|Strait of Malacca|
Written by Andreea Cristina Brinza, Geopolitics.ro
The Strait of Malacca is a gateway between Asia and the West and one of the most important world energy valves, hosting about 40% of world trade.
While the Silk Route was, in the past, the glue connecting land route between Asia and Europe, the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea represent today the maritime communication route of East Asia with the energy markets of the states that form the so-called 'Energy Heartland' of the world (the region between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf).
Linking Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, Malacca is the most important strait in the world, the place where 12 million barrels of oil flow daily, towards the most dynamic economies of the moment: China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan.
Controlled by Americans under the pretext of stability in region, the Strait has become the convergence point of three major powers: USA, China and India.
If on world level China leads a policy antagonistic towards U.S., on a regional level the main rival of China is India. "For China, India is the Asian enemy par excellence," said Laurent Murawiec and he also explains why: "India is the demographic, geopolitical and political-intellectual counterpart of China" . In other words, India is the mirror image of China, whose main strength is the "demographic pliers", that the Chinese fear it will break their economy in the future.
In the Malacca region, China is trying to restrict India from establishing itself as a hegemony in South Asia and to eliminate the U.S., or at least to change the power pole in its favor. The "String of pearls" which China is building on the coastline of the Indian Ocean - in Burmese, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, is only a strategy to limit India's and U.S.'s access in South-East Asia, in general, and in the Strait of Malacca, in particular, by controlling the naval nodes in these countries.
A new Great Game is thus on the geopolitical map, fueled by the control over the Malacca Strait - a key objective of the political strategy of the three countries in the region. Full access to the strait allows control over sea routes connecting East Asia to Eurasia and Africa, dominating the economic and commercial life of Asia. If the U.S. is the world's only superpower and China is an aspiring super-economy, India is just a regional power.
China faces a real dilemma on Malacca Strait - the maritime route that mediates approximately 80% of Chinese imports and which turned into the state's energy jugular. As China's economy is growing, requiring ever more natural resources, having only one transportation route which is controlled by other states, is a real Achilles heel of China. This is why the Chinese strategy relies on getting control over Malacca Strait and on developing, in parallel, many new terrestrial energy routes, to reduce China's vulnerability to accessing scarce resources.
India is also having an important economical development, aspiring to the hegemonic rule of the Asian region, and the control of the Malacca Strait would only strengthen its status in the region and help it develop trade links with countries in East Asia. Considering India is a true software center and that the states from the South China sea are the leading IT manufacturers, a good connection with the East Asian region would only bring benefits.
In this battle for the supremacy in the South Asian region, U.S. goes on the principle that whoever controls the Strait of Malacca has control over the most important energy routes in the world and hence over the Chinese economy - an economy that, in recent years, has eclipsed increasingly U.S.'s. America's strategy in the region is to control the Strait and to keep under control China's economic development. But as the U.S. is not a regional power in the area, it has developed partnerships with countries in the near vicinity of the Strait, while also supporting India in the fight with China.
The meeting of the three giants in South Asia brings into question Alfred T. Mahan's theory, which states that the twenty-first century will be decided in the Indian Ocean, going on the idea that "who controls the Indian Ocean will control Asia" . Even if the U.S. seems a secondary player in the battle for the Strait of Malacca, its help is important and can decisively change the balance of power in the region.
The control over the shortest route between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean brings, as mentioned above, face to face two aspiring powers to the hegemony status in Asia: China and India, who adopt different strategies of containment or mutual annihilation. If China uses the politics of the "string of pearls", India has used the "iron curtain" or the so-called "iron chain", policies that are based on the same idea: controlling as many ports surrounding Malacca Strait, to enable the restriction of its opponent. This control can only be done by attracting surrounding countries as partners, but it is this exact attraction that lead to a real investment race on the shores of the Indian Ocean, between China and India.
The strategies of the two countries also follow the principle of "the neighbor of my enemy, my friend". This policy has its roots in the teachings of Sun Tzu of surrounding your enemy through its neighboring countries. This is Vietnam's case, who is revolving around India and Pakistan, who is China's ally.
While China is building its "string of pearls" by massive investments in the key ports on the Indian Ocean coastline: Gwadar (Pakistan), Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Sittwe (Mzanmar), Chittagong (Bangladesh), India is building its "iron chain" by the control it exercises over the Andaman Islands, Seychelles and Nicobar Archipelago. India's efforts to maintain control over the Indian Ocean are supported in the background by Japan, Australia and the U.S., which form together with India the so-called "Square" .
Malacca Strait is a real energy artery of Asia, as well as one of the hottest and most disputed naval points, which mediates the meeting point of three major forces: China, India and USA.
1. Khanna Parag (2008) – Lumea a doua, Iaşi, Editura Polirom;
2. Apud Laurent Murawiec în Dobrescu Paul (2008) – Geopolitica , ed a IIa, Editura Comunicare.ro, Bucureşti, p.231;
3. Iskander Rehman - China’s String of Pearls and India’s Enduring Tactical Advantage, Institute for defence studies and analyses, iunie 2010;
4. Aman Ullah – India and China competing for Malacca Strait in Burma, SouthAsiaSpeaks, iunie 2009;
5. Ranjit B. Rai - China’s string of pearls vs India’s iron curtain in the indian ocean, it is a C3IC issue, Frontier India, octombrie 2010;
Translated in English from Romanian language, Original Article appeared on our Partner Website Geopolitics.ro
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