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STRATEGIC VISION Volume 6, Issue 33


June, 2017

for Taiwan Security w

ISSN 2227-3646

India-China Border Standoff Building Alliances in the Indo-Pacific Pushan Das

Strategic Positioning Underlies Tensions Amrita Jash

Chinese Military Power Projection Aaron Jensen

Building Taiwan’s Defense Guang-chang Bian

Canada’s China Policy Dean Karalekas


for Taiwan Security

Volume 6, Issue 33


June, 2017

Contents Taiwan’s new defense strategy.........................................................4

Guang-chang Bian

PLA power projection in the Pacific.............................................10

Aaron Jensen

India’s Southeast Asia policy......................................................... 16

Pushan Das

Canada’s flawed approach to China............................................. 20

Dean Karalekas

India-China border standoff.........................................................26

Amrita Jash

Submissions: Essays submitted for publication are not to exceed 2,000 words in length, and should conform to the following basic format for each 1200-1600 word essay: 1. Synopsis, 100-200 words; 2. Background description, 100-200 words; 3. Analysis, 800-1,000 words; 4. Policy Recommendations, 200-300 words. Book reviews should not exceed 1,200 words in length. Notes should be formatted as endnotes and should be kept to a minimum. Authors are encouraged to submit essays and reviews as attachments to emails; Microsoft Word documents are preferred. For questions of style and usage, writers should consult the Chicago Manual of Style. Authors of unsolicited manuscripts are encouraged to consult with the executive editor at before formal submission via email. The views expressed in the articles are the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of their affiliate institutions or of Strategic Vision. Manuscripts are subject to copyediting, both mechanical and substantive, as required and according to editorial guidelines. No major alterations may be made by an author once the type has been set. Arrangements for reprints should be made with the editor. Cover photograph in the India-China border area is courtesy of Jeevan Singla.

Editor Fu-Kuo Liu Executive Editor Aaron Jensen Associate Editor Dean Karalekas Editorial Board Tiehlin Yen Yi-hua Kan Richard Hu Guang-chang Bian Chung-kun Ma Lipin Tien STRATEGIC VISION For Taiwan Security (ISSN 2227-3646) Volume 6, Number 33, June, 2017, published under the auspices of the Center for Security Studies and National Defense University. All editorial correspondence should be mailed to the editor at STRATEGIC VISION, Center for Security Studies in Taiwan. No. 64, Wan Shou Road, Taipei City 11666, Taiwan, ROC. The editors are responsible for the selection and acceptance of articles; responsibility for opinions expressed and accuracy of facts in articles published rests solely with individual authors. The editors are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts; unaccepted manuscripts will be returned if accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Photographs used in this publication are used courtesy of the photographers, or through a creative commons licence. All are attributed appropriately. Any inquiries please contact the Executive Editor directly via email at: Or by telephone at: +886 (02) 8237-7228 Online issues and archives can be viewed at our website: © Copyright 2017 by the Center for Security Studies. Articles in this periodical do not necessarily represent the views of either the TCSS, NDU, or the editors.

From The Editor


he editors and staff of Strategic Vision would like to wish our readers well this summer season. The AsiaPacific continues to undergo important developments. We hope that students and scholars in the academic community have the chance to keep-up with these events. In support of that effort, we offer our latest edition of Strategic Vision. We open this issue with Dr. Guang-chang Bian, a professor of strategic studies at the ROC National Defense University, who examines the details of Taiwan’s new defense Strategy. Strategic Vision’s own Aaron Jensen follows this up with an analysis of Chinese Military power projection in the Pacific, specifically in the Miyako Strait, and the need for a regionwide coordinated response. Next, Dr. Pushan Das looks at India’s Southeast Asia policy and argues that India must be more proactive in its engagement with the region. Dr. Das is a program coordinator for the ORF Global Governance where he works on issues related to India’s foreign and security policies, and military modernization. Dean Karalekas, Strategic Vision’s Associate Editor and a researcher specializing in civil-military relations and security in the Asia-Pacific, argues that Canada’s current China policy is too soft on Beijing and serves to legitimize China’s political abuses. Finally, Amrita Jash examines the border standoff between India and China. Ms. Jash is a Doctoral Candidate in Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi-India. We hope you enjoy this issue, and look forward to bringing you the finest analysis and reporting on the issues of importance to security in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region. Dr. Fu-Kuo Liu Editor Strategic Vision

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photo: ROC MND ROC soldiers show off their hand-to-hand combat skills. The new administration has recently revamped the nation’s defense philosophy.

Strategic Vision vol. 6, no. 33 (June, 2017)

Defensive Resolve Taiwan’s new defense strategy takes a comprehensive approach to defense Guang-chang Bian


aiwan’s new defense strategy—the first to be promulgated under Republic of China (ROC) President Tsai Ing-wen—was officially unveiled by the ROC Ministry of National Defense (MND) on 16 March, 2017 with publication of the Quadrennial Defense Review 2017 (QDR

inconsequential, it does have some serious implications for Taiwan’s defense. Following the QDR’s publication, there was a great deal of public debate about the content and significance of the new measures incorporated therein. In order to fully understand the importance of these

2017). The overall defense paradigm shifted from one of “Resolute Defense, Effective Deterrence” to one of “Resolute Defense, Multi-Domain Deterrence.” Although the titular change may at first glance seem

changes, it is necessary to provide some context to the current defense situation, and to delve deeper into the implications of the military’s new strategy. The previous “Resolute Defense, Effective

Dr. Guang-chang Bian is a professor at the ROC National Defense University. He can be reached for comment at

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Deterrence” strategy was adopted in 1995 while the ROC military was undergoing a process of restructuring and upgrading its defensive hardware. The key elements of this strategy were defense and deterrence; commonly referred to as “Double-D.” Defense refers to the armed forces’ primary task of protecting the country from external threats, while deterrence implies a confidence in its ability to dissuade potential enemies from threatening the nation. The use of the words defense and deterrence also indicates that Taiwan does not seek to actively threaten its neighbors. This posture is in line with the Taiwanese tradition—derived from ancient China—of being a gentleman first, and a soldier second.

