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Samudra Manthan

Samudra Manthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Samudra Manthan
    Book Description:

    Rising China and emerging India are becoming major maritime powers. As they build large navies to secure their growing interests, both nations are roiling the waters of the Indo-Pacific -the vast littoral stretching from Africa to Australasia.

    Invoking a tale from Hindu mythology -Samudra Manthanor "to churn the ocean" -C. Raja Mohan tells the story of a Sino-Indian rivalry spilling over from the Great Himalayas into the Indian and Pacific Oceans. He examines the prospects of mitigating the tensions and constructing a stable Indo-Pacific order.

    America, the dominant power in the area, is being drawn into the unfolding Sino-Indian competition. Despite the huge differences in the current naval capabilities of China, India, and the United States, Mohan argues that the three countries are locked in a triangular struggle destined to mold the future Indo-Pacific.

    eISBN: 978-0-87003-306-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    C. Raja Mohan
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    George Perkovich

    Raja Mohan is one of India’s most talented and estimable strategic analysts. InSamudra Manthan, Mohan turns his attention to one of the most important relationships shaping the twenty-first century, that of India and China.

    This relationship is rivalrous but not yet hypermilitarized and proper but not warm or encouraging. It manifests the concept of a “security dilemma”: Each state perceives itself to be acting defensively to protect its national security, but these actions are perceived as threatening by the other. Each then reacts by increasing its defensive preparations, which the other in turn interprets as offensive, escalating the cycle...

  5. Chapter One INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-12)

    The “churning of the oceans,” orSamudra Manthan, is one of the more enchanting episodes of Indian mythology. It traveled across maritime Asia, took root in Khmer cosmology, and was immortalized in the extravagant riches of Angkor Wat.¹ What relevance does the image of angels and demons churning the oceans by putting a mountain on top of a tortoise and spinning it around with a gigantic reptile have for this study of Sino-Indian relations? Plenty. First and foremost is the fact that a rising China and an emerging India are turning to the sea in ways that they did not...

    (pp. 13-34)

    The evolution of Sino-Indian relations in the twentieth century and after points to a paradox—repeated attempts by the two nations to develop good neighborly relations and their relentless drift toward political rivalry. This chapter delineates the broad structure of the Sino-Indian relationship, which has been caught between the aspirations for cooperation and the imperatives of competition. Many American Sinologists point to the formal arguments in Beijing that it sees no threat from India and argue that the notion of “relentless rivalry” is more in New Delhi’s strategic imagination. To be sure, the suggestion that Sino-Indian rivalry is one-sided is...

  7. Chapter Three IN SEARCH OF SEA POWER
    (pp. 35-48)

    Nationalists in modern China and India have often invoked a “glorious” maritime past to justify the contemporary need for a vigorous maritime strategy and a powerful navy. In India, K. M. Panikkar, the amateur historian, administrator, and diplomat, writing on the eve of independence in the middle of the twentieth century, made the case for a strong maritime orientation for India. He asserted that India has had a powerful naval tradition and had enjoyed the command of the seas around it until the beginning of the sixteenth century. He also insisted that the neglect of sea power was at the...

    (pp. 49-68)

    At the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, China and India began to venture into the uncharted waters far from their own shores. The naval forces of the two countries were seen heading out thousands of miles to perform duties of the kind that many traditionalists in both countries might find alien to the established foreign policies of China and India. At the end of 2008, China dispatched a naval contingent to join the international naval effort to counter the threat of piracy to international shipping in the Gulf of Aden and farther south in the Indian...

    (pp. 69-88)

    Nuclear issues have been central to many disputes between China and India and have long shaped their contestation. They are mainly about India’s determination to achieve nuclear parity with China and Beijing’s attempt to balance New Delhi by strengthening the nuclear and missile capabilities of Islamabad. Significant improvement in Indo-U.S. strategic relations during the years of the George W. Bush presidency has expanded the traditional China–India–Pakistan nuclear framework to include the United States. Nothing underlined this more than President Bush’s civilian nuclear initiative that accepted India’s nuclear exceptionalism, intensified military cooperation including the transfer of advanced conventional weapons,...

