China's String of Pearls & India's Look East
For years China has been pursuing its policy of a string of pearls; which meant having naval stations around the Indian subcontinent as a means of encircling India. The building of a port in the Sri Lankan town of Hambantota, Gwadar in Pakistan, courting the island states of Seychelles, Maldives, Mauritius and not to mention Myanmar.
Unwittingly of course, India had been resorting to its own plan of undoing this pearls by its Look East policy that it put in place a couple of decades ago. Over these years, India has strengthend not only economic, but also military partnership with some key nations of South East & East Asia like Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand & Singapore.
Its no secret that China is one of the biggest trading partner of ASEAN as well as of Japan & South Korea. But its also a fact that most of these countries are not comfortable with the flooding their domestic markets with Chinese goods. Also China’s yuan manipulation keeps the prices of their goods cheaper and affects the local economies of countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia etc. And many of these countries are already protesting the same.
The increasing economic clout of China has also massaged its military ego and it now has a lot of territorial claims against countries like Japan, Vietnam and other South East Asian countries.
It is in this context that one can see how India’s Look East policy is reaping rich dividends. Not only has it led to economic benefits, but also robust military exchanges between the countries and India.
In all these hoopla, what is not being missed is the increasing defence collaboration between the militaries of America and India. During the cold war era, India was fully dependent on the Russians for arms supply. with the collapse of the USSR, the spares dreid up and defence procurement dipped to a low for India. During the Kargil war, it was the Israelis who came to India’s aid with timely supplies of spares and the required ammunition.
Today Israel and the US are increasingly becoming the biggest arms suppliers to India. Over the last couple of years, India has purchased six C-130J Super Hercules aircraft for almost US$1 billion and eight Boeing P-8I planes for more than US$2 billion (2009) from the US.
Also US is in running to bag the massive $12 billion 126 advanced figher for which the testing is already underway.
Though it would do a world of good for India to have a coherent defence policy instead of buying piecemeal arms and ammunitions. Not to mention try to have an indegenous arms production industry within the country. Depending on the DRDO and its allied organisations is a suicidal step for the country. Privatisation of the defence industry would go a long step in indigenisation of defence technology. The Mahindras, L&T, Tatas are increasing their participation in defence technology and it would do a lot of good in future.
Some good reads on this topic