Fear for Fear’s Sake?

“There’s no place like India. Which is precisely why its politics and economy are such a contradictory, beautiful mess,” (Traub). 

My post today does not deeply examine a pressing issue in the realm of international relations.  Rather, it asks a series of questions of our readers here at the NESA Strategist.  Account after account discusses how deeply India fears its geopolitical situation, especially in relation to its northern Chinese neighbor.  India is fearful that China will overtly violate its borders, manipulate water supplies flowing into the subcontinent, unleash its fleet to dominate the Indian Ocean, or even conspire with Pakistan and Sri Lanka to deconstruct the progress made by India.

These fears, in some cases, may not be far-fetched.  India certainly lies at the heart of a very unstable region, just as it seeks to create its own version of the East Asian economic miracle.  Likewise, Sino-American tensions have risen recently and American leaders have made it quite clear that they feel it inevitable that an Indian-American partnership will arise.  Being boxed in strategically by the Americans may also be creating some fears among India’s leadership. 

Through Chinese eyes, however, India’s strategic apprehension seems bizarre.  Few IR specialists in China are giving much consideration to India.  The reasons why are obvious (at least to them) – China has the Korean Peninsula to worry about, the South China Sea to claim, all of Southeast Asia to lead, and a US to strategically outmaneuver.  It must also fuel its economy by making increasing inroads into the Middle East, Russia, and Africa to acquire energy sources.  China’s longstanding alliance with Pakistan and its South Asian port development prove that it is interested in the subcontinent, but there is little evidence that China fears India or even thinks of it as a real adversary. 

If anything, China sees India as a rising developing country that can help to build up its BRICS partnership. 

What is the deal?  Are Indian fears justified in regards to China?  Is China keeping its true intent regarding the subcontinent extremely close to the vest? 

Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

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