India and China are set to intensify their economic and trade war with each other over the disputed South China Sea, but India has already been forced to negotiate with Beijing on several issues, including a controversial pact to ease restrictions on imports of steel, iron ore, and cement.
India is expected to formally begin the formal trade war on January 7, but there is a growing consensus among experts that the first major confrontation will be over the South China sea issue.
The talks have been stalled for years and have become increasingly contentious as the United States and its allies have increased their maritime patrols in the area.
India, which had been keen to get a better grip on the disputed area, had asked Beijing to stop its patrols and halt its land reclamation work in the disputed waters.
Beijing’s position was that India’s presence in the South and South-East China Seas was not a legitimate maritime claim and that it was not interested in taking a stake in it.
In October last year, however, India agreed to stop building islands in the sea.
In June this year, India and Japan signed a landmark naval cooperation agreement that sets up a naval base on the South Indian coast.
While India has been able to secure access to the South-east China Sea through the China-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty, it is likely to have to negotiate a formal agreement with Beijing in order to control access.
India and the United Kingdom are also preparing to set up a military base in the Indian Ocean, while the Philippines and Vietnam are considering building military bases on the Indian side of the disputed sea.
A military base on either side of a sea would complicate the existing military and economic ties between India and its neighbours.
India has also been seeking to build up its military capabilities in the region in recent years.
China, which claims the disputed seas, has been trying to strengthen its military to counter India’s rising influence in the world and has been pushing for greater cooperation between its military and the Indian Army.
A number of regional countries, including Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Singapore, have also been eyeing China as a strategic ally and source of arms and training.
The United States, for its part, has sought to build a naval presence on the Indo-Pacific and has also started building up its own military capabilities.
This is despite the fact that it is the only country in the Asia-Pacific that has no military forces at all.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the country will not allow the United Nations to impose its own rules and regulations on the country and will “treat everyone equally”.
In May this year he also said that India will not let the United Nation interfere in its internal affairs.
In addition, India has recently signed agreements with Australia and the European Union, which include the easing of a ban on buying military equipment from the United Sates.
China has also expressed interest in strengthening its military presence in East Asia, which it sees as a potential way to challenge India.
India wants to build military bases in South Korea and Japan and also wants to establish a permanent presence in Taiwan.
China claims sovereignty over most of the South East Asian region and its territorial waters.
China is also trying to exert influence in East Africa and the Horn of Africa through its African Union partners.
India had also sought to boost its military power by creating a military alliance with the United African Union (UAE) to counter the growing influence of the Islamist movement, Al Qaeda, which has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on Indian nationals in South Asia.
In July this year India had signed a memorandum of understanding with Egypt to boost cooperation in military matters.
However, relations between India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have deteriorated in recent months.