Highlighting deterrence In 2000, then-President Chen Shui-bian altered this defense strategy slightly, to one dubbed “Effective Deterrence, Resolute Defense.” Obviously the intent was to highlight the deterrence aspect, but it was received as being provocative than the prior formu-

lation, and so in 2008, under President Ma Yingjeou, ROC strategy returned to “Resolute Defense, Effective Deterrence.” In an attempt to make good on one of the campaign promises made by the Kuomintang (KMT) candidate, the Ma administration initiated a grand program to transform the ROC Armed Forces from a semiconscript system to an All-Volunteer Force (AVF). Despite efforts by the defense ministry and top brass, insufficient funds were allocated to the defense budget during Ma’s tenure, and the AVF transformation was never realized. For the past eight years, Taiwan’s defense budget has consistently fallen far short of the 3 percent of GDP that would have been needed to support Taiwan’s growing defense needs while transitioning to a professional military, and as a result of this budget shortfall, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) was forced to downsize the military. Critics of the Ma administration’s failure to adequately fund the military referred to this downsizing as “cutting off the toes to fit the shoes.” After the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to

photo: ROC Presidential Office ROC Air Force pilots display the confidence and proffesionalism which is universally demanded in the fighter pilot career field.


power under Tsai in 2016, the new military strategy of “Resolute Defense, Multi-Domain Deterrence” was promulgated to articulate the new government’s defense strategy. According to the 2017 QDR, the new military strategy us made up of four main aspects, which it articulates as: “stop the enemy on the opposite shore,” “attack the enemy above the surface,” “destroy the enemy on our shores” and “annihilate the enemy along the coast.” The key goal of this strategy is to prevent the enemy from establishing a beachhead on Taiwan. ROC Chief of General Staff Admiral Lee Shin-ming observed that the new strategy can be summarized into two main components: “decisive offshore defense” and “annihilate the enemy in the littoral.” This change in characterization from four to two main components removes the decisive area of engagement from the nation’s coastal areas and places it offshore and in the littoral areas. Therefore, a case can be made that the new military strategy can be interpreted simply as “Active Defense.” This strategy reflects the fact that Taiwan is no lon-

ger capable of effectively deterring an all-out military attack by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), given that China’s ever-growing military forces have increasingly been conducting long range flights and naval patrols along the east side of Taiwan with impunity. These displays of Chinese muscle reveal that the military balance across the Taiwan Strait is no longer in Taiwan’s favor, and therefore it is necessary for Taipei to utilize a greater range of defensive measures to increase deterrence. In order to maintain multi-domain deterrence against Taiwan’s most-likely potential enemy, the MND needs to invest in mid-range and long-range missiles, submarines, vertical takeoff and landing fighter aircraft, and stronger capabilities in cyber warfare. Changes in tactics, coupled with the projected investment in the nation’s military, will also produce a re-appropriation of resources to different branches of Taiwan’s Armed Forces. This can already be seen in several new changes in the top leadership positions at the ministry. First, the traditional practice of assigning the role

photo: Sean Castlano An F/A-18 launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) during exercises in the Pacific.

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photo: Damion Hatch Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Fernando Griego remotely fires an Australian Army M1A1 Abrams tank at the Mount Bundy Training Area near Darwin, Australia.

of Chief of the General Staff, which was rotationally assigned to the chiefs of the various service branches, will be discontinued. This change shows that nominating military leaders now depends on capabilities and defense needs, not on service affiliation. The latest assignment of Vice Minister for Armaments also reflects these changes: It is the first time that the government has promoted the President of the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology to a three-star general. This is also the first time that an army officer was not nominated to one of the top four positions in the ROC military. Several military reform measures are also in progress. First, the MND upgraded the Communications, Electronics and Information Warfare Command to service-level in June, and its commander has also been promoted from the level of Major General to Lieutenant General. This upgrade conforms with the DPP’s promise to establish an independent service in charge of cyber security. Second, the Anti-air Missile Command was also transferred from the MND to the Air Force in March, and this command will be integrated with Anti-air Artillery. This integration is aimed at unifying and thereby streamlining the

chain of command and improving the air-defense capabilities of the ROC military. In view of the changes to how top leadership roles are assigned, together with the military reform measures, it seems that the role and the influence of the army has been weakened, and the goals of active defense are gradually being realized. These changes reflect and support the efforts of the Tsai administra-

“Taiwan’s new defense strategy sends a signal to the Taiwanese people that the current administration is serious about Taiwan’s defense.” tion to enhance the capabilities of the ROC Air Force, Navy, and missile and cyber forces. The initial reactions to the Tsai administration’s new defense policy were mixed. Some commentators suggested that the overall defense strategy had not changed that much, since deterrence already incorporates multiple layers of defense. Other commentators and specialists have suggested that the government should focus on solving current difficulties in recruiting volunteer soldiers and developing tactics to counter the PLA given the


nature and degree of China’s military reformation. Although it may seem that there is no obvious difference between the previous and current military strategies, there are several important implications of the new strategy. From a strategic perspective, this new strategy sends three significant signals about Taiwan’s defensive orientation and intentions.

Sending signals The first signal indicates a tacit acknowledgement that the military balance across the Taiwan Strait is no longer in Taiwan’s favor. The use of the “MultiDomain” concept sends a signal to the United States that Taiwan is seeking to expand its array of defenses, and will require greater assistance from Washington in the form of arms sales, technology transfers, and greater diplomatic support. Taiwan’s recent efforts to include several US weapons systems in simulated testing during the recent Hang Kuang-33 military exercise demonstrates just such an interest in pursuing new capabilities. The new language of Taiwan’s defense strategy also offers a constructive signal to the People’s Republic of

China (PRC). In Asian culture, admitting vulnerability to an opponent is a method of asking for peace. It also indicates that Taipei is looking for alternatives to the 1992 Consensus to signal its peaceful intentions to Beijing. In the meantime, the Tsai administration is also showing a determination to enhance Taiwan’s active defense capabilities. The second signal in Taiwan’s new defense strategy is the implicit determination to protect Taiwan by raising the cost of invasion. Taiwan is modifying its strategy to make China pay an unacceptably high price for invading the island. This is similar to the porcupine strategy suggested by Professor William Murray of the US Naval War College. He suggested that Taiwan should mimic a porcupine by arming itself so that it can deliver lethal stings which will deter aggression, and destroy an attacking force. Similar to a porcupine, Taiwan does not seek to threaten other nations; it merely seeks to defend itself. Professor Murray argued that Taiwan should enhance the capabilities of its army, civil defense organizations and reserve forces to make the enemy suffer on Taiwanese soil. Given that avoiding a battle on Taiwan’s soil is still the top priority of the armed forces, the new re-

photo: ROC Presidential Office President Tsai Ing-wen monitors military deployment and assistance efforts during a recent typhoon.

