China's ambitious drive to achieve 'global power' status pivots on the use of political and economic strengths for regional and trans-regional outreach. It has creatively used the maritime medium to promote its geopolitical, geo-economic and geostrategic interests through initiatives such as the 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR). The MSR passes through Southern Asia-Indian Ocean and China is using the associated maritime infrastructure as naval launch pads to disrupt the ability of potential hostile powers in the region to thwart its ambitions. It would appear that China believes that the MSR is a double-edged sword (economic-commercial-connectivity and strategic-military-naval) which not only helps expand trade networks in the region, but also secures the sea lanes and legitimizes its naval presence in the region. Further, this is in line with the Chinese Defense White Paper 2015 which notes that the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy) will progressively shift its focus and combine both
'offshore waters defense' with 'open seas protection'
wherein its task forces are to be deployed in the Arabian Sea-Indian Ocean.
India is now responding by invoking a number of creative rejoinders including those which have so far remained diplomatic 'taboos' among the Indian foreign policy mandarins. These have peeved Beijing, which has advised caution to New Delhi as one of these involves its 'core interest.'
In this Policy Brief, Dr. Vijay Sakhuja, Director of the National Maritime Foundation in New Delhi, examines the mounting tension between China and India over maritime issues in the Indian Ocean.