India is emerging as a counter-power to China’s dominance in Southeast Asia

  • India is making major efforts to expand its influence in Southeast Asia, which will allow countries to counter China’s dominance in the region.
  • „India is definitely becoming more ambitious in Southeast Asia, there’s no doubt about that,” said Harsh V, vice president for studies and foreign policy at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank. Pant said.
  • „India’s 'Look East’ policy began in 1991, when China’s growing assertiveness was a real problem in Southeast Asia,” said Derek Grossman, senior security analyst at the Rand Corporation.

Indian Army’s T-90 Bhishma tanks roll out during the final dress rehearsal for India’s Republic Day parade on January 23, 2009 in New Delhi. (Photo credit Ravindran/AFP via Getty Images)

Rabindran | Afp | Good pictures

India is making major efforts to expand its influence in Southeast Asia, which will allow countries to counter China’s dominance in the region.

„India is definitely becoming more ambitious in Southeast Asia, there’s no doubt about that,” said Harsh V, vice president for studies and foreign policy at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank. Pant said.

It has become „much stronger and more open” about its ties to the region, he added.

The growing rivalry between India and China is seen as influencing New Delhi’s strategic calculation in strengthening its presence.

For a long time, Indian leaders were „reluctant and hesitant” about the country’s role in the region. Its own tensions with China over the Himalayan borderPant noted.

Relations have been fraught since a border clash with Chinese forces in 2020 that killed at least one 20 Indian playersAccording to the Indian Army.

„I think there was an understanding in New Delhi: don’t wade into waters that China is very uncomfortable with,” Pant told CNBC, adding that Beijing „has enormous potential to create trouble for India.”

„India now feels that there is no real recovery for its cautious approach towards Southeast Asia as China remains unmoved on the border issue,” he added.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

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In June, the Indian External Affairs Minister Subramaniam Jaishankar, delivered the keynote address The border conflict affected the relationship between the two countries.

Until Sino-Indian relations reach „some normalcy”, New Delhi has few options, but needs to expand ties with countries – „big or small around China’s borders, to make sure it has some influence.”

In recent months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has stepped up its outreach to regional countries, aiming to counterbalance Beijing’s aggression.

This move reinforces India’s continuity Comprehensive strategic partnership with Southeast Asia.

In June, New Delhi says it will give Vietnam a naval warshipIt’s the latest sign of growing security ties between the two countries, said Satoru Nago, a non-resident fellow at Tokyo-based Hudson.

„India also trains fighter pilots and ground troops of the Vietnam Air Force. Indian naval ships regularly visit Vietnam,” he added.

Vietnam now plans to buy supersonic missiles and surface-to-air missiles from India, said Nago, who specializes in defense strategy, foreign policy and defense alliances.

India’s 'Look East’ policy „Beginning in 1991, China’s growing assertiveness in Southeast Asia was a real problem,” said Derek Grossman, senior security analyst at the RAND Corporation.

„But by 2014, when Modi shifted policy to 'Act East,’ it became clear that the region and the world were dealing with a different kind of China — Xi’s China — that sought to flex its power more frequently and far from Chinese shores,” he said, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Activists display anti-China placards and flags during a protest at a park in Manila on June 18, 2019, sparking outrage last week after a Chinese ship collided with a Philippine fishing boat and sank in the disputed South China Sea. Photo by TED ALJIBE / AFP (Photo by TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)

Ted Aljibe | Afp | Good pictures

At the end of June, its foreign minister and his Philippine counterpart Enrique Manalo, India caused a stir. Issued a joint statementIt urges China to abide by the 2016 Hague arbitration ruling on the South China Sea.

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The joint statement sparked speculation New Delhi was moving away from its neutral position In competing territorial claims in the region.

In a landmark ruling on the South China Sea dispute, the International Court of Justice in The Hague unanimously ruled in favor of the Philippines in a historic case against China.

China rejected the 2016 ruling. It describes it as „illegal and void”.

Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea – a claim rejected by Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines in competing claims to the resource-rich waterway.

Rands-Grossman said India is „developing strategic relationships – diplomatic, economic and security – with Southeast Asian countries that help it balance or defend against or directly counter Chinese power.”

„This is particularly important for the maritime sphere, namely the South China Sea, where overlapping sovereignty disputes threaten regional stability and openness,” he added.

China’s influence is expanding Its Belt and Road Initiative According to Joan Lin, co-coordinator of the Center for ASEAN Studies at ISAAS at the Yusuf Ishaq Institute in Singapore, India’s reckoning in Southeast Asia is also driven.

As a result, „it is important to protect India’s security, especially maritime security,” Lin added.

Most countries in the region have Supported China’s mega infrastructure project – Xi’s signature policy initiative aimed at expanding Beijing’s influence through a network of road, rail and sea links across Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Observers note that Beijing’s increasingly tough foreign policy, combined with the political and economic influence it can wield through the Belt and Road, has raised concerns in the region.

India is not a country that follows either side. It continues to maintain a more liberal continuum in its foreign policy, which is consistent with a large number of Southeast Asian countries.

Harsh v. Pant

Visitor Research Foundation

Readjusting to an emerging international order defined primarily by Sino-US rivalry has proven particularly challenging for Southeast Asian countries.

Regional countries are „engaging India in its own power,” noted Prashanth Parameswaran, a fellow at the Wilson Center and founder of the weekly ASEAN Wonk newsletter.

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He added that they see India as „an important part of a broader strategy to shape a multipolar order rather than one that is China-centric or dominated by US-China bipolar competition”.

A Regional study ISEAS-Published by Center for ASEAN Studies at Yusof Ishak Institute has greatly enhanced India’s position in Southeast Asian countries. Its neutral position Russia’s war against Ukraine.

„India is the third best option for the region to hedge against the uncertainties of US-China rivalry. Its ranking has doubled from last place in 2022 to third place this year,” said Lin, one of the authors of ISAS. Census.

Observers say New Delhi is offering „an avenue” to countries that want to remain neutral in the US-China conflict.

„India is not a bipartisan country,” says Pant of the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. „It continues to have a very liberal streak in its foreign policy that applies to most Southeast Asian countries.”

Although China remains the most influential and strategic power in Southeast Asia, its position has declined, the Southeast Asia Survey from February showed.

China continues to be considered the most influential economic power by 59.9% of respondents. However, its influence declined significantly from 76.7% in 2022 as countries grew more wary of Beijing.

Rands-Grossman noted that India is „an additional partner that can help counter Beijing” for many states „in the region that are less trusting of China, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore.”

However, analysts noted that New Delhi’s recent moves to deepen regional ties will not go unnoticed by Chinese leaders.

ISEAS’s Lin said China would remain „cautious” about the developments. „India’s growing influence in Southeast Asia and enhanced defense cooperation,” he added, are other issues that „will cause unease in Beijing.”

Pant noted: „China will watch this carefully and send its own messages.”

But Southeast Asia „is a central pillar of India’s Indo-Pacific strategy,” and that will not deter New Delhi, he added.

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