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photo: ROC MND An ROC Air Force AIDC AT-3 Tzu Chiang in revised livery of the Thunder Tigers Demonstration Team on the tarmac at Gangshan Air Base.

gime has decided to enhance the capabilities of the navy, air force, cyber force, and missile capabilities. Finally, Taiwan’s new defense strategy sends a signal to the Taiwanese people that the current administration is serious about Taiwan’s defense. This message is strengthened by the Tsai administration’s ambitious efforts to increase indigenous arms production. Due to Chinese pressure, it has become increasingly difficult for Taiwan to purchase advanced military hardware from other countries. The government recently awarded a contract to the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) to produce 66 jet trainers for the air force at a cost of US$2.26 billion. The Tsai administration is also pursuing an ambitious plan to produce attack submarines domestically. This will have a substantial impact on Taiwan’s war fighting capability as it currently only operates two serviceable attack submarines. Given that the strategic and political environment across the Taiwan Strait is more severe, and the gap between Taiwan’s military and China’s PLA continues to widen, the Tsai administration is trying to turn the tables. This change in strategy is considered a realistic step to guiding the development of new

military capabilities for a number of reasons. First, the balance between the three military services has been modified. By promoting fewer army officers to top positions, raising cyber forces to the level of an independent service, and putting more air-defense assets under the command of the air force, the MND is balancing the power and influence of the military branches in a way that accurately reflects the current challenges and needs of Taiwan’s defense. Second, this new strategy is aimed at enhancing asymmetric capabilities, rather than simply following block style military building. This change provides benefits by increasing the cost of invading Taiwan, and can be realized by enhancing the air force, navy, and cyber and missile units given the geographic nature of the island of Taiwan. Finally, it is not realistic for Taiwan to develop fighter jets and attack submarines independently. Although Taiwan is boosting its domestic defense production capabilities, it cannot hope to produce this type of advanced weaponry on its own. While it does show that Taiwan is serious about its defense, it also indicates that Taiwan is seeking to increase defense collaboration efforts with its allies. n

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Strategic Vision vol. 6, no. 33 (June, 2017)

Emerging Challenges Chinese military power projection in Miyako Strait calls for a unified response Aaron Jensen

photo: RIA Novosti archive Armored vehicles of the People’s Liberation Army practice amphibious landing during naval exercise Joint Sea 2015 (II) in conjunction with Russian forces.


merican military power in Asia is a vitally important factor in the defense of Taiwan. One of the key enablers of American military might in the region is the ability of US forces to access and operate in strategic areas of the Western Pacific. The Miyako Strait, located between the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyako, is a strategic chokepoint where US military forces would need to operate in order to help defend Taiwan in the event of a cross-strait crisis or conflict. At the

Army Navy (PLAN) and People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) have recently made rapid progress in their ability to project power in this region. This new development presents a challenge for the United States, as well as for Japan and Taiwan. In order to respond effectively to this new challenge, greater cooperation on the part of military forces from the United States, Japan, and the Republic of China (ROC) is necessary. While the US military maintains a robust bilateral relationship with both the

same time, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) views this area as being strategically important for its own ability to project power and to take Taiwan by force if necessary. To that end, the People’s Liberation

Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) and the ROC military, there is little meaningful cooperation between Taiwan and Japan. In order to rectify this situation, Taipei must do more to engage Tokyo in unofficial

Aaron Jensen is currently a PhD student in the International Doctoral Program in Asia-Pacific Studies at National Chengchi University in Taipei. He can be reached at

Emerging Challenges  b 

military exchange and dialogue. In order to achieve the ability to take Taiwan by force, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has long desired to be able to project power well into the second and third island chains. This goal was first articulated in the 1980s by PLAN Admiral Liu Huaqing, who envisioned the PLAN being able to achieve limited sea control up to the second island chain by 2020. More recently, PLAN strategists at the Naval Research Institute, the home of Chinese naval strategy, have emphasized the need for area denial capabilities between the first and second island chain to ensure that the enemy remains “outside China’s door.” While these goals may have appeared to be a mere fantasy in the 1980s, China has recently made some impressive strides which suggest that they are on track to achieve these goals. PLA power projection capabilities in the Western Pacific took an important step forward in December 2016 with China’s first deployment of the aircraft carrier Liaoning, which transited the area east of Taiwan. The Liaoning and its five escort vessels undertook a series of exercises as it transited from the Miyako Strait to the Bashi Channel, south of Taiwan. While this deployment may appear modest by US standards, it should be seen as a sign of things to come. China recently launched its own indigenously produced aircraft carrier, the Type 001, and is in the process of building

even more. The recent deployment of the Liaoning, as well as increasingly regular operations by smaller PLAN vessels in the region, demonstrates China’s will to be a force in the region.

Underwater observation China’s anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability in the region is also set to improve significantly with the planned development of an underwater surveillance system. Beijing recently approved a five-year program to build a massive underwater monitoring system that will cover the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Multiple seabed observation systems will provide real-time information on seabed activities and environmental conditions. The system is intended to improve national security, as well as advance scientific research. With the potential ability to obtain real-time intelligence on submarine activity in the region, the PLA can potentially pose a risk to

Graphic: T. Kambayashi


US submarines operating in the area. While PLA operations in the Miyako Strait may appear modest next to US and Japanese military power in the region, it is important to consider these developments in combination with China’s rapid military growth. According to estimates from the Center for Naval Analysis, China will have the world’s largest navy by 2020, with a warship strength in excess of 270 vessels. And while the PLA is boosting the quantity of its forces, their quality is rapidly improving as well. Newer nuclear attack submarines such as the Type 093, and the forthcoming Type 095, are assessed to be markedly superior to earlier generations of Chinese SSNs, and are rapidly catching up to US Navy submarines in terms of stealth. Chinese airpower has also increasingly made its presence felt in the Miyako Strait in recent years. In May 2015, two H-6 bombers executed the first known PLAAF operations in the area. Since that time, the PLAAF has conducted patrols in the region on six occasions. The largest instance of PLAAF operations

in the area occurred in September 2016 when a group of over 40 aircraft took part in an exercise. The strike group consisted of H-6K bombers, Su-30 fighters, a KJ-2000 AEW&C aircraft, a Tu-154 electronic warfare aircraft, and a number of Y-8 transport aircraft. In wartime, a force of this size would represent a potent threat to American or Japanese naval vessels in the area. A regiment of 18 H-6 bombers can deliver over 100 YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missiles in a saturation attack. The YJ-12 has a range of approximately 200 nautical miles, while a newer Chinese anti-ship missile, the YJ-18, has a reputed range of 290 nautical miles. PLAAF patrols and exercises in the Miyako Strait are set to become a regular event. In July 2017, the PLAAF again flew six H-6 Bombers into the Miyako Strait. According to the Chinese Ministry of Defense, these flights will become a regular feature of PLAAF training, and that other powers in the region should “just get used to it.” Finally, recent strides made by the PLAN and PLAAF in the Miyako Strait area are further rein-

photo: Byron Linder Chinese navy officers witness a demonstration of the warfighting capability of the US Navy destroyer USS Sterett during a port visit in Zhanjiang, China.

