In agreeing to an “informal summit” in the city of Wuhan on the banks of the Yangtze, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping have chosen to take charge of the Sino-Indian relationship.
While partnerships between big and middle powers will determine the balance of power in the region, islands will shape the new framework for a security architecture.
India might be quite open to a substantive dialogue with China on the Belt and Road Initiative if Xi is prepared to address New Delhi’s concerns on sovereignty and sustainability.
As China continues to expand its presence across the maritime domain, the establishment of infrastructure projects, like the Kra Canal, is likely to influence the new emerging security architecture in the Indo-Pacific.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un went to Beijing after demonstrating that he is capable of standing up to the world, has complete control over his system, and can deal with the United States on his own.
Any reset of the China-India relationship would necessarily include an effort to widen the areas of cooperation that will provide some balance against the many negative factors that are unsettling bilateral relations.
With his relentless focus on “burden-sharing” and “America First”, U.S. President Trump could end up rearranging the political and security order in East Asia.
There appears to be a need for greater cooperation in the maritime domain in the Bay of Bengal, given the increasing rivalries in the region.
While trade liberalization and transportation infrastructure should remain BIMSTEC’s key priorities, the Bay of Bengal will not re-emerge as a regional space unless there are significant investments to foster people to people exchanges.
The resolution of many outstanding maritime territorial disputes and the tentative steps for political and security cooperation in the region provide the basis for imagining a Bay of Bengal community that will benefit all the peoples of the region.