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INS Airavat VietnamMonth of May was full of geopolitical developments and changes in one of the most nuclear armed hostile region of the world, the CIP band (China-India-Pakistan). The new premier of China went to India on his first ever foreign visit and then to meet the new leadership of their ally, Pakistan. In the meantime Afghan President came to India in his unofficial low profile meeting, but making solid developments. Indian Prime Minister in the hope of surviving in the next election met with Japanese and Thai leadership signing various economic and strategic pacts. All this happened in a short period of time and quite related to each other.

China renewed the border dispute with India by entering 19 Km deep inside Indian territory in Laddakh and setting up temporary bases. With this, People’s Liberation Army of China has made it clear that with the new premier of China is not going to change its stance on the border issue between the two countries. China’s aggressiveness is as a result of India’s passiveness specially on the border issues with China. A number of times India just ignores Chinese intrusion just to avoid any major or minor conflict with the giant dragon. India’s behaviour like a “wet cat” encourages China to suppress India with its power. The border dispute was resolved on the assurance from India that its army will not patrol on its own territory of that region and will treat it as a disputed territory. The government in India later cheered that they have resolved the border dispute peacefully and patiently. Such a wonderful achievement, really!!

The term string of pearls (Read More: Chinese String of Pearls Theory) theory is mainly used for China, how it is surrounding India and other south east Asian nations with its presence forming a string of pearls. String of pearls may or may not be a threat for the countries being surrounded, but surely a warning that at the time of need China may anytime use its developed infrastructure against them.

Unlike India, Vietnam and Philippines have been more assertive in claiming their sovereignty in the disputed South China Sea. Almost an year ago, officials of Philippine maritime attempted to arrest Chinese fishermen in waters off Scarborough Shoal, claimed by the Philippines as within its Exclusive Economic Zone. This is something which India could have done with the Chinese soldiers who had entered inside the Indian territory. India had full rights to do so and then could have opened diplomatic channels for returning the soldiers with a warning.

The South China Sea area is crossed by more than half the world’s total trade and has an estimated vast energy and mineral reserves completely claimed by China and in part by neighbouring nations: Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. One of the main reason of the tension is fishing rights of Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei in their own waters. China stops fishing near its shores from mid-May until August to facilitate nurturing of fishes in the water. This makes Chinese fishermen, guarded by naval vessels, head to the waters claimed by neighbouring countries without even recognizing their territorial claims, China considers almost all of the South China sea as its territorial water.

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On May 10, the Philippines claimed China intruded inside its 370 Km exclusive economic zone with a military frigate, two surveillance ships and some fishing boats around Second Thomas Shoal, days after the incident, the Philippines launched a diplomatic protest which did not stop China as after ten days on May 20, Vietnam filed a diplomatic protest saying one of its ships was rammed by a Chinese vessel on May 20 in its water.

China simply ignores the territorial claims made by its neighbours in the South China Sea as it is assertive that South China sea is Chinese territory and there is no way China would hold a dialogue with the neighbours on the territorial issue. According to Ni Lexiong, professor of international military affairs and diplomacy at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, China’s neighbors are making claims in the South China Sea that are “not reasonable” because they want access to oil resources.

India’s opinion on Chinese string of pearls theory is a bit disappointing to China’s south east Asian neighbours  who are in need of non regional powers to mediate for bringing peace and stability in the region. According to India, Chinese economy is dependent on its large number of imports and exports which passes through Persian Gulf and Straight of Malacca, hence having security setup to secure its economy is legitimate and India should not worry.

“Unstringing” Chinese String of Pearls Theory

Being said that, the passiveness which India exhibits is mere a show to the world, in reality the story is slightly different. In the background India has stealthily developed a version of its own string of pearls theory. India may or may not keep the will and power to alone challenge China openly, but is involved actively with other Indian Ocean Region island nations to collectively “unstring” the Chinese string of pearls. China has a number of times claimed that India is forming a metal chain or “Iron Curtain” in Indian Ocean to block its interest. (Read more: The Strait of Malacca: The Meeting Point of Giants)
India's string of pearls theory
View of various countries on South China Sea conflict, String of pearls theory or their political inclination

India has quietly made way for its interests in the island nations and African nations in Indian Ocean Region, which includes Mauritius, Maldives, Seychelles and Madagascar and the countries of South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique with a very agile foreign policy, economic compensations like the double taxation exemption with Mauritius, and military aid.

