South Asia in China’s strategic calculus
As the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues its meteoric rise within the international system, its old self-contained world and associated world views that were centred upon East Asia are giving way to wider engagement in other areas adjoining its borders. China’s current borders impinge on several South Asian states: India (4,056 km of shared border), Nepal (1,850 km), Pakistan (523 km) and Bhutan (470 km). Within China’s ‘periphery diplomacy’ (zhoubian waijiao), South Asia, the Indian subcontinent, is becoming an important element in China’s strategic calculus, bringing with it a ‘growing presence’ for the PRC in South Asia (Niazi 2005a).
Since the emergence of the independent states in South Asia, and Tibet’s forcible incorporation into China’s sovereign orbit, China has been a key actor in the politics and security of the South Asia region. Close security and strategic ties bind China to several states in the area. However, its ties with the major South Asian state and Asia’s largest democracy, India, have yet to stabilize. Military relations and strategically guided policies have dominated China’s ties with the region. It is realpolitik-guided behaviour, patterned on the interest-driven role of major powers.(Dutta 1998, 109)