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photo: Carmichael Yepez The guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett successfully launches its second Tomahawk missile during weapons testing.

forced by the increasing range and lethality of PLA Rocket Force (PLARF) assets. The highly touted DF21D and newer DF-26 anti-ship ballistic missiles can engage targets at a range of up to 1,600 and 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers, respectively. As China improves its long-range ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and targeting ability, PLARF assets such as the DF-21D and DF-26 will become a potent option in the PLA’s growing ability to project power.

A new challenge The PLA’s rapidly growing ability to operate in the area of the Miyako Strait poses a new challenge for the United States, Japan and Taiwan. In the event of a conflict, US, Japanese and ROC forces could potentially engage PLA forces in close proximity. The distance between Taiwan and Japan’s Yonaguni Island is slightly over one hundred kilometers. With

the increasing range and speed of modern weapons, distances such as this are relatively small. Without close coordination and previously agreed-upon rules of engagement, the risk of friendly fire between US and ROC forces, or between JSDF and ROC forces, would be high. In response to this new challenge from the PLA, the United States, ROC and Japan should cooperate and develop operational concepts to jointly defend against the PLA. Wartime cooperation between US, JSDF and ROC forces would present a much greater threat to the PLA than disjointed efforts by allied forces acting alone. By sharing information and resources, and taking advantage of each other’s relative strengths, US, Japanese and ROC forces could form a potent ad hoc coalition. In order to address the challenges and opportunities outlined above, the ROC military must initiate engagement with Japan’s Self Defense Forces in unoffi-


photo: Javier Alvarez Warrant Officer Katsumi Yamazaki of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force answers questions during a a visit to at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

cial yet regular and robust consultation and exchange. Solid human relationships are vital for successful military cooperation and serve as the foundation for joint planning and operations. Exchange mechanisms between ROC and Japanese forces should follow along the lines of US-ROC cooperation and include regular interaction on the part of mid-level and senior military officers, as well as of civilian defense officials. In addition to regularized defense personnel exchanges, intelligence sharing represents another important area of potential cooperation. In 2012, Tsai Der-sheng, the former head of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, argued that Taiwan should share China-related intelligence with its neighbors. More recently, Stephen Yates, former US deputy national

tions of the rapidly evolving PLAN and PLAAF. In times of crisis or potential conflict, sharing intelligence would help improve indications and warning capabilities.

security adviser to former US vice president Dick Cheney, recommended that the Japanese National Security Council establish an intelligence-sharing mechanism with its Taiwanese counterpart. Sharing intelligence, in combination with regular military consultation, would enable Taiwan and Japan to gain a better understanding of the capabilities and limita-

would be foremost on the minds of senior defense officials in Tokyo. Finally, Taiwan’s efforts to engage Japan would send a strong signal to Washington that Taiwan is firmly committed to its own defense. In the past, Taipei’s failure to commit to an adequate defense budget, as well as the Legislative Yuan’s history of delaying

Unofficial relationship Engaging in unofficial military relations with Japan would also increase Taiwan’s influence over Japanese strategic thinking and decision making. A robust unofficial military relationship would complement the ROC’s diplomatic efforts in Tokyo, and help counterbalance PRC influence. Over time, human and organizational relationships between the two defense establishments would grow and mature, thus ensuring that Taiwan’s significance to Japan’s own security

Emerging Challenges  b 

approval for funding the purchase of US military equipment, has produced skepticism among some US policymakers over Taiwan’s commitment to defend itself. In addition to the Tsai administration’s recent defense initiatives, reaching out to Japan would help eradicate lingering doubts about Taiwan’s commitment to its own defense. While establishing unofficial military relations with Japan may be politically fraught, the trend lines in Asia point toward greater military cooperation among democratic countries in the future. Japan is likely to be the most reticent party in undertaking closer relations with Taiwan, as it prefers to take a cautious approach to regional security matters, and seeks to avoid antagonizing Beijing. Nonetheless, Taiwan’s security is also important to Japan’s security. The United States could help play an important role in facilitating greater unofficial military cooperation between Japan and Taiwan, just as it was instrumental in pressuring the two into signing a long-stalled fisheries pact in April 2013. The United States has been the key facilitator in pushing for military cooperation between South Korea and Japan, as well seeking to draw India into regional military exercises and engagement. In view

of America’s efforts to foster deeper regional military cooperation, and its commitment to Taiwan’s defense, the United States would likely support and facilitate Taiwan’s efforts to engage with Japan militarily. Moreover, deeper military and track II exchanges between Taiwan and Japan would also foster caution and stability in Taiwan’s cross-strait policymaking. Japan would undoubtedly make it known that continued Taiwan-Japan unofficial military engagement would rest upon Taipei’s commitment to the crossstrait status quo. Developing unofficial military relations with Japan would be a gradual, long-term undertaking. It would be necessary to take small steps, and build up trust and relations over time. With China’s rapidly growing power projection capabilities, it is important to initiate this process while the time is right. Taiwan’s current administration is generally viewed favorably in Tokyo. Moreover, Japan has recently taken steps to play a larger security role in the Asia-Pacific, and deepen military exchanges with countries in the region. By establishing communication mechanisms today, Taiwan and Japan will be better prepared to deal with future military contingencies which threaten both governments. n

photo: ping.shakl A PLA Navy destroyer makes a port visit in Auckland, New Zealand. Such activity is becoming more common as China seeks to achieve a blue-water navy.

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Strategic Vision vol. 6, no. 33 (June, 2017)

Moving Cautiously India must continue to strengthen security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Pushan Das


hile India’s Look East Policy was officially launched in 1991, the Modi government’s Act East Policy (AEP) has, over the past two years, gone well beyond the economic ties that were the focus of previous administrations in New Delhi. Set in motion by Modi at the East Asia Summit in Myanmar in November 2014, the AEP has focused on expanding strategic, economic, technological, and defense partnerships in response to the assertive rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). New Delhi has increased naval deployments in Southeast Asia and boosted defense co-operation as it seeks to provide a strategic balance against China’s

growing presence in the Indian Ocean region and its alarming recent assertiveness on the Sino-Indian border dispute. India’s strategic engagement with its Asia-Pacific partners also reflects its ambitions for a greater global role and as a net security provider in the region. New Delhi’s defense engagements and cooperation with Southeast Asia has so far been incremental as it manages Beijing’s sensitivities. However a gradual policy change is evident under the Modi administration, as New Delhi approaches the issue with pragmatism, increasingly uninhibited by concerns of antagonizing China. India’s Joint Strategic Vision with the United States, supporting freedom of navigation in

photo: George Maddon Leaders from the Indian Air Force and the US Air Force discuss operational concepts and chart the way ahead for future training exchanges and exercises.