    (pp. 89-108)

    Any suggestion that India might influence the balance of power in the western Pacific is met with surprise and skepticism from the community of diplomatic practitioners as well as regional experts in East Asia. Nearly two decades after the launch of its Look East policy, India is widely seen as marginal to the security of the Asia Pacific. Yet some of the recent scholarly work on India’s international relations is beginning to explore the implications of India’s growing economic, political, and military engagement with East Asia.¹ As the weakest of the major powers in Asia, India is understandably the least...

    (pp. 109-132)

    China’s principal maritime preoccupations have been in the western Pacific—reunifying Taiwan, defending China’s maritime territorial claims, and constraining the naval dominance of the United States. None of these concerns has gone away. Yet, the Indian Ocean might increasingly demand greater military attention from a rising China. Some analysts argue that “once it secures the East, Yellow and South China Seas to its satisfaction, Beijing will vector its nautical energies not eastward but toward the south and southwest, where its interests in energy security and economic development lie.”¹ Although not everyone accepts this definitive assessment, most would agree with the...

    (pp. 133-156)

    As Beijing’s interests in the Indian Ocean grow and New Delhi raises its profile in the Pacific, forward presence and support structures in other nations have become a new imperative for both countries’ navies. The last chapter touched upon the notion of a “string of pearls” to describe China’s search for access arrangements in the Indian Ocean. As noted, India, too, is not averse to acquiring facilities that will ensure naval operations far from the home territory. Throughout the history of warfare and statecraft, the need for secure access and bases in territories under the control of other entities was...

    (pp. 157-188)

    The interactive dynamic between the policies of China and India in various parts of the Indo-Pacific littoral plays out differently depending on the historical context of Chinese and Indian ties to these regions, the nature of the regional conflicts, and the role of other great powers, especially the United States. In chapters 6 and 7, we focused on the rising strategic profiles of India in the western Pacific and China in the Indian Ocean. In this chapter, we take up three specific subregions—the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the South China Sea—to assess the nature of...

    (pp. 189-210)

    Chapters 8 and 9 explored the widening domain of Sino-Indian rivalry at the turn of the twenty-first century. In the past, the competition was largely limited to the subcontinent and was concentrated along and across the Great Himalayas that defined the long and contested frontier between the two Asian giants and expressed itself in their tensions over Pakistan. Writing at the end of the 1990s, John Garver noted the extension of this rivalry to the Indian Ocean littoral. “China’s slow-paced push into [the] Indian Ocean between 1985 and 2001 is perhaps akin to its earlier establishment of the Sino-Pakistanentente...

    (pp. 211-234)

    The last few chapters have focused on the overlapping maritime footprints of China and India as they venture beyond their home waters. We have examined the emerging maritime tensions between the two expressed in the form of a security dilemma and the possible ways in which it could be mitigated. While this narrow focus has laid bare the contours of the emerging Sino-Indian maritime rivalry, its evolution is likely to depend on other factors. As Beijing and New Delhi acquire, for the first time in centuries, the ability to exercise significant influence in their wider maritime neighborhood, the other great...

  16. Chapter Twelve SAMUDRA MANTHAN
    (pp. 235-258)

    The story ofSamudra Manthanis about the struggle between the gods and the demons for gaining control of ambrosia, or “amrit.” The power play in this wonderful myth is continuously shaped by the almighty Lord Vishnu and supported by the rest of the trinity, Brahma and Shiva. The story begins when the gods go to Vishnu seeking to restore their power after losing a battle with the demons. Vishnu advises them to adopt a diplomatic approach and invite the demons into a joint venture to churn the oceans for ambrosia. Vishnu promises the gods that he will ensure that...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 259-318)
  18. Index
    (pp. 319-328)
  19. About the Author
    (pp. 329-329)
  20. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
    (pp. 330-332)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 333-333)