By Sumit Kumar Singh
Amid intense Chinese propaganda and ‘wolf warriors’ aggressive approach to cover up its culpability in spreading coronavirus pandemic, the world powers are joining hands to counter China which is increasingly trying to divert attention by implementing its expansionist design from land to maritime domain.
The Galwan incident is just one such example of its policy of intimidation and aggressive move in maritime has already come as a warning signal for the neighbours. The fact cannot be ignored that China’s aggressive nationalism and military expansionism are a reality, engendered by policies fashioned by hardline Communist Party of China (CPC) leaders.
“These policies have resulted in a perception that Beijing respects no laws except those created by itself; it respects no one’s property rights if it can find a way to steal it; it respects no boundary or border if it sees a way to acquire territory or resources for itself through intimidation and bullying,” said a top government officer.
This attitude is illustrated in the maritime sphere by its self-proclaimed expansive ‘nine-dash line’ to claim the South China Sea (SCS). The manner in which China ignored an international tribunal verdict that rejected its claims to exclusive jurisdiction in South China Sea displays an arrogance that will win few friends.
“One can only feel sympathy for the Chinese people who only want peace and stability, but have been held to ransom by expansionist policies of the Party,” the officer said.
These actions by Communist Party of China have prompted leading maritime powers, including France, UK, Australia, US, South Korea and Japan to enhance cooperation towards ensuring freedom of navigation and inclusive rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific.
More countries are likely to join these efforts to help sustain multilateral cooperation at the regional level required for, in the words of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “a common rules-based order for the region” that “must equally apply to all individually, as well as to the global commons”.
“The irredentist behaviour of the Communist Party of China has been a key consideration in India’s recent maritime engagements,” said a top Indian intelligence officer.
The Sino-Indian defence relationship has now transitioned from a largely continental-based interaction confined to the disputed land border, to an increasingly maritime-based one. China’s recent actions along India’s Line of Actual Control is clearly meant to remind India that it has a confrontational neighbour on its northern borders.
This will definitely make India align with major regional and global powers in developing a balancing posture towards China. India has done exceedingly well in these engagements, helped by a visionary ï¿½forward-leaning’ maritime posture at the doctrinal level.
The clarion call of Prime Minister Modi to outline Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) contrasts starkly with the Communist Party of China’s habit of predatory trade practices that gobble up land, resources and in a way forces smaller states to become subservient to the CPC’s machinations.
Indian Ocean Region countries see India as a benign resident naval power who means no ill-will or intent to deprive their political, economic or military freedoms. Other maritime nations such as Singapore, Australia, Japan, France and the USA seek India’s greater participation in ensuring stability and security in the Indo-Pacific.
Recently France has called for creation of a “Paris-New Delhi-Canberra” axis and just last week, India also successfully conducted a ï¿½virtual dialogue’ with Australia in which a key deliverable was a ï¿½Mutual Logistics Support Agreement’ that will be mutually beneficial.
The reason for India’s continued success in developing these maritime alliances is the result of its demonstrated status as a responsible power; by promoting greater transparency about its military modernisation efforts and reaffirming the absence of territorial ambitions at the cost of smaller neighbours.
India has been recognised as the preferred regional stakeholder in multilateral efforts for upholding international law, especially in relation to freedom of navigation and maritime security in the Indo-Pacific.
This is a signal to Beijing that its belligerence will not be ignored and that entry to the high table will be denied if the current attitude continues.
Communist Party of China leaders would do well to keep in mind that New Delhi has not only become more willing to articulate India’s maritime interests in the light of China’s unpredictable behaviour, but is also being driven to increasingly align with extra-regional powers – which is not in China’s long-term interests.
China must realise that the world is uniting to defeat its unwarranted aggression and intimidation policy. The so-called glory days of “wolf warriors” are over and cooperative spirit could be the only face-saver for China at the moment.
(Sumit Kumar Singh can be reached at email@example.com)