Dr. Pushan Das is is a program coordinator for ORF Global Governance where he works on issues related to India’s foreign and security policies, and military modernization.

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photo: Sean Castellano F/A-18 Super Hornets fly over Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and its escorts as it crosses the Pacific.

the South China Sea, is one indicator of such a policy shift and a reflection of an advancing relationship that is likely to influence its engagements in Asia. India is especially concerned because more than 40 percent of its trade traverses through the South China Sea, and it also has interests in harnessing the fossil-fuel resources in this region. India is endeavoring to use defense diplomacy as a tool to further its foreign policy goals and advance its strategic interests, though this is not a new approach. In the past, despite its nonaligned position, India has engaged in security challenges, trained foreign military personnel, made goodwill calls, and conducted joint military exercises and training exchanges. The government is keen to improve the existing template of India’s defense cooperation in the region. Furthermore, New Delhi is slowly showing a will-

Exports to standardize operating procedures for such exports. According to the document, the commercial and diplomatic potential for defense exports would be harnessed by the government under the Defense Export Steering Committee and an Export Promotion Body. The initiative will use and expand lines of credit to foreign countries to facilitate military sales.

ingness to start exporting indigenously made defense equipment to friendly countries in Southeast Asia. This comes at a time when it is trying to overcome critical capability deficits of its own in the form of anti-submarine warfare helicopters and a dwindling submarine fleet. The Ministry of Defence recently promulgated a document titled Strategy for Defense

advancing talks on the possible sale of the supersonic BrahMos cruise missile, Varunastra anti-submarine torpedoes, and the Akash mobile surface-to-air missile defense system are indicative of India’s growing diplomatic initiative in the region. India has also agreed to train Vietnamese pilots on Russian-built Sukhoi-30 fighter jets, building upon the training it

Vietnam ties Central to India’s AEP has been New Delhi’s relationship with Vietnam. India recently opened a US$500 million line of credit to facilitate defense cooperation beyond the previous US$100 million credit line of 2014 and elevated Indo-Vietnamese ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Additionally,


already provides to Vietnamese submarine operators on Russian Kilo-class submarines. New Delhi has also expanded and extended its military co-operation with Singapore and Indonesia. With the former, India recently renewed the Bilateral Agreement for the Conduct of Joint Military Training and Exercises in India between the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the Indian Air Force (IAF), while India and Indonesia are expanding cooperation in the maritime domain to hold air force exercises. Also on offer in a deal similar to that with Vietnam on the training of Indonesian Navy operators in submarine warfare. Moreover, in May, the 29th in a series of India-Indonesia coordinated naval patrols was conducted from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Regional military contracts have also been pursued by India in the recent past, with India’s state-run Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd. (GRSE) having initially emerged as the winning bidder to supply two light frigates to bridge the capability gap in the Philippine Navy’s big-ticket modernization

program. In this context, New Delhi supplying warships to Manila would have made eminent sense from a strategic perspective. The frigate project could have

“India is has been seeking defense cooperation with other Asian countries including Japan and South Korea.” been the first contract for India to sell weaponry to a country in this strategically important region, but GRSE suffered a setback due to the financial requirements on the contract. Nevertheless, the bid can be viewed as a positive step and further evidence of India’s desire to forge defense ties in the region. Parallel to this, India is has been seeking defense cooperation with other Asian countries including Japan and South Korea as it modernizes its armed forces and attempts to bridge capability shortfalls. The imminent contracting of twelve Mine CounterMeasures Vessel from South Korea is being touted as India’s first major defense hardware import from

photo: John Linzmeier A US Air Force weapons load team from the 44th Aircraft Maintenance Unit carries an AIM-9 sidewinder missile toward an F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft.

Moving Cautiously  b  19

East Asia. An order was placed recently for 100 K9 VAJRA-T 155-mm/52-c a lib er self-propelled howitzers—an artillery gun co-developed by India’s Larsen & Toubro and South Korea’s Samsung Techwin to meet the photo: Mamo Indian Army’s self-proA ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious seaplane operated by the Japanese Self Defence force. pelled artillery requirement—with an option for 50 more. continue to exclude Australia despite expressions of With the liberalization of Japan’s self-imposed rules strong interest from Canberra. Policy makers in New on defensive exports, Tokyo has been keen to sell its Delhi are keen to avoid the so called quadrilateral ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious seaplane. India also exgrouping, which Beijing has announced it considers pressed strong but unreciprocated interest in 2015 in a red line. Balancing the Indo-Sino border dispute the Japanese Soryu class diesel-electric attack submaand the increasing frequency of Chinese naval derine under the Make in India program. Additionally, ployments in the Indian Ocean Region remains a a memorandum of cooperation and exchanges in the challenge. While New Delhi maintains strong instifield of defense signed between Indian and Japan in tutional links with its maritime partners in Southeast 2015 emphasized the importance of regular bilateral Asia, questions on credibility, capacity, and capability maritime exercises, as well as Japan’s participation arise, casting doubt on India’s position as an emerging along with India and the United States in the annual maritime power in Asia or a net security provider in Malabar military exercises. the Indian Ocean. Does India’s avoidance of the issue of Chinese beIndia’s maritime strategy in the region has so far havior, despite increasing its military engagements been cautious. New Delhi’s position in the Indo-Asia in the Indo-Pacific, highlight a contradiction in New Pacific currently hinges on its stable military and Delhi’s relations with Southeast Asian countries and diplomatic relations with the United States given its the U.S? India’s military exercises with different councurrent capacity constraints. Washington views New tries over the years show one clear pattern: an averDelhi as a key partner in balancing the rise of China. sion to certain types of multilateral exercises near It is time for India to leverage existing and emerging its coast or on its territory. This policy is driven by a defense cooperation mechanisms to engage deeply desire to avoid being drawn into military alliances. with partner countries in Southeast Asia as a conMore recently, however, the tendency has been to tinuum to its security interests in the Indian Ocean avoid being drawn into alliances or networks that region. Given the centrality of the Indian Ocean to might threaten the PRC. Exercise Malabar 2016 saw its national security, New Delhi must begin to be Indian warships sail alongside their US and Japanese proactive, rather than reactive, as it seeks to present counterparts close to the South China Sea, drawing itself as a net security provider and a benign military the ire of Beijing. The 2017 Malabar Exercise will power in the region. n

