By Dr Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-economics and Strategy
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives in Tokyo this week for what may well be his most important foreign visit in his second term in office. The visit’s importance derives as much from the particular economic interests of India and Japan, as both economies seek to boost growth, trade and investment, as it does from the realisation that they must work together to temper China’s ‘new assertiveness’ in its neighbourhood.
Confluence of the two seas
After a gap of nearly six years, there may once again be a meeting of minds between Prime Minister Singh and his host, Japan’s bold ‘new’ leader Shinzo Abe, who, during his first term in office in 2006–07, took the initiative to seek a ‘new relationship’ with India.
On a visit in August 2007, he told the Indian Parliament that Japan had ‘rediscovered’ India ‘as a partner that shares the same values and interests and also as a friend that will work alongside us to enrich the seas of freedom and prosperity, which will be open and transparent to all’.
By Suvi Dogra, Research and Liaison Officer, Geo-economics and Strategy Programme
From the Antarctic to the Arctic?
Over 30 years ago, India surprised the world with its expedition to the Antarctic. It may have surprised once again by securing observer status at the Arctic Council – a grouping of Arctic States (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US). For months, the Arctic Council has been debating the issue of admitting observers to its gatherings. Last week the Council decided to admit six new observers ̶ China, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. Interestingly, the EU has not yet been admitted.
While the observers have no say in the decision-making process, this inclusion is significant, because it shows the Arctic Council is no longer defining itself in geographic terms and has factored in geo-economic elements. The economic rise of China and India is bound to impact on the Arctic region, both through global warming and their widening maritime footprint and interest in the Arctic’s vast oil and gas resources.
By William Choong, Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific Security
Under sunny skies, the USS Freedom – the US Navy’s newest littoral combat ship (LCS) – cut a sleek silhouette as it approached Changi Naval Base last week. The warship’s arrival marked the start of an eight-month deployment to southeast Asia. Under a Singapore-United States agreement, up to four of these ships will be put on rotational deployments through Singapore.
Speaking to reporters on the deck of the USS Freedom last Thursday, US Ambassador to Singapore David Adelman said the arrival of the ship marked a ‘new chapter’ for the US Navy in the Asia-Pacific.
Indeed, the deployment of the LCS – together with the move of 60% of the US Navy’s assets to the Pacific and the deployment of 2,500 US Marines in Australia – forms part of America’s much-heralded ‘pivot’ or ‘rebalance’ to Asia.
China has clearly turned its eyes to the sea in its new defence white paper, which for the first time officially suggests ‘safeguarding maritime rights and interests’ and ‘protecting overseas interests’. The fact that Beijing followed up these words with a naval excursion in March to the James Shoal (or Zengmu Reef), the southernmost point of its extensive claim to the South China Sea, has only increased the nervousness among its neighbours as to what its increasingly dominant presence in regional waters will mean.
But, IISS Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security Christian Le Miere counsels in a new piece for the East-West Center’s Asia Pacific Bulletin, China’s ‘return to the sea’ may not be all negative.
Beijing’s renewed naval focus has prompted a reorganisation of its maritime agencies, ‘merging four of the five “dragons” that have been at the forefront of its ongoing sovereignty disputes in the South and East China Seas’. With a unified command, our senior fellow argues, there is a clearer sense of who to call to ensure disagreements do not escalate. Similarly, Beijing will not be able to disavow the actions of its agencies.
Furthermore, ‘it is possible that China’s increasing strength could be directed towards beneficial outcomes’. Given its desire to ensure the security of shipping, for example, Beijing could be encouraged to assist in policing international maritime thoroughfares. Since its return to the sea is inevitable, encouraging Beijing to subscribe to current international maritime laws may be the best way forward.
There is something about the number five in Sino-Indian relations, writes IISS Director for Geo-Economics and Strategy Sanjaya Baru, in a new piece looking back at the recent BRICS summit in South Africa. There, Asia’s two giants had a chance to improve their relations when the Chinese and Indian leaders met on the sidelines.
The two countries’ relationship has long been defined in terms of the five-element ‘Pancha Sheela’, involving mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; mutual non-aggression; mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; equality and mutual benefit; and peaceful co-existence.
