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India and region caught in US-China tension: Professor Chintamani Mahapatra

Speaking on the ‘Rising Strategic Turbulence in the Indo-Pacific: India’s Choices’, Professor Chintamani Mahapatra, pro-Vice Chancellor of JNU, referred to the critical shift in the geo-strategic sphere of Asia-Pacific /now termed as the Indo-Pacific Region. He drew attention of the audience to the emerging opportunities and significance of the region in terms of trade and security in an era when the region is witnessing a phase of turbulence due to the ‘old’ hegemon US now in a state of perceptible decline taking on the aspiring ‘new’ hegemon China.

He said Joe Biden administration’s sudden withdrawal from Afghanistan has shown the stark reality of American decline and its inability to stand by its allies now. It has resulted not only in the two countries engaged in developing strategic partnerships and alliances-building as in the case of the US it is QUAD, IORC and other security treatises and RCEP by China.

He was speaking at the Professor J. C. Anand Memorial Lecture lchaired by Prof V R Sinha, DUI, Panjab University. The lecture is held annually in memory of Professor Anand, a former faculty member in the department of political science.

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Professor Mahapatra referred to the economic cold war going on between the two countries as an economically empowered China has started flexing its military muscles under the leadership of Xi Ping to pursue its agenda of territorial expansion in South China Sea, East China Sea, along the Sino-Indian border. China is the number one trading partner of more than hundred countries that used to rely upon the US as a security partner.

Referring to the varied approaches adopted by the countries facing the heat of Chinese expansionism, Mahapatra pointed out how India and other Southeast Asian countries like Japan and Vietnam despite endorsing the US act of balancing China in the Indo-Pacific, have their own distinct strategies to contain China and protect their national interests.

He reminded that India has historically played a distinct role in the pacific region like in case of the Korean and Vietnamese wars resisting American and Russian interventions. Refusing to be used as a tool by the US to serve her strategic interests, India has chalked out its own course as its proximity to a `belligerent’ China makes it perturbed about China. There was a time when deep economic engagement with China made India try not to be offensive while displaying anti- China stance. However, it has changed after the Galwan valley episode in recent months. In the process of meeting the growing Chinese hostility and propaganda, it is natural that India still continues to view United States as a responsive and democratic custodian in the region as against the irresponsive and authoritarian China.

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