By Liu Zongyi Source: Global Times Published: 2019-2-1
It was reported that recently the Indian Navy has commissioned a new full-fledged naval base, Indian naval air station, in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The new base, according to Indian military officials and experts, would be used to increase surveillance on Chinese navy vessels and submarines entering the Indian Ocean through the Malacca Straits.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are critically located close to the waterway connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Indian Ocean through the Malacca Straits. In recent years, with the rise of China and India, increased Navy forces in Asian countries and the successive launches of US Asia-Pacific rebalancing and Indo-Pacific strategies, the strategic importance of the islands has become increasingly prominent.
After Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office, India accelerated infrastructure development on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Western analysts speculated the islands could soon be turned into a major naval command base capable of hosting Indian aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, and Sukhoi-30MKI fighters. India's development pace - especially the progress in its northern border areas and the Indian Ocean region - points to its infrastructure capabilities.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands belong to India and it is only natural the country would want to establish a military base there. But Indian media and analysts have made an issue of China again, claiming the new base is specially targeted at China and Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean.
The China-India relationship has thawed since the informal meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Modi in Wuhan, Hubei Province last April. But it seems that India's strategic circle failed to understand and implement the spirit of the Wuhan meeting. In other words, their suspicion and hostility toward China have not changed.
In the context of global change, China-US relations are being recalibrated and competition has intensified. India shouldn't attempt to take the opportunity to force China to accept some of its unreasonable demands. For instance, it must sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty to gain entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
China and India are developing countries and ancient Eastern civilizations. The development of bilateral relations, if it follows the paradigm of Western international relations, will inevitably lead to geopolitical competition, confrontation, and security dilemmas. The two countries should abandon this Western paradigm and apply Eastern wisdom to solve development concerns when they arise.
Both countries stress the idea of shared development. The US and other Western countries want to prevent their progress by sowing confrontation between them. China and India jointly proposed the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which still display their vitality. The key to maintaining peace and realizing common development and progress between the two countries lies in mutual adaptation, inclusiveness, and respect for each other's core concerns.
India is a big country in South Asia and Indian Ocean. China should respect its legitimate interests and work with it while helping other regional countries improve infrastructure along with economic and social development, prosperity and progress. The Indian Ocean is international domain, not private waters. The water routes are lifelines for China to import and export energy and commodities. Against the backdrop that non-traditional security issues still exist while traditional security challenges continue to rise, China needs to send its naval forces to the area to ward off pirates and safeguard maritime passageways, and India should not have a problem with accepting this.
To maintain the security of international public domain and order, all regional powers should make joint efforts to establish a regional security system. In the India-Pacific region, there still lacks of a democratic, equal and inclusive security framework covering all countries in the region.
Right now, the US is pushing the exclusive Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, comprising of the US, Japan, Australia and India. China and India should take the lead and make joint efforts to promote an open, inclusive, democratic and equal regional security framework that neither excludes the US nor Russia.
The author is a visiting fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.