The presence of India and the United States at a meeting on the Asia-Pacific region’s security architecture, being organised by the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the first time next month, is likely to make China uncomfortable.
China has long-standing sovereignty disputes over sections of the South China Sea — which contain valuable reserves of oil and natural gas — with four ASEAN members: Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. It has repeatedly stressed that it wants to resolve its differences without any external interference.
Beijing has been increas ingly belligerent in stressing its claims with these much smaller countries. It may well perceive India and the US’s participation in the meet being held in Vietnam — Defence Minister A.K. Antony will travel to Hanoi on October 11 — as the first step towards just the kind of power balancing it wants to avoid.
Apart from Asean members, eight more countries have been invited: the six neighbour countries that are already associated with Asean without being members (India, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea), along with two newcomers: the US and Russia.
“China will find itself in a spot at the meeting. The US, Russia and India add to the forum’s influence. These countries will read the riot act to China for its growing assertiveness,” said Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak (retd), strategic affairs expert.