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China's new focus on Bay of Bengal and to cooperate, compete with India

The Indian Ocean expanse, in particular Bay of Bengal, is emerging as the new hotspot of international focus, a group of eminent Chinese scholars have contended, adding that both India and Myanmar enjoy an unique geopolitical advantage.

world Updated: Mar 27, 2014 18:58 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The Indian Ocean expanse and in particular the waters of Bay of Bengal are emerging as the new hotspot of international focus, a group of eminent Chinese scholars have contended, adding that both India and a rapidly changing Myanmar enjoy an unique geopolitical advantage in the region.

Keeping in mind the changing geopolitics, China has to focus on this region and forge stronger bilateral relations especially with India despite historical differences like the festering border dispute and the issue of India sheltering the Tibetan government-in-exile for decades.

This was one suggestion put forward in the Bluebook on the Development of the Indian Ocean Region released on Thursday by the Social Science Academy Press. It is a compilation of writings by some of the top experts focusing on the region especially the Indian subcontinent.

Ye Hailin from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences used four adjectives to describe Sino-India relations in the book: "Cooperation, Competition, Conflict and Coordination."

"It is not easy to describe Sino-India relation in one word. There are different factors. It is based on a lot of diversity," he said, adding that there were areas of convergence and conflicts like China being evasive on India’s UN Security Council ambition and India sheltering the Tibetan government.

"Several unpleasant things happened last year including the tense stand-off (in Ladakh). It generated bad emotions. But the general trend has been positive," Wang Rong, director of Research Institute for Indian Ocean Economics at the Yunnan University and editor of the report, told HT in an interview.

"The Bluebook (a book compiled by academics and scholars) focuses a lot on India’s presence in South Asia and talks about India’s Look East policy and India’s diplomatic and economic policies in South east and South Asia. Due to historical reasons, India has economic and security concerns in the Indian Ocean region and China totally understands it," Wang said, adding that: "China understands India’s core interests in safe-guarding the area and the peripheral region."

Wang said India’s cooperation with countries in Southeast and East Asia like Japan, Philippines, and Vietnam poses no problem for China as long it is not targeted.

"For China, if one can ensure that the integrity and sovereignty (of the country) is not being threatened, we respect any diplomatic activity. We can understand the diplomatic actions of any country based on the principles of safeguarding one’s sovereignty," Wang said.

But smooth diplomacy in one area doesn’t put the lid on disputes in others, Wang, who has visited India on several occasions, said.

"Of course that does not exclude disputes between the countries in other fields like economic and political. But these disputes can be resolved through negotiations. We need to understand the divergence between two countries," he said.

Wang said both China and India were carefully calibrating their diplomacy in Myanmar which has been through radical political changes in the recent past. China is trying to watch, understand and adjust its policies in Myanmar, he said, adding that Myanmar could be an effective bridge between China and India.