The Asian Balance: On the East Asian dance floor

It’s up to you to find your partner

In my Business Standard column today argue that “the (East Asia Summit) club only provides the dance floor. India will have to court its dancing partners on an individual basis.”


[Although] the EAS is set to become the pre-eminent regional grouping, bilateral alignments remain in a state of flux.

A divide is emerging between countries that have a dispute with China, and countries that don’t. The former — a list that includes Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei — will seek greater security in the form of alliances with the United States and India.

These countries want a closer tango, not least in the security arena. During Defence Minister A K Antony’s visit, his Vietnamese counterpart General Phung Quang Thanh welcomed Indian Navy ships to make more port calls and offered maintenance facilities at Vietnamese ports. Last month, South Korea signed two defence cooperation agreements with India encompassing a broad range of activities, including exchange of visits, R&D, training and joint exercises. An agreement is still some distance away, but the very fact that India and Japan are currently negotiating a civil nuclear agreement is already a sign of how far Tokyo has travelled.

India will have to go beyond defence and invest in building deep, broad and balanced economic relationships with these countries. As the experience with Russia has taught us, a merely defence-centred bilateral relationship can often be troublesome.

On the other side of the divide, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and even Australia — countries which do not have territorial disputes with China — while desiring an outcome where the big powers balance each other out, will be reluctant to do anything that might attract Beijing’s unpleasant attention. Not unlike the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms of historical South East Asia that preserved their independence by paying nominal tribute to the Chinese Emperor in return for being left alone. [Business Standard]

4 thoughts on “The Asian Balance: On the East Asian dance floor”

  1. Have not read your Business Standard article, yet.

    I’d like to point out something quite unrelated to what you’ve discussed here, but which I realized upon reading your article.

    India’s been, for quite some time, worried about China building alliances all over the world, with business as well as perhaps, military considerations in mind (‘string of pearls’). But if we assume that there are very few countries that feel secure & at ease with their neighbors, then for each country China enters alliances with, there would be two or three that would feel alienated. Their heightened sense of insecurity would make them seek alliances with other countries. For them, two obvious choices would be the US & India. From that point on it’s upto Indian policy-makers & diplomats to seize opportunities. Surely, one can’t befriend *everyone*, & so can’t China. 🙂

  2. India’s future lies in unilateralism and not being beholden to multilateral groups that are under the control of enemies like the UNSC. The people in the Indian Government wasting the time of the government by chasing the worthless UNSC seat (does not matter if it is termpotrayr or permanent) need to be held in extreme contempt for their unrepentant and long-standing stupidity in craving for a UN seat. Such self-defeating slave mentality from the Indian government is worthy of nothing but extreme contempt and disrespect.

  3. The reason why this UNSC seat craving is bad for India is because by craving for the seat, Indians willingly provides a lever to the veto-bearing states to string India along and get India to act against it’s own best interests. Indians can safely assume that India will never be offered a veto-bearing seat because China will never cooperate. India’s only viable alternative is to work on destroying the UN’s credibility and influence worldwide. This should be followed (or concurrently pursued) by proposals to replace the UN With a different organization where India can be involved in making the rules of this organization. The UN needs to be destroyed in it’s present form.

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