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Asia

The Geopolitics of the Bay of Bengal

The Bay of Bengal is located in the North-East region of the Indian Ocean, and is bounded by Bangladesh to the North, Myanmar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India to the East, India and Sri Lanka to the West. Some of the major sea ports in the Bay of Bengal include Chennai, Kolkata and Visakhapatnam in India and the port of Chittagong in Bangladesh making the region (of the Bay) a crucial economic hub. With an area of 2,173,000 square kilometres, the Bay of Bengal is the largest Bay in the world which is at the forefront of Asia’s experience of climate change[1]. Over the years the significance Bay of Bengal have been on the rise largely owing to the rapid economic growth of the littoral nations and the major powers involved in the bay.[2]

Brief History

Throughout the medieval, early modern and modern periods of world history from the indigenous city-states as well as empires, later to the British Empire the Bay of Bengal had been a singular civilisation united by a rice culture and common coastline that kept bringing trade and migrants along its shores.[3] Historically the Bay of Bengal has played a significant role of a connector- where trade, commerce and culture were intertwined for centuries. However in the early 20th century the British Empire used the Bay of Bengal for trade and other related activities, causing a significant increase in shipping between British India and British Burma. Yangon (Burmese Capital) was fascinatingly turned into one of the busiest ports in the world for migrant arrivals alongside the likes of New York; with majority of the flow from India towards Burma (now known as Myanmar)[4]. Strong ties between Burma and India developed as a direct consequence of the migration, which followed a downward curve in the years following the partition of India in 1947 and the Burmese independence in 1948 from Japanese occupation since world war II.[5]

Economic and Security issues

Bay of Bengal is rapidly becoming an area of key economic and strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific. A crucial geopolitical development was the creation of a regional body- the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand- which seeks to promote regional cooperation and engagement in the area particularly between the two major geopolitical blocs of the region- the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). However BIMSTEC’s focus is solely economic with their main objective being supporting free trade hence it does little to provide any support in terms of maritime security issues that have particularly grown in recent years with respect to Chinese and Indian interests.[6]

Crucial geopolitical factors concerning the Bay of Bengal

China’s economic and security interests over the past few decades have resulted in greater Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean. China has been successful in developing strong economic …

Why is Japan Rearming?

The gradual but firm shift in Japan’s defence posture is among the most notable developments characterizing the Asia-Pacific’s international dynamics in the past few years. Its efforts to increase its military power, accompanied by attempts to change the Constitution to expand the means and the duties of its military forces are to be interpreted in a broader context of growing security challenges. But what exactly are the drivers behind Japan’s re-arm?

Japan’s defence policy after WWII

Japan’s past is the first element to consider to understand the importance of its changing defence posture.

After being defeated in WWII, Japan abandoned its pre-war militarism to embrace pacifism and rejection of the use of armed force. This principle was enshrined in Article 9 of its Constitution, which entered into force 1947 with US support. According to its terms, Japan denied its own right to belligerency, rejected war as a mean to solve international disputes, and renounced to develop any war potential. This meant that it could not possess its own armed forces and could not participate in any conflict abroad, not even for collective self-defence. Initially, the US had favoured this constitutional provisions as a guarantee that Japan would never try again to conquer the Asia-Pacific region has it had done in the past. Moreover, immediately after the war it seemed that the area would become a hub of peace and stability.

But the situation changed soon. In 1949 the communists took power in mainland China, thus radically changing the region’s geopolitical landscape. Only one year later, the pro-Soviet North Korea attacked its southern counterpart, triggering the three-years-long Korean War. Following the emergence of these threats, Washington applied the containment policy to counter the assertiveness of Moscow and its allies in Asia as in Europe. In this logic, the US started pressuring Japan to adopt a larger security role. However, this achieved very limited success. In 1951, America and Japan signed a Peace Treaty, and along with it a separate Security Treaty (later revised in 1960) that committed Washington to defend its ally. But under the Premiership of Yoshida Shigeru, Japan preferred to minimize its military expenditures in order to focus on reconstruction and economic growth, all while relying on its powerful American ally for protection. This approach, later named “Yoshida Doctrine” after its inspirer, became the cornerstone of Japan’s foreign policy for decades, and it was an extraordinary success. Thanks to it, Japan managed to avoid international conflicts and to achieve an impressive GDP growth, rapidly turning into one of the world’