20  b 

Strategic Vision vol. 6, no. 33 (June 2017)

Compromising Position Ottawa allows Beijing to use Canada ties to legitimize Chinese regime Dean Karalekas

photo: Peter Bregg/Canadian Press Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, right, shares a toast with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in October 1973.


t the very moment the world was learning of the death of Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, almost universally excoriating the Chinese regime for callously allowing the prisoner of conscience to die while in government custody, Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Beijing, smiling for photographers and shaking hands with Canada’s de facto head of state, Governor General

helping to water down its image as an expansionist authoritarian state and conferring legitimacy on the one-party regime. Since the election of Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau as Canada’s 23rd prime minister, it has become even less likely that Ottawa will join the growing international chorus demanding change from Beijing on such issues as its human rights record

David Johnston. This display was just the latest in a long history of Ottawa’s misguided China policy that has allowed Canada to be used as a public-relations tool for the People’s Republic of China (PRC),

and its aggressively expansionist actions in the South China Sea and along its border with India. Indeed, Trudeau himself made this very point during a weeklong state visit to China in August 2016

Dr. Dean Karalekas is a Canadian researcher specializing in civil-military relations and Asia-Pacific security. He can be reached for comment at

Compromising Position  b  21

when he suggested that fluence was the Canadian stronger ties with Canada Security and Intelligence would allay global fears Service (CSIS), which about China’s rise and its suspects that Chan has seemingly expansionist been under the “undue ambitions. Speaking at influence of the govthe China Entrepreneur ernment of China” to Club, the prime minister serve the purposes of said that Canada could the Chinese regime, ac“help China position itcording to a report in the self in a very positive Globe and Mail. way on the world stage,” According to pro-deaccording to a report by mocracy activists among Canada’s CBC news. the Chinese community This is the kind of supin Toronto, commuphoto: Janis Rees/Tom Sandler Photography port that money can’t nity groups including Michael Chan, Ontarios’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and buy, and the government International Trade, speaks at a fundraising event. the National Congress in Beijing has long been of Chinese-Canadians, buying influence among Canada’s civil servants, pofounded in 1991, and the Confederation of Toronto litical leaders, and community organizers. For exChinese-Canadian Organizations, founded in 1985, ample, concerns have been raised about the cozy reserve as lobbyists for the city’s Chinese consulate, lationship that Beijing enjoys with Ontario’s Minister as a means of influencing the Canadian governof Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade ment and directing the efforts of the ethnic Chinese Michael Chan, himself an ethnic Chinese member community. of the provincial Liberal Party. In describing his role, Chan was quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying, “Unlike in Canada, firms in China “For me, it is how I am able to bridge Canada and are state-owned, or at the very China.” least client corporations of the

Influencing politics

Politburo, and as such represent a tremendous security risk.”

Chan has used his influence to build a network of fellow pro-China candidates in Canada to aid in lobby-

These efforts are bearing fruit: media reports have highlighted a disturbing level of influence in Canada’s

ing for closer Sino-Canada ties. While there is nothing untoward about seeking more amenable foreign relations, concerns have been expressed about the degree to which money from Beijing is being used to influence politics in Canada, and whether foreign agents have the ear of highly placed public servants. Among the parties asking questions about such in-

Chinese-language media, intimidation of leaders in the Chinese-Canadian community, and interference with initiatives of Taiwan representative offices in Canada. As an example of the latter, journalist Yuli Hu was refused entry to cover the triennial gathering of the International Civil Aviation Organization held in


photo: Exile on Ontario St Taiwanese expatriates in Canada pasted protest stickers around the ICAO Montreal headquarters condemning the group for excluding Taiwan.

Montreal in February 2016. Hu, it should be stressed, is a Canadian journalist, living and working in Canada, but because she was writing for the Taiwanbased Central News Agency, she was told to leave the premises despite having already registered with ICAO to cover the event. It was reportedly the Beijing regime that stipulated that no Taiwanese organization could be allowed to attend the Montreal conference, and the Canadian authorities deemed it proper to enforce this decree. While the incident earned disapprobation from such international press freedom organizations as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, the Trudeau government was conspicuously silent. With the election of Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister, Canada’s position on China ties has taken a more amenable turn. Trudeau’s predecessor, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the Progressive Conservative Party which is now in opposition in Ottawa, was less taciturn about irking Beijing. He welcomed His Holiness the Dalai Lama on a visit to Parliament Hill over Beijing’s strident objections, for example, with the spiritual leader even meeting privately with Harper in the Prime Minister’s office. Moreover, Harper’s administration put in place safe-

guards to ensure that corporate acquisitions by foreign state-owned firms—especially those involving sensitive technology—would be carefully scrutinized by Ottawa. Although Harper, too, was excoriated by his critics for expanding trade ties with Beijing during his tenure, his administration was far more circumspect about the relationship that Trudeau’s. “When we say that Canada is open for business, we do not mean that Canada is for sale to foreign governments,” Harper was quoted as saying in 2012.

Closer business ties In defense of the Trudeau administration, the new leader is actively seeking closer business ties with Beijing and appears uninterested in putting a valuesbased foreign policy in place with China—at least not compared to its stance on trade with the United States, where it has made much hay out of inserting progressive social issues such as gender equality into the recently opened renegotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement. Unfortunately, the Liberal government seems unwilling to extend this professed concern for human rights and equality to its dealings with China. This selective delinking

Compromising Position  b  23

of trade and rights may put the national security of Canada—as well as that of its allies—in jeopardy. Earlier this year, the Trudeau government reversed a decision by Harper’s Conservatives to block the sale of ITF Technologies to O-Net Communications, based in Hong Kong, on the grounds that it would put sensitive dual-use laser technology in the hands of the Chinese. Moreover, the Liberal government okayed the sale of Vancouver-based high-tech firm Norsat International Inc. to Hytera Communications of Shenzhen, China. Indeed, the administration greenlit the latter takeover without conducting a full national-security review or determining the implications it would have on technology transfers outside Canada. Because Norsat’s most important clients in the sale of its transceivers and radio systems include the US military and Canada’s other NATO allies, it is perhaps not surprising that major concerns have been raised, with one commission in Washington labeling the deal as a “threat to US national security,” it was reported. As a result, the Pentagon has announced it would review its contracts with the firm.