Indian Navy maintains a robust hydrographic arm, with eight sophisticated survey ships, a number of survey aircrafts, and state of the art facilities in Dehradun and Goa. The well equipped surveying arm of the Indian Navy has made several successes in undertaking various survey assignments for countries like Oman, Saudi Arabia and island nations in the Indian Ocean making a positive strategic footprints that would certainly irk China. India has in fact gained ship berthing rights in Oman which is a strategic location for the fight against piracy. The port also allows the Indian Navy to monitor the SLOCs of Hormuz and Aden.

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India has signed an MoU with Mozambique that will provide the African nation Indian piracy patrols. Going a further step, in a 2007 report, which has not been denied by the government, it was reported that India has setup a listening post in the African island nation of Madagascar.

Forums like IOR-ARC (Indian Ocean Rim – Arrangement for Regional Cooperation) and IBSA (India-Brasil-South Africa) have been formed for better commercial, energy and resources link with Africa. Assertive India not only brought Mauritius, Mozambique and Madagascar to back India’s move to block Pakistan’s membership in IOR-ARC, but also managed to block China’s access to IBSA.

According to an unconfirmed report, India signed an agreement on Defence Cooperation in 2001 with Mongolia stationing radar systems able to monitor Chinese missile tests. Defence cooperation also included holding bilateral military exercises and discussion  on having an airbase which has not yet been successful.

India on the other hand has developed strong military relationship with Maldives, which includes basing two helicopters permanently in the island nation to enhance its surveillance capability. India will setup 26 radars in Maldives along its entire coastline for seamless coverage of approaching vessels and aircraft. This radar chain will be interlinked with the Indian radar chain with a central control room in India’s Coastal Command.

African island nation of Mauritius enjoys deeper relations with India. India had setup the Mauritius Coast Guard in the 70s and the island nation gone even further to lease two islands to India allowing it to use it “as per its benefit”. Coming back to the land, India maintains Farkhor air base and has been involved in renovating Ayni air base both in Tajikistan minutes away from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and China occupied Kashmir. (Read Both the Stories: India Expanding Its Strategic Presence in Other Countries).

Indian Iron Curtain (String of Pearls) on Chinese Backyard

As Chi Haotin, general of People’s Republic of China said, “The Indian Ocean is not India’s Ocean”. India says, “South China sea is not China’s sea”. Seeing Chinese increasing activities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, India took similar steps to irk China by increasing its activity in South China sea. India knows that it may not be able to contain China alone, as a result India collectively with Japan, Russia and the US stands against China.

India and Vietnam has signed several defence agreement which includes selling of state of the art, world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile, Brahmos. Vietnam has also provided basing rights to Indian Navy on its port of Nha Trang on a western shore of the South China Sea. Russia, which has been recently partnering with China in almost all the global events surprised China with its move to provide six Varshavyanka-class submarines to Vietnam which has enhanced anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare capabilities to perform in shallow waters, a perfect card to play in the South China sea. Russia whose superpower attitude has been on decline since 1991 is expecting to enter South China sea conflict in its own way when people have started analyzing that Russia has lost to China in its race to become the next superpower (What’s your opinion on this?).

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In 2011, India’s state-run explorer, OVL signed a three-year deal with PetroVietnam for developing long-term cooperation in the oil sector, accepting Vietnam’s offer of exploration in the South China Sea making China protest against this move.

Vietnam, which had a tough history with United States has invited US presence in the region giving the signal that for regional peace and stability Vietnam doesn’t mind participation of non regional nations. To solidify its relations further with United States, Vietnam is expected to request the US government for the sale of Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, a senior company official told IHS Jane’s. This makes clear that Vietnam is trying India’s long trusted policy of forming good relations with both the United States and Russia. Vietnam’s attitude shows the potential, which it has, to become the regional power of south east Asia.

In the meantime, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has assured Asian nations that despite their sharp cuts in defence budgets, the Pentagon will continue to shift its military focus to the Asia Pacific region.

In 2009, India contributed $1.2 million and advanced $774,000 to the TTEG (Tripartite Technical Experts Group). India volunteered to survey wrecks in the Malacca Straits which approved by the TTEG, further irking the Chinese.

Responding to the recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Japan discussing maritime security cooperation, Chinese media has raised concerns that Japan is trying to encircle China with the help of military and economic cooperation with India.

While India easily bows down to China making compromises on its own territories, India is seen very assertive and aggressive in its policy of containing China in the international soil and waters. Leadership of both the nations often meet with shaking hands and smiles on their face signing more trade agreements and contracts and hoping for better cooperation in the future, but behind their smiley face both the nations know what they are doing and what is needed to be done.

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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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A Lovers’ Quarrel: What Now for India and China?

Manak Suri

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When China’s Consul General to India Zheng Xiyuan addressed a gathering in the city of Mumbai earlier in the week he made an interesting comparison on the relationship between the two Asian giants. “Relation between China and India is just like the monsoon season,” he said. “There are different levels of rainfall in different years. And sometimes you have clouds as well.” It is not surprising how apt the statement is especially with regard to the past three years which have seen the tiger and the dragon compete for geopolitical influence in Asia and beyond and tussle over longstanding territorial issues. The latter of the two culminated in the 70-day long military standoff in Doklam/Donglang, which has since then deescalated. However, the monsoon sometimes surprises with a few delayed showers, and so has Beijing with a sudden change in its rhetoric towards New Delhi, from one of visible aggression to one which is seemingly cooperative.

Clashes between the two kept analysts across the globe busy, with the possibility of a full-scale military conflict a favourite topic of discussion for the political enthusiasts among the uninitiated. The Doklam episode was the final among a series of recurring conflicts. The most prominent among them included India snubbing China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) summit in May flagging sovereignty issues due to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC); a key portion of the OBOR which runs through a region of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan and claimed by India, and China’s repeated blocking of India’s move to get the chief of Pakistan based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed listed as a global terrorist with the UN. The relations had already taken a downturn with India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group being blocked by China on a consistent basis. Added to that, tensions reached a high with India’s decision to allow the Dalai Lama, seen as a separatist by China to visit the Tawang region which is claimed by China as Southern Tibet and by India as a part of its state Arunachal Pradesh. This happened despite repeated warnings from the Chinese that the visit would cause serious damage to diplomatic ties between the two countries. Did it?

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The action-packed episodes are in the past now and recent developments on the world stage are worth a second look. With no new conflicts brewing for the time being and a precarious lid on the existing ones, it has been nothing short of intriguing to see the evident tone of cooperation between the two frenemies since the Doklam issue has been resolved. China seems to have made good, even if ever so slightly, on blocking the move to designate the JeM chief as a globally designated terrorist by condemning the Pakistan based terror group along with the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba at the recent BRICS summit held in Xiamen. While the move has likely and arguably been made to protect its own investments in the country and doesn’t have any visible bearing on India’s repeated efforts as yet, the step is significant in projecting Beijing’s new viewpoint on the fight against terror based outfits on a global level which previously was limited to vague statements sighting requirement of solid evidence and further communication and coordination between the involved countries. Beijing has also snubbed Pakistan in its effort to internationalise the issue of Kashmir, maintaining its position that the matter is for them and India to resolve on their own. While there has been no change of position on the issue from before and there is no strain of ties between the two ‘all-weather allies’, the tone of the statement is a change to be welcomed by New Delhi in its prominent stand against terrorism on both the national and international level.

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Speaking of change, India along with Japan remained relatively quiet in the South China Sea conflict, making no explicit mention of it in their joint statement when the Prime Ministers of both the countries met earlier this September. Improvements in ties aside, another likely reason could be that the issue has taken a backseat with the focus of China, Japan as well as that of the United States on the heightening tension in the Korean Peninsula.

However, with Trump’s undiverted attention on Kim, the South East Asian countries involved in the conflict may find it difficult to stand up to the Chinese on their own, should Beijing choose to push even further with its activities in the contested waters. Therein lies an important lesson for India. “The Chinese have demonstrated a pattern of creeping encroachment”, India’s former Ambassador to Beijing Ashok K. Kantha has said, and India would do well to remember that. Indians may see the disengagement from both the sides in Doklam as a diplomatic victory over the Chinese but the conflict is not yet resolved. China’s perceived soft behaviour may merely be an understanding on their part that perhaps the time to act is not now, more so that cooperation is the way ahead; something which has continuously and explicitly been implied by both the sides over and over considering what else is at stake.

As two large and quickly growing economies, India and China’s relationship with each other has been heavy enough invested in by both the countries for them to know different. This is not just evident from the business end, but also from the mixing of the two cultures as well. Bollywood movies are enjoying huge popularity among the Chinese audience. At the same time across the border, Mandarin as a language has acquired more importance over the years, with schools offering the same as an optional language growing in number. Opinions of the people on each other may change every now and then from favourable to not as much in polls, yet there is no denying their mingling.

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In this lovers’ quarrel, as is with any other, while the occasional bickering is unlikely to give way (at least in the foreseeable future), reconciliation is perhaps always the key and a quick one for that matter. This is known by both, even if they may forget from time to time.

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Get Acquainted with Mumbai Through its Diverse Food

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Popularly called India’s financial capital, Mumbai is known for more than just Bollywood and its stock markets. It is one of the more famous cosmopolitan cities in the country with a brilliant mix of people from all over. This eclectic combination of a variety of people from different places across the country has ended up creating a paradise for the food lovers in Mumbai.

A variety of edibles in the Maximus City

Named after Mumba, a Goddess and patron deity of the Kolis, Mumbai is a mixture of people from different religions as well. The ethnic group of Kolis are made up of Christians and Hindus and have provided the world with the finger-licking ‘Prawns Koliwada’ famous in Mumbai. Taste this deep fried Prawn dish for a mind-blowing experience. The people of the Konkan region have brought Malwani food to this city in all its spicy glory. Wash down this delicious food with Sol Kadi, which is a refreshing after-food beverage drunk after a heavy meal of Pomfret masala or crab masala.

Mohammed Ali Road

Mumbai is famous across the country for its outstanding street food that makes exploring this city an interesting feat. Experience every flavour of the city soon as you land and board the Mumbai airport cab, and drive towards the active Mohammad Ali Road. Experience the buzz of activity in this area, which plays home to several important mosques and is also the heart of all Ramadan celebrations in the city. Try out the Mumbai classics such as pav bhaji and bhel puri, unique to this area’s busting khao gallis (food streets).

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Chowpatty Beach

A food lover’s visit to this city is incomplete without making a stop at Mumbai’s Chowpatty beach. Considered to be the best place for vegetarian food items and street foods such as pani puri and pav bhaji. Sit on the sandy shores of this beach and watch the picturesque sunset while munching on some sev puri, which is Mumbai’s classic street food. The combination of herbs, sev and chutneys over the potato makes for a scrumptious snack. Sample some kulfi sticks while at the beach. Kulfi is a frozen dairy dessert that is more creamy and dense than ice cream is. Pick your favourite flavours from mango, rose, cardamom, pistachio, and saffron.

Indian Sweets

For those of you who have a sweet tooth, try the hand-churned samples of ice cream in strange yet delicious flavours in Mumbai. Close to the markets of this city exists a 120-year old shop that also serves bright orange jalebis and sugary sweet goodies popular in India. If you’re flying into the city, you can pick out self-drive Mumbai airport taxi service such as Zoomcar and explore the food joints of this exquisite city.

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It’s Been 70 Years Since India Became An Independent Nation: What’s Changed?

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It has been 70 years since India became independent and a lot has changed. On the 15th August 1947, India finally won its independence, after a long struggle for freedom. The road to freedom wasn’t easy; it was a long struggle and one that cost them thousands of people. The country was partitioned, and Pakistan was created, and along with it, a new India was born. India may have lost some of its people, but it gained a brand new identity.

Since then, India has adopted a democratic path and has developed in many unexpected ways. Wondering what’s changed in the past 70 years – then read on for a guide to the ways in which India has advanced over the past seven decades.

Equality comes before law

In 2017, India treats everyone equally when it comes to law. All Indians are equal and subject to the same authority when it comes to law and jurisdiction. There is no special treatment based on eligibility, income or gender – everyone is treated fairly. Birth is no longer seen as a basis for choosing who should and shouldn’t be powerful. Social privileges are not based on gender, religion, caste, or ethnicity – everyone is equal. Each citizen carries an Aadhar card or can use an Aadhar card download instead. This states their name, contact details, and holds a range of information about them. Despite these laws around equality, discrimination does still exist, but the government and local authorities are working hard to stamp this out.

Education has significantly progressed

Today, more than 100 million children go to school in India and complete their primary education, which includes learning to read and write. The number of children going on to secondary education and higher education is also impressive. There are now over 300 universities in India that children can choose to attend. At secondary school and in higher education, children are encouraged to learn skills that will aid them in later life and make the process of getting a well-paid job easier. There is a lot of emphasis on educational equality, with girls being encouraged to attend school just like boys are.

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Socio-economic changes

In terms of industry, India has also made some incredible advancements since 1947. In the 50s and 60s, heavy industries became big business in India and received a lot of government attention. Today, smaller scale industries are receiving the same attention, helping to make startups more successful. There have been a lot of community development programs bringing schools, medical facilities, and clean water to communities across the country.

Since it gained its independence in 1947, India has come a long way. There have been a lot of changes that have taken place within the country, from how it is run and governed, to how important education is for children. India is slowly but surely changing for the better, with more and more emphasis put on helping to grow and develop poorer communities, improving the way of life of the masses, rather than just the few.

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