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Continental China | The Indian Express

If the army feels it requires continuation of the AFSPA to discharge its responsibilities, no other agency is qualified to credibly challenge that view. Continental China. The rapid modernisation of the Chinese navy and the American plans to rebalance its military forces to the Pacific have drawn the worlds attention to Asias maritime affairs in recent years. Even as China becomes a maritime power to reckon with,Beijing has no desire to give up on its continental aspirations. Chinese President Xi Jinpings continuing tour of Central Asia this past week showcased the nations rise at the heart of the Eurasian landmass. Most great powers of the past had either a continental or maritime orientation. Great Britain and America have been mainly maritime powers. Russia and Germany,on the other hand,were essentially continental powers. Could China be the first to break this classic divide? The logic of geography,massive accumulation of financial resources,an advanced industrial base and an extraordinary will to power may have created the conditions for China to be a great power,at once maritime and continental. Historically,Chinese empires were focused on defeating overland invaders. Over the last two centuries,the external threats to Chinese security came by sea. While Beijing wants to secure the Pacific littoral to the east,Chinas rise has run into resistance from Asias maritime powers like Japan and the US. On its Western periphery in inner Asia,though,China now has a near free hand. Russia,the traditionally dominant power in Central Asia,is reluctant to contest Chinas rise. The American interest in the region has been episodic and could diminish further after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. India,a potential power in inner Asia,is burdened by a perennial conflict with Pakistan that blocks its access to the region. Favourable regional circumstances,coupled with Beijings purposeful policies,have dramatically raised Chinas weight in Central Asia within a generation. China is well on its way to becoming the most important external power on the subcontinents northwestern marches. Marching West. At the heart of Beijings march to the west has been an expansive logic that seeks to integrate Chinas western provinces like Xinjiang and Tibet with Central Asia,southwest Asia and the subcontinent. That Central Asia is rich in hydrocarbon resources,which Beijing so badly needs,has lent urgency to a programme focused on transborder connectivity and evacuating oil and gas from inner Asia to Chinas industrial heartland in the east. Beijings economic theorem on the benefits of regional integration had two political corollaries: stabilising Chinas sensitive,far-flung frontiers through rapid development,and gaining strategic influence across borders. As he swings through Central Asia,President Xi has every reason to celebrate the many triumphs of Chinas march to the west,plug some of the gaps and articulate a strategy to consolidate its emerging primacy in the region. This precisely is what Xi did as he stopped in Turkmenistan on his way to the G-20 summit in Russia last week,and travelled to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan on his way back. He concluded the Central Asian tour by joining a summit of regional leaders in Bishkek,Kyrgyzstan. During the trip,Xi saw the Chinese companies sign contracts worth billions of dollars in these countries,announced the construction of new pipelines,outlined plans to deepen transport connectivity within the region and across it between China and Europe,and promoted the use of Chinese currency for international transactions in the region. Comparing the current Chinese plans for the region with the Silk Road that once linked China with Central Asia and the Mediterranean,Xi declared,I can almost hear the ring of the camel bells and the wisps of smoke in the desert. Security Concept. Xis tour was not all economics. It was also about security. As he signed strategic partnership agreements in Central Asia,Xi underlined the importance of jointly combating the three evils terrorism,separatism and extremism confronting the region. Concerned about the impact of these forces on Chinas internal stability following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan,Xi has called for greater political cooperation between China and its neighbours. At the Central Asian summit in Bishkek yesterday,Xi is likely to have expanded on the need for what Beijing calls a new security concept for Eurasia. There will be worldwide interest in any new ideas from Beijing on promoting stability in and around Afghanistan after 2014. The writer is a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation,Delhi and a contributing editor for The Indian Express
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