While Trudeau has defended the deal on the grounds that it would not harm national security, others disagree, pointing out that unlike in Canada, firms in China are state-owned, or at the very least client corporations of the Politburo, and as such represent a tremendous security risk. In addition to worries over security, such deals with Chinese firms carry with them an inherent lack of reciprocity on market access, not to mention the absence of rule of law in China to protect Canadian businessmen and adjudicate any possible future disputes (to say nothing of the rampant violation of patents and intellectual property rights routinely committed by Chinese firms). Indeed, the government in Beijing has outright stated its intention to acquire strategic assets around the world, including just such defense-related proprietary information. Moreover, the acquisition of military and dual-use technologies is but one avenue in a multi-pronged approach through which China engages in a massive scale of espionage in Canada. Given these self-evident facts, one might wonder why the Trudeau government is so keen to engage

photo: Canada Tibet Committee Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Right) and the Dalai Lama pose with the khata scarves they exchanged before their meeting on Parliament Hill in 2007.


further with China, thereby using Canada’s good name to confer international legitimacy upon an authoritarian state that allows its dissidents do die in prison. There are a number of reasons for this, none of which paints Canada in a particularly good light. For one thing, Trudeau may simply be following in the footsteps of his illustrious father, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who made Canada one of the first Western nations to recognize the Beijing regime on October 13, 1970, and who two years later became the first Canadian Prime Minister to visit the PRC. The fact that he was spearheading this rapprochement even as the country was in the throes of the Cultural Revolution did not bother the elder Trudeau. After meetings with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, Trudeau spoke of his hosts in glowing terms, praising their genius in building a social system that strives “to provide human dignity and equality of opportunity for the Chinese people.” The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree it would seem, and recent events confirm that the younger Trudeau shares his father’s predilection for admiring the Chinese regime and forgiving it its sins. The aforementioned Norsat sale was most likely fast-tracked in exchange for forward motion on a bilateral free-trade deal with China, which the Trudeau government is reportedly very keen to ink. One of the biggest obstacles to such a deal is resistance from the average Canadian citizen.

agreed with the idea that China’s human rights ought to be linked to any free trade deal. In order to overcome this obstacle, stakeholders in the proposed free trade pact have bankrolled a two-year public-relations campaign to persuade Canadians to accept such a deal. Led by the Public Policy Forum, an Ottawa-based think tank with ties to the federal government and Canadian corporations, the project is aimed at changing Canadians’

“Canadians seem to have an instinctive disinclination toward getting into bed with the authoritarian humanrights abuser, and this speaks well of the average Canadian.”

According to the results of a recent poll by Nanos

perceptions of China, who according to the federal government department Global Affairs Canada, are “ill-informed and negatively biased” on the issue. In the words of Maclean’s Magazine’s Terry Glavin, “there is now no practical distinction anymore between the goals of the federal government, corporate Canada’s China trade lobby, and China’s foreign trade bureaucracy.” In fact it is the federal government and Canadian corporations themselves that are ill-informed on the China issue: Canadians seem to have an instinctive disinclination toward getting into bed with the authoritarian human-rights abuser, and this speaks well of the average Canadian. It also represents an opportunity for Taiwan. While the government of Taiwan is at a disadvantage in dealing with Canada, given that China’s influ-

Research commissioned by the Globe and Mail, nearly nine out of every ten Canadians are either “uncomfortable” or “somewhat uncomfortable” with China’s government-controlled businesses gaining more access to Canada’s economy, with a mere 11 percent of respondents reporting being comfortable with that idea. Moreover, two-thirds of respondents said they

ence over the Trudeau government is likely to derail any positive advancements, the administration of ROC President Tsai Ing-wen can and should focus its efforts on Track II and people-to-people ties. This represents one avenue to counter the efforts of the Beijing government and its allies in corporate Canada and the Liberal Party to whitewash Beijing’s troubling

Canadians skeptical

Compromising Position  b  25

human rights record and paint the country as a benevolent economic partner. Indeed, there is a solid foundation upon which to build. According to Canadian government sources, Taiwan is Canada’s 12th-largest trading partner, and there are an estimated 200,000 people of Taiwanese descent living in Canada, with between 50,000 to 60,000 Canadian passport holders residing in Taiwan. Moreover, Taiwan is Canada’s tenthlargest export market for education, with long-term Taiwanese students in Canada contributing US$80 million to the Canadian economy. An additional 1.000 Taiwanese young people visit Canada every year to travel and work through the International Experience Canada program. Most importantly, Taiwan and Canada share many of the same values—values that are anathema to the Chinese regime. These include such liberal democratic values as freedom of speech, of assembly, of religion; a commitment to transparency in government operations; a belief in equality for all regardless of race, gender, and sexual orientation (Like Canada, Taiwan recognizes same-sex marriage, having become the first country in Asia

to do so); and of course, democracy. These existing ties and shared values should be highlighted by the Tsai administration in order to initiate a grassroots effort to raise awareness among Canadians about Taiwan, the precarious state of cross-strait ties, and the need for a strong relationship between Canada and Taiwan. As long as the Trudeau government and the Chinese Communist Party are allowed to dictate the narrative, Canadians and Taiwanese will be deprived of the opportunity to allow their budding relationship to flower. n

photo: Kurt Bauschardt Performers with the Taiwan Pavilian pose for a photograph at the 2012 Heritage Festival in Edmonton, Alberta.

26  b 

Strategic Vision vol. 6, no. 33 (June, 2017)

The Road to War Strategic positioning underlies protracted India-China border standoff Amrita Jash


ngoing tensions at the Doklam plateau which overlooks the strategic Chumbi valley at the junction between India, China and Bhutan has pushed India-China relations to a new low. What makes it significant is the fact that, unlike prior frictions, the current dispute was staged in India’s Sikkim sector, where the border remains settled. This unprecedented episode has become the longest running stand-off between India and China since the 1962 war. With military posturing and sharp rhetoric coming from both sides, the Doklam stand-

off has further protracted the dispute, leaving little room for compromise. The undefined and contested border lies at the heart of the boundary problem between India and China. The 4,050 kilometer boundary shared between the two countries is divided into three sectors—the western sector, the middle sector, and the eastern sector. Of the three, territorial claims are leading to clashes in the western and eastern sectors. Specifically, at the western sector’s Aksai Chin in the northeastern section of Ladakh district in the Indian state of Jammu

photo: Bharat Rawail A highway cuts through Jammu and Kashmir. Chinese road building in contested border areas has led to the specter of war between China and India.

Amrita Jash is the Editor-in-Chief at IndraStra Global, New York. She pursued PhD in Chinese Studies from the Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New DelhiIndia. She can be reached at:

Sino-Indian Tensions b  27

and Kashmir, and the eastern sector’s Arunachal Pradesh. The middle sector, which runs along the watershed of Ladakh to Nepal where the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand border Tibet, remains comparatively free of tension.

