The influence of Jawaharlal Nehru, as the first prime minister of India, remains relevant seventy years after independence. The dealings of current PM Narendra Modi with regional and global leaders demonstrate his personal charisma and political agility and speak of progression, rather than change. India’s past conflict and present competition with China conform to that pattern.
The Australia-India relationship has not developed consistently over the decades but recent bilateral engagements in the economic, nuclear energy and security spheres have extended it and created opportunities for new interactions in multilateral forums. The increasing recognition of the benefits that each country has to offer the other has the potential to fully invigorate the relationship.
India, which has the capacity to be a net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region, views the growing presence of China in the area with some suspicion and has sought to build a collective security framework with other Indian Ocean littoral states. India, Australia and the United States can play an important role by co-operating more closely in maintaining a rules-based order in the Indian Ocean Region.
New Delhi will be closely watching the Trump Administration’s stance towards Pakistan, which it has asked to do more in fighting terror groups. Until it sees what it considers to be satisfactory compliance from Islamabad, Washington will continue to take a harder line in its dealings with Pakistan.
China-Malaysia Relations: Navigating a Complex Geopolitical Sea – Part Two: The South China Sea Issue
The Malaysia-China maritime boundary in the South China Sea remains unresolved. While Malaysia may come to find itself confronted by the uncomfortable prospect that its main economic partner might also become a growing security threat, the trade and financial considerations mean that Malaysia may find its hands tied even as the Chinese claims push ever closer to the Malaysian coast.
The Sino-Malaysian relationship is at a new high. On the back of considerable annual growth in their two-way trade and major investments in Malaysia, China has become Malaysia’s largest trading partner. Malaysia has warmly embraced such Chinese initiatives as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the “Belt and Road Initiative”, both of which will deepen the economic links between the two countries.
As a multicultural society, India is richly endowed with a wide range of soft power resources, which are mostly autonomous of the government and critically depend on the health of its inclusive democracy. Unfortunately, India lacks an appropriate institutional “ecosystem” to harness that soft power and use it to further its interests in the international sphere.
The standoff at Doklam appears to be the most recent iteration of the strategy of incremental encroachment that China has employed for some time in the South China Sea. As at sea, conflict will benefit neither party, so diplomatic efforts to find a resolution must continue.
The removal from office of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could be the catalyst for a change of approach to the civil-military relationship on the part of the influential province of Punjab. If Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), decides to continue his attempts at better relations with India, it will again place the government at odds with the army.
The leaders’ Joint Statement and Rose Garden speeches are indicative of possible future directions for the bilateral relationship, which will be underpinned by the domestic policy priorities exemplified by “Make in India” and “America First”. Beyond that, the strategic partnership is focussed on defence, security and stability but there is no shared strategic vision for the Indo-Pacific region.