India has gained more ground in Asia than either China or the US, simply by not being either one of them, Trefor Moss writes in the Diplomat this week. Maybe that's all there is to the Look East Policy, but if it ain't broke....
“In this endeavor India has a unique selling point: it isn’t China, and it isn’t the U.S.” Moss says. “This status as Asia’s tertiary superpower is enabling India to play a kind of avuncular strategic role, giving it a platform on which to team with the Southeast Asians on their military development without bringing any of the perceived strategic baggage that comes with dealing with the Chinese or the Americans.”
So far, so good.
Indian and Indonesian troops are engaged in their first joint exercises, the Indian military is set to start training Vietnamese forces on the operation of the Kilo-class submarine and Vietnam last year greenlighted Indian warships to stop over in Nha Trang, Moss points out.
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Moreover, India’s army chief was in Burma last month — perhaps in a Burmese bid to counter China’s excessive influence. India began a defense dialogue with Thailand in December. The inaugural Philippines-India Joint Defense Co-operation Committee convened in Manila in January. And India continues to hold annual joint military exercises with Singapore.
All that prompts Moss to conclude:
“Despite all the headlines about Chinese and US power-plays for the strategic advantage in the Asia-Pacific, it's arguably India that has made the most headway over the past year in terms of expanding its strategic footprint in Southeast Asia.”
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