The perceptual gaps between the two countries are largely driven by the de facto border, commonly known as the Line of Actual Control, and these gaps have led to incidental friction at the border. However, the boundary in the state of Sikkim remains formal-

der talks, both India and China have failed to reach a resolution. Second, the brimming military instability along the border comes after an interregnum of relative peace. Episodes of friction have occurred in areas such as Daulat Begh Oldi, Trig Heights, Pangong Tso Lake, Chumar, Demchok, Samar-lungpa in the western sector, and in Arunachal Pradesh at Asaphila, Migyitun, Samdurongchu, Changtze and Fish Tails. Third, the increasing military build-up by the two countries along the border has heightened the security dilemma. This makes the undemarcated border a potent point of friction between India and China. In the current scenario, the changing status quo at

ized and demarcated following the 1890 Convention relating to Sikkim and Tibet, signed by the colonial British government in India and the Qing Empire in China. Despite these agreements, the present problem is shaped by disagreements over the convention. The severity of the mounting frictions can be gauged by three crucial factors: first, after 19 rounds of bor-

the border has raised the risks of escalation of an unwarranted confrontation between the two countries. The incident that catalyzed the Sikkim impasse was China’s road buildup through the disputed Doklam plateau leading to Gyemochen in the trijunction area. In early June, the Indian Army obstructed Chinese construction activities, which in-

Line of control


vited retaliation by Chinese troops who destroyed two Indian bunkers built on the Bhutan side of the de facto border. India’s steadfast response came in aid of Bhutan, which is the main party in dispute with China. Thimphu responded by asserting that China’s road construction was a “direct violation” of the treaties, and issued a demarche to China. So far, there have been 24 rounds of talks on the boundary settlement in adherence to the 1998 bilateral agreement to “Maintain Peace and Tranquility on the BhutanChina Border Areas.”

Security responsibilities Bhutan has no formal diplomatic ties with China, and relies on Indian support for its security. Bhutan’s relationship with India is guided by the 1949 Friendship Treaty, which was upgraded in 2007. The treaty states that both countries “shall cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests. Neither government shall allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security

and interest of the other.” India holds security responsibilities toward Bhutan and is highly involved in protecting it from external military threats. These unique factors further complicate the row at Doklam. The brimming tensions between India and China at the tri-junction came to light when Beijing blocked Indian pilgrims during the Mansarovar Yatra through the Nathu La mountain pass. Calling its road building “legitimate,” Beijing stressed that New Delhi should “correct its efforts” as it accused India of crossing the boundary into China and interfering with the road construction. China posited that withdrawal of Indian troops is the only “precondition for bilateral peace.” With high stakes at play, both India and China have increased military mobilization in the region to exert pressure on the other side. Adding to the military muscle-flexing, both sides have also sought to put psychological pressure on the other by expressing strong rhetoric. In making reference to the 1962 war, China asked India to take “lessons” from the past. India rebuked this by saying that “India of 2017 is

photo: Michael Macleod Indian and American paratroopers check their equipment one last time before exiting a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during an airborne operation.

Sino-Indian Tensions b  29

photo: Kelly Haux American and Indian soldiers stand in formation at Chaubatia Military Station in Ranikhet, prior to the Yudh Abhyas bilateral military exercise.

different from 1962.” The current stand-off has added a new dimension to India and China’s boundary problem: it is a political, military, as well as a rhetorical impasse. India’s reactive response to China is justified given the strategic importance of the Doklam Plateau and Doka La which overlooks the Chumbi valley. In this regard, the causal factor that invokes India’s strong resistance to China’s tactical moves is its “Chicken neck” paranoia: The Siliguri Corridor, colloquially known as the Chicken’s Neck, is a stretch of land that connects India’s northeastern states to the rest of India. Given its strategic location, this corridor acts as a vital choke point that puts India in a vulnerable position. For India, there is speculation concerning China’s motives, and whether these include an attempt to paralyze India by taking control of the Chicken neck, as the Chinese-built road to Gyemochen will automatically put India in a vulnerable position. This move by China will invariably cut India off from its Northeastern zone, which is well-equipped with a sophisticated military infrastructure. China’s road construction in Doklam appears to have been a cal-

culated move to choke India. Furthermore, India’s speculation over China’s road construction is also bolstered by security concerns over Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, which India has strongly opposed given its strategic anxiety over the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. This scenario in Doklam can be equated with China’s commonly used salami-slice strategy—taking small, incremental actions each of which is too minor to be a casus belli, but which can accumulate over time into a substantive shifting of the status quo. Taking possession, piece by piece, of islands in the

“Adding to the military muscle-flexing, both sides have also sought to put psychological pressure on the other by expressing strong rhetoric.” South China Sea is another example of how China is using this tactic to consolidate its contested territorial claims, in this case within the boundary of the nine-dash line. Similarly, road construction activity is China’s latest attempt to encroach into India’s stra-


photo: Ronald Woan Indian and Pakistani soldiers try to outdo one another in the Attari-Wagah border ceremony. China has become a strong supporter of India’s longtime foe.

tegic Chicken neck and thereby strengthen its claim and position over Arunachal Pradesh. Moreover, China’s Doklam stunt is a continuation of its pattern of testing its opponents’ resolve. Unlike the situation in the South China Sea, China faces much stiffer resistance from India in its spat over Doklam. China has refrained from toeing the line with Bhutan as it has bypassed the 1988 and 1998 agreements to maintain peace and tranquility at the border and with India. It has also contradicted the 2012 understanding that “the tri-junctions will be finalized with the third country concerned.”

Serious risks With both sides firm in their stances, an immediate way out of the current impasse seems unlikely. With high reputation costs involved, a first step forward by either side toward a resolution would incur a loss of face. This has further plagued the negotiation process. Pushing each other to withdraw their troops has become the rule of thumb.

With a toned-down approach, both sides have been involved in back-channel diplomacy since the July 27 talks between Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of a BRICS meeting in Beijing. However, a concrete step that can defuse the tension has yet to emerge. With the current logjam firmly in place, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent remarks that the Chinese army has the “confidence and ability in defeating all invading enemies and protecting China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests” have added a new seriousness to the stand-off. If the situation continues to unfold in this way, it will be more and more difficult for either side to pull back its forces. The question now is whether Doklam will become the new status quo between India and China at the disputed border. If the problem cannot be handled with caution, there are serious risks of miscalculation. Hence, the best way forward for India and China lies in biding their time and taking small steps toward peace. n


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