India and China at sea: A contest of status and legitimacy in the Indian ocean

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    Strategic competition between India and China in the Indian Ocean has the potential to profoundly affect the stability and security of the region. This essay examines Indian and Chinese views on the status and legitimacy of their roles in the Indian Ocean and argues that fundamental differences in perceptions could exacerbate an already highly competitive security dynamic in the maritime domain. New Delhi tends to have a somewhat proprietary attitude toward the region, questioning the legitimacy of any extraregional naval presence, particularly China. But Indian strategists also see China as having strategic vulnerabilities in the Indian Ocean. For its part, Beijing refuses to recognize India’s claims to great-power status or special prerogatives in the Indian Ocean region (IOR). This essay first summarizes China’s growing strategic imperatives in the Indian Ocean. It then considers India’s aspirations to take a leading role in the IOR and Indian perspectives on China’s presence in the region. Next, the essay discusses Chinese perspectives on India and its role in the Indian Ocean and considers the potential consequences for China of the failure to take India’s sensitivities into account. In short, I argue that China’s failure to try to co-opt India as a partner or address some of its concerns is a mistake. Beijing will find it difficult to create a favorable geostrategic environment in the Indian Ocean in opposition to India
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4-10pp
    JournalAsia Policy
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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