‘Now China’s new leaders have enunciated a new Pancha Sheela’, writes Baru, ‘with President Xi Jinping offering a “five-point proposal” for Sino-Indian relations. The updated principles would maintain strategic communication and healthy bilateral relations; harness each other’s strengths and expand cooperation in infrastructure, investment, and other areas; deepen cultural ties and increase mutual understanding and friendship; expand coordination and collaboration in multilateral affairs to safeguard developing countries’ legitimate interests and address global challenges; and accommodate each other’s core concerns and reconcile bilateral disagreements amicably.’
Baru says India would be happy to embrace these principles, but the fifth point is tricky, because it leaves China’s ‘core concerns’ undefined. Traditionally, these were Tibet and Taiwan, but Chinese officials have recently referred to their claims on the South China Sea as a ‘core interest’ as well. And this has opened up a Pandora’s box.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has his own five principles for the Sino-Indian relationship.
By Giri Rajendran, Research Associate for Defence and Economics
In preparing the latest edition of the Military Balance, launched last week in London and this week in the United States, the IISS team behind the book decided to try an experiment. Since the United States and China are the world’s biggest spenders on defence, and China a distant second, we wanted to see when both countries’ defence spending might converge.
We based our projections on several hypothetical scenarios, including one in which the trend rates of defence-spending growth over the past decade in the US and China were to continue, and another in which Chinese defence-spending growth was constrained by an economic slowdown. (Looking at past examples, particularly the 1980s Latin American debt crisis, we assumed that China’s economy would start booming again by 2031.) The US budget sequester was another variable we had to factor in.
By Dr Pierre Noel, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Senior Fellow for Economic and Energy Security
Last week, the presidents of Iran and Pakistan inaugurated the final leg of a controversial pipeline enabling Iran to export gas to energy-hungry Pakistan. The US, which has long opposed the much-delayed project, is warning that if it ‘actually goes forward’ the pipeline could breach the sanctions regime against Iran’s nuclear programme and trigger US sanctions against Pakistan.
China’s partial funding of the pipeline complicates the geopolitical implications of the deal.
Lengthy power blackouts are a regular occurrence in Pakistan, causing street protests and undermining the economy. By December 2014, Iran and Pakistan hope to start delivering 21.5 million cubic metres of gas per day to Pakistan from Iran’s giant offshore South Pars field in the Persian Gulf. Islamabad plans to use Iranian gas to generate about 20% of its electricity.
By Christian Le Miere, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security
China’s recent announcement that it would base its first aircraft carrier in Qingdao, in the country’s north-east, surprised those who had watched a massive naval base being built from scratch on southern Hainan Island over the past decade and expected that showcase construction project to house the showcase vessel. Hainan’s Yulin base is a complex and modern facility replete with an underground submarine base. But there are other reasons for China to choose instead to base its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, with its North Sea Fleet at Qingdao.
By Dr Pierre Noël, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Senior Fellow for Economic and Energy Security
‘China is on track to produce enough crude oil outside its borders to rival OPEC members such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates,’ a report in the Financial Times suggested last week. The contention was based on the International Energy Agency’s tally of the impact of recent overseas investments by Chinese state-owned oil firms. These have spent $92 billion buying up rivals since 2009, $35bn of that last year. With these acquisitions, the IEA calculates, China will produce 3 million barrels a day of crude oil abroad in 2015, double its 2011 output of 1.5mbd.
True, the growth of Chinese oil and gas companies’ foreign investments is impressive; they are not only bidding for exploration and production licences in more countries and regions, offshore and onshore, they are also devoting large capital expenditures to buying already discovered reserves and even entire groups such as Canada’s Nexen.
However, it makes little sense to aggregate Chinese oil companies’ international production and interpret it as ‘China’s production abroad’ like this.
By Dr William Choong, Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific Security
Members of the United Nations Security Council, including China, have strongly condemned North Korea’s nuclear test last week, and that rare unanimity could be useful for regional security. If China were to put pressure on North Korea (an historic development that looks possible) while the United Nations Security Council tightened the vice of sanctions, perhaps Pyongyang could be pressured to at least suspend further tests?
This, however, is probably not to be. North Korea has maintained its missile and nuclear programmes as a going concern for years, despite a growing raft of sanctions. In addition, sanctions have done little to change the decision-making of other worrisome countries such as Iran.