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The Hypocrisy of Ideology and Practice: Mackinder’s China and Mahan’s India

What India and China will offer for the NAM?


by Harsha Senanayake

Not surprisingly the space and position of geopolitical manifestation of South Asia have intensified the scholarly debates on world affairs and International Relations; nobody could abandon the concluding remarks of “1904 Pivot to History”; the realistic comprehend on geopolitics written by Halford John Mackinder. His accounts conjecture the future of the international system and by existing in that authenticity, we can perceive that Mackinder’s assertions on China not erroneous. However, by going with the theory presented by the equivalent of Mackinder; Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, the future of the world deposits in the Indian Ocean; the most precarious sea theater out of seven oceans which considered as the golden access of the heartland.

 Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan
The advance of Chinese footprint in the Indian Ocean and China’s vigorous quest for foreign military bases comprising Pakistan designates the Chines vision of geopolitics, and its intension is to advance supremacy in the most critical ocean in the world to construct the China-centric world order as cited by Mackinder. However, the rejoinder from the rimland India stranded on the intension of deterring potential threats from Chinese military manifestation in its immediate neighbourhood including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Cambodia by solidifying India's’ military partnership with countries in global South to poise Chinese shackle of military formations. However, India’s intention of control over the Indian Ocean to triumph heartland by contending with Mackinders’ China is not merely an extension of their acquainted rivalry but a definitive instant in the overall political evaluation as modern states. However, with the intension of endearing Asia, it is vibrant that China and Indian preserve hypocritical standpoint in terms of the ideals and practice of the foreign policy.

Demanding that the western powers to withdraw military bases and their presence in Asia while the Indian Ocean has been depicted as the part of the anti-colonial and anti-imperial outline of Indian and Chinese foreign policy and their commitments to the accomplishment of NAM. Nevertheless, the current behaviour of two countries driven by the realist accounts of Mahan and Mackinder and they commenced adapting to the realities of the international system by reviewing the establishment of foreign military bases through the lenses of security interests but not through the ideologies such as modern colonization or imperialism.

China’s transition follows the familiar dictum that the flag follows trade, and the best illustration would be the case of Sri Lanka. The massive trade and development projects led by China in post -2009 epoch inevitably tracked by Chinese military and security interests. Chinese BRI deployed as a vehicle to drive military overseas basing through a perceived necessity to deliver security for OBOR projects. Yet, the establishment of Chinese military bases in overseas had been shaped by the shared strategic interests of countering common enemies of the region as well; Pakistan fitting to the bill perfectly and Pakistan have the precedent of hosting foreign military bases to counter its immediate neighbour and adversary; India. The Pakistan army’s determination to contain India’s power means there is diminutive political opposition to accommodating Chinese bases and facilities. The complexity of the anti- India alliance between India and Pakistan means Delhi can’t prevent Beijing from developing bases and strategic facilities in the Indian Ocean to triumph the heartland. Delhi must deal with these realities and Chinese warships might appear in Pakistan soon and in other places where China has the political influence comprising Sri Lanka and Maldives; therefore India has to contain the nature and scope of Chinese military undertakings.

Unlike in the past, Indian face of imperialism spreading through the Indian Ocean and the glob; Delhi is now making its armed forced interoperable with its allies. India expanded its form of imperialism by increasing the numbers of overseas military bases including establishments in Bhutan, Maldives, Vietnam, Tajikistan, Madagascar, Seychelles, Qatar and Oman and after prolonged reluctance, India has signed agreements with the US and France for mutual peacetime exploitation of military bases followed by agreements with Japan and Australia. Delhi is pursuing access to military facilities in several countries and the logic of Delhi’s quest for foreign military bases is comparable to China. Delhi’s security imperatives are no longer restricted to its borders and it desires to secure its widely dispersed interests with the forward military presence in the Indo-Pacific.

However, what prerequisites to comprehend is that anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist legacy of India conquered by the realist accounts of power and supremacy; India and China trail Mahan and Mackinder’s realist protocols of endearing the heartland by promoting Asian face of modern imperialism and colonialism. The question remains; what do India and China offer for NAM by promoting the hypocritical appearance of the foreign policy.

About the author: Harsha Senanayake is a researcher at Social Scientists’ Association- Sri Lanka and a visiting lecturer at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. He has acquired a masters degree in International Relations from the Department of International Relations, South Asian University, New Delhi, India and a specialised degree in International Relations from the Department of International Relations, University of Colombo. Harsha serves as an AIPE fellow- TFAS USA. He has authored few books including The Changing Patterns of USA- Japan Security Relations: Case Study of Okinawa and The Human Security Discourse and Seeking Peace: Field Work Analysis Based on the Sri Lankan Civil War.

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