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Indo-Pacific region UPSC NOTE

 India's emerging "new two-front challenge" in the Indo-Pacific region

  • India’s new two front challenge is not Pakistan and China posing a nutcracker situation for India, but a combination of its continental and maritime challenges.

  • Having an aggressive and rising China attempting to contain India on its continental and maritime fronts is a classic two-front situation. 

  • While India has been allowing itself to be obsessed with the Line of Control with Pakistan in the west, defending the Line of Actual Control with China in the north, and picking needless quarrels with its neighbours, Beijing was quietly

building its empire of influence in the eastern, southern and western oceanic planks

  • For decades, Beijing (by arming Pakistan) ensured that India is boxed in in South Asia, ignoring the China challenge. 

  • By the time New Delhi put its unresolved conflicts with Pakistan in cold storage and shifted gears to the China challenge on the LAC, the game had already gotten bigger.

  • While the People’s Liberation Army keeps up the pressure on the LAC, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been increasing its presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) at an alarming rate.

  • To begin with, take note of the stupendous growth of the Chinese Navy which is perhaps the largest in the world today.

  • Take a look at China’s push for overseas military bases

  • Beijing today has a military base in Djibouti.

  • Growing Chinese activities in Pakistan’s Gwadar and Sri Lanka’s Hambantota should worry Indian strategists, even if they are not yet military bases

  • In Myanmar, the Kyaukpyu port which China is constructing will enable PLAN to inch closer to the Indian Navy in the Bay of Bengal.

  • Beijing is reportedly expanding an artificial island in Maldives and the China-Maldives strategic partnership is bound to increase due to tensions between Male and New Delhi. 

  • One had the visit of the anti-India Maldivian President to China recently

  • China is also exploring strategic investment options in the Seychelles, and is also building a naval base in Ream, Cambodia. 

  • The small Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros is the latest to join China’s fan club in the Indo-Pacific.

India's Response

  • Every major country is today interested in the Indo-Pacific and its future trajectory as is India, which provides an opportunity for New Delhi to make coalitions with like-minded countries especially at a time Beijing has little great power backing in the maritime theatre

  • Second, India cannot balance against the growing Chinese power in the Indian Ocean all by itself.

  • India occupies a pivotal location in the Indo-Pacific moment just as it is the heart of the Chinese attempts to create an empire of influence. 

  • Creating, and enhancing, partnerships with like-minded countries is perhaps an important way forward.

  • Even more importantly, perhaps, New Delhi must invest in a cohesive and well thought-out Indo-Pacific strategy that goes beyond noble intentions and nobler declarations. 

  • While Quad and Malabar are useful initiatives, they are at best a modest response to a grand futuristic challenge that is unfolding quickly. 

  • For sure, New Delhi already has several pieces of what could constitute the elements of a maritime grand strategy, but they need to be put together in a purposeful and cohesive manner.

  • The Red Sea situation will fade away eventually, but India’s new two-front situation will become more and more apparent in the years to come. 

  • In that sense, New Delhi’s decision not to join the U.S.-led ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’ may have been the right choice for now, but in the longer run, its ability to meet the China challenge without being part of collective efforts would be limited.

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Indo-Pacific region UPSC NOTE
Indo-Pacific region UPSC NOTE
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