on the rise, and they are engaged in high-level military talks to ease tensions. Malik says that interested parties want to maintain the 'status-quo,' but with two nuclear arsenals and a collective population of more than 2 billion, much is riding on this 'rivalry.'
-- Bennett Gordon

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