Intro: India needs to envisage a futuristic maritime strategy to deal with the new scenario of ‘CIMBYISM’ i.e. ‘China in My Backyard’ syndrome to protect its interest in the Indian Ocean Region.
Founded in 1949, Communist China under its Supreme leader Mao Zedong envisioned the ‘Chinese dream’ of becoming a numerouno power in global politics. China under Mao charted a different way, unlike erstwhile Soviet Russia which came to be known as ‘communism with Chinese characteristics’ which rattled the Kremlin and soon began Sino-Soviet rivalry over many issues, especially the border demarcation issue. India which had gained Independence two years before became the first State outside the communist/socialist bloc to recognise the new regime in Beijing. But true to its undemocratic and hegemonistic nature, communist China never reciprocated India’s goodwill gesture and instead got a ‘strategically blinded’ Prime Minister Nehru into signing the famous Panchsheel Treaty-the principle of the Treaty being mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. Citing this, China attacked Tibet and forcibly annexed it in 1959 overthrowing the traditional regime of Dalai Lama.
Communist China refused to accept the 1914 MacMohan Line as boundary between India and China. But Prime Minister Nehru went ahead with his ill-timed ‘Forward Policy’ of building border posts etc which added insult to China’s injury. Mao well timed China’s invasion of India in October-November, 1962 when both the superpowers were embroiled in Cuban missile crisis took a slumbering India by surprise. The outcome has been well known and this Chinese perfidy ensured that bilateral relations remained bitter till the ushering of ‘ping-pong diplomacy’ when in 1977 India’s then Foreign Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee under the first non-Congress government of India i.e. Janata Party Government visited Beijing but had to cut short his journey over China’s Vietnam aggression.
However, under the stewardship of a dynamic Deng Xiaoping that ushered a ‘new China’ through social market reforms, bilateral relations started moving in the right direction and got further fillip by the historic China visit by then PM Rajiv Gandhi in 1988. Both sides agreed to build bridges not walls. But communist China’s territorial aggrandising agenda coupled with claiming Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh (called as Southern Tibet by China) acted as thorn in the flesh, and normalisation of bilateral relations still could not be done without solving the protracted border demarcation issue over which more than 30rounds of talks have been held since 1981 without any mutually agreed outcome.
While India recognises ‘One China’ policy, what India has got in return is not ‘One India’ but ‘Many India’ policy. Above all, China’s support to India’s arch-rival Pakistan by assisting it in acquiring nukes, building infrastructure in Pak Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK), arming insurgent groups in India’s North-East region etc have given this realistic impression that China wants to sabotage India’s rise in global power politics.
Also China by using ‘Strings of Pearls’(SOP) strategy want to engage in ‘strategic encirclement cum containment’ of India has been succeeded in building friendships across the littoral states of the Indian Ocean region (IOR) via its ‘no strings attached’ aid cum military diplomacy which is a by-product of its global energy diplomacy. However, SOP has come as a blessing in disguise as it compelled India to redraw its China policy, especially in the IOR. Taking the Kautilyan edict i.e. ‘enemy’s enemy is my friend’ India started deepening its ties with Vietnam, Philippines, Japan, and South Korea etc.
China’s ‘historical claims’, its non-acceptance of international laws, especially maritime laws (here UNCLOS, 1982) have made the issue of China’s growing foray in the IOR highly problematic. Therefore, India needs to envisage a futuristic maritime strategy to deal with the new scenario of ‘CIMBYISM’ i.e. ‘China in My Backyard’ syndrome, very different from the earlier non-threatening stance of ‘NIMBYISM’ i.e. (China) ‘Not in My Backyard’ phenomenon. Hope, this will benefit India in protecting its strategic cum economic interests in the IOR.
To conclude, the rise of China and India or ‘Chindia’ as coined by prominent Congress leader Jayram Ramesh in global politics is a matter of great strategic discourse for the both Indian and global leaders of the strategic community or Think-Tanks. This alone will determine which way the global compass of balance of power will tilt and that is why this geographical region has witnessed a new ‘scramble for Asia and Asia-Pacific’ as vindicated by the US’s new policy of ‘rebalancing’ or ‘pivot of Asia’ policy.
Sourabh Jyoti Sharma (The writer is a Geo-Strategic Analyst specialised in Indo-China Maritime Affairs of the Indian Ocean & Indo-Pacific Region)