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Kunal Dhabekar Asked: Is Chinese assertiveness in ASEAN an opportunity or a challenge or both for India?

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  • Rup Narayan Das replies: The answer to the question is implicit in the question itself. Yes, the Chinese assertiveness in ASEAN is both a challenge and an opportunity for India. By Chinese assertiveness we mean China’s aggressive posturing on South China Sea and East China Sea issues. The two issues are different. Both, however, involve claims and counter-claims of territorial sovereignty. The claim of sovereignty also pertains to jostling for natural resources, including rich deposits of hydrocarbon. They also involve the issue of freedom of navigation. Managing China’s posturing poses a challenge to the countries of the reign. These challenges can be met strategically and diplomatically. India’s benign presence and role in the region will be reassuring to the countries of the region. An inclusive and transparent security architecture will go a long way in mitigating the persistent security dilemma.

    On the other hand, China’s emergence as the world’s second largest economy offers India and the countries in the region an opportunity to engage with China, thoughtfully and imaginatively, for a mutually beneficial and win-win relationship. This is easier said than done, though. However, going by the immediate past experience, such as China’s role earlier in the Asian financial crisis and later in the world financial crisis, the economies of the region can be integrated through free trade agreements of various kinds, both bilaterally and multilaterally, for a mutually beneficial relationship in terms of trade and investment. But the interest of the domestic economy needs to be protected, and the pace and speed of economic integration accordingly determined.