NIGHTWATCH: China, India, Spratleys, Oil — and a Coming Grudge Match?

02 China, 03 India, 04 Inter-State Conflict, 05 Energy
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China-India; China warned India to stop oil exploration in the South China Sea after the Indian Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Joshi, said he was prepared to send Indian naval ships there to protect its interests.

India's state oil company, ONGC, is exploring three oil blocks close to the disputed Spratly Islands – known as Nansha Islands in China – in partnership with the Vietnamese government, which claims sovereignty over the collection of 45 tiny islands and atolls, along with China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

China told Vietnam on 6 December to stop unilateral oil exploration in disputed areas of the South China Sea and to not harass Chinese fishing boats, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Comment: The Chinese have now made clear that they intend to administer the South China Sea as territorial waters, just as they announced. In the Chinese view, the Vietnamese and Indians are lawbreakers and must be stopped and possibly punished.

The Indian Navy is more professional and combat capable than the Chinese, but it is based a long way from the South China Sea. China's warnings might persuade Indian political and naval authorities to adopt a more aggressive patrolling regime to contest Chinese claims and protect Indian investments, in support of all of the Southeast Asian nations.

China's ability to operate and protect its claims by using shore-based combat aircraft, however, is a caution for all naval powers.

Special Comment: A NightWatch bias is the judgment that the Indian armed forces are determined to avenge their humiliation by Chinese forces in the 1962 border war, however long it takes. A grudge match awaits, despite the passage of a half century. Both Indian and Chinese military leaders know it and expect it. Strategic leadership of Asia is at stake.

Phi Beta Iota:  Kudos to Booz Allen for this decent 2004 depiction — in the eight years since then there are more pearls going upwards toward North Korea, and they are all stronger, at the same time that China has engaged in massive infrastructure projects across the Southern Hemisphere, and especially in Africa.  The Spratleys are a bridge too far for India, and the string of pearls by China are a sharp contrast to bluster and banality on the part of the USA.  It is over-reaching, disconnected from reality, and neglecting the rich Western Hemisphere that offers both untapped potential and near defensibility.

See Also:

Graphic: Robert Steele Global Strategy – The Hourglass Home Base Plus Four


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