India Seeks Bigger Role in Asia amid U.S.-China Tensions

Xi Jinping and Donald Trump
Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images/MANDEL NGAN/AFP

The government of India appears to be seeking a bigger role in Asia as tense relations between the United States and China continue.

China considers its neighbor India a regional rival, both economically and militarily. Currently, the balance of power between the two nuclear powers is tipping in Beijing’s favor, and China intends to keep it that way.

Nevertheless, the Times of India (TOI) reports:

As the US-China relationship becomes fraught with tension, Asia is doing what it does best — looking for balancing powers to hedge against both an aggressive China and an uncertain America.

Over the coming weeks and months, India plans to ramp up its already strong engagement with Asia with an eye to building alliances, hedging and projecting itself as a “leading power” in the region.

China has long exploited Islamabad’s rivalry with New Delhi to keep India’s rise in check, providing both military and economic support to India’s other regional rival Pakistan.

“This strategy aims to keep India so preoccupied with its western neighbor that it will not have the ability to mount a serious challenge to China’s power and influence in Asia,” noted the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in its annual report to Congress last year.

“According to some observers, China’s support for Pakistan—coupled with Chinese military superiority along the disputed China-India land border and the growing Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean—is indicative of a Chinese strategy to encircle or contain India,” it added.

However, India appears to be trying to take advantage of China’s current preoccupation with the United States to improve its position in the region.

“For the countries of the region, the initial days of the Trump administration has been replete with confusing signals. There is a general sense that the US-China relationship will be frosty at best, and the impact of this would be felt in every regional capital,” reports TOI. “Trump and his top cabinet picks have indicated a more confrontational stance on China’s island-building [in the South China Sea], definitely more aggressive on trade and tariffs, while walking away from the only Obama ‘pivot’ exercise, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).”

Meanwhile, top officials from Vietnam, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Australia are expected to visit India this year.

“India, thus far, appears to be on the right side of the new Trump administration and this gives it an interesting insight into Washington, these countries feel,” points out the Times of India.


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