The “New Great Game” – China’s String of Pearls in the Indian Ocean

Source: New Strait Times

Some analysts have called it Asia’s “New Great Game”. Others note the “tectonic geo-strategic shifts” taking place in the continent. The Cold War rhetoric about the Indian Ocean being a “zone of peace” lies sunk. The new talk is about Chinese military bases — the “string of pearls” in the Indian Ocean, what with the ongoing debate on its disputes with neighbours on the South China Sea. China is sought to be countered through a United States-India alliance that has been shaping for some time now.

Viewed from India, there is nothing official about it. Its intent and capability are both being debated. Yet, its new “offensive-defence” strategy looks both East (towards China and Southeast Asia) and West (towards Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and West and Central Asia). Its pivot is a budding economic and military alliance with the US while engaging everyone else.

Amid a flurry of activities, India signed two unprecedented defence and nuclear agreements with the US, on a single day, last month. Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar signed the Logistics Exchange of Memorandum Agreement (LEMOA) with his American counterpart, Ashton Carter, in Washington. US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker engaged with Indian Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi at the second Strategic and Commercial Dialogue.

Not a coincidence, LEMOA had been in the works for 10 years. Per se, the two are enabling logistic agreements. Their challenge lies in how they are implemented in future. But that has set the strategic tongues wagging.

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