Journal : Global Times (English) Date : Author : Wang Dehua Page No. : NA

India’s Ministry of External Affairs dismissed the claims in early February that New Delhi was in talks with Washington to conduct joint naval patrols in the South China Sea. India’s refusal is not surprising, as joint patrols will not conform to its national interest.

The New Delhi government pursues pragmatic diplomacy and strives to reach a balance between the US and China. Some interpret New Delhi’s refusal as retaliation against Washington’s approval of weapon sales to Islamabad last year.

This may be true. Yet, the fundamental reason is that New Delhi understands the significance of a sound China-India relationship to the nation’s development. India cannot afford to lose China’s support, which serves as an economic engine for the nation’s growth.

In addition, New Delhi has officially taken over the presidency of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) from Moscow last month and will host the eighth summit in a few months’ time. A friendly atmosphere is significant for the upcoming summit.

Under this situation, conducting South China Sea patrols in an attempt to court the US is inappropriate. By refusing the US proposal, India is taking a stand and showing goodwill to China.

In fact, the likelihood for India to station its naval forces in the South China Sea remains quite low. Yet it may strengthen its military presence in the Indian Ocean. For instance, there is Indian Navy’s ambitious Project Seabird, which pursues the construction of facilities to berth the nation’s aircraft carriers.

In addition, it may also cooperate with Vietnam by selling equipment to Hanoi, conducting military drills, regularly visiting Hanoi’s ports, inspecting ships and so forth. Maintaining a close military bond with Vietnam conforms to India’s Act East strategy.

New Delhi is wise to say no to Washington. The White House is just maneuvering India for its own interests, and will not stop supporting Pakistan as a repay to India. The US administration is following a “divide and rule” policy. Wary of India’s rise, it is attempting to instigate conflicts between New Delhi and Islamabad by approving the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. From the US’ perspective, China, Russia and India are all threatening its status as a superpower. The US does not want to see a stronger India.

Meanwhile, India and the US share disparities on a number of issues such as climate change. While Washington calls for a cap on New Delhi’s carbon emissions, the Modi government, aspiring for economic growth, wants developed countries to provide more carbon space to developing nations.

Strengthening its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region is the ultimate purpose for the US to propose US-India joint naval patrols.

Washington believes that Beijing, which has already broken through the first island chain, is challenging its maritime hegemony.

Thus the US, attempting to strangle China’s development, is hyping South China Sea disputes. Freedom of navigation is never an issue in the region. The White House is just finding excuses to enter the waters and even attempting to station its forces in Philippine naval bases.

Apart from drawing countries outside the region, such as India, Japan, South Korea and Australia, the US is also inciting South China Sea claimants to stir up trouble in the region. Over time, these countries will realize that it is the US, rather than China, that is militarizing the South China Sea and destroying the peaceful and stable environment there.

Facing Washington’s provocations, it is wise for Beijing to remain calm. China can warn and even expel the US warships if necessary. Beijing has maintained friendly ties with ASEAN countries and nations outside the region.

They have no desire to pick sides between Washington and Beijing. Expecting to cooperate with China for economic benefits, these nations have no intention to offend China. The US will eventually suffer the consequences of its provocations.

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