India overestimates its South China Sea leverage

By Liu Zhun Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/8 22:58:39

As a regional major power in Asia, India does not feel at ease with China, a larger and more powerful neighbor. It admires China's imposing changeover, especially its economic takeoff, but it has never relaxed its wariness of China's rise.

The complicated feelings could drive India to make mistakes in its China policy. The Times of India reported recently that Delhi is seeking support from Tokyo during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Japan next week to issue a joint statement about demanding that China abides by the controversial South China Sea arbitration result. The proposal, according to Indian media, was made in retaliation for China blocking India's bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG), a symbol of being a nuclear powerhouse.

India knows that it is not yet qualified for membership in the NSG, according to the organization's rules. China's decision was simply a fulfillment of its international duties. It is preposterous for Indian media and government to scapegoat China as a troublemaker, and seek revenge by making more troubles.

As a non-claimant to the South China Sea and an outsider that has no traditional influence on the region, India has been paying keen attention to any activity, because the country has adopted a "Look East" foreign policy since Modi took office. India, however, seems to have overestimated its leverage in the region. Although China's major rivals in the dispute, such as the US and Japan, have been trying to draw India into their camp, the country will be likely regarded as having a token role.

India should realize that the South China Sea disputes have passed the pinnacle of tensions after the announcement of the arbitration result, and some involved parties have begun to reflect on their old way of addressing the disputes - creating conflicts without seeking productive bilateral negotiations. The Philippines, once a major aggressive claimant against China, has restored its relationship with China.

India's proposal to make new waves in the South China Sea first came to Singapore last month, but Singapore, a master of the rebalancing strategy, snubbed it. The rejection shows India lacks legitimacy and leadership in making new waves in the South China Sea. India should beware of the possibility that by becoming embroiled in the disputes, it might end up being a pawn of the US and suffer great losses, especially in terms of business and trade, from China. India and China should put more efforts into resolving problems like the imbalance of their trade ties. India won't benefit much by balancing China through Japan. It will only lead to more mistrust between New Delhi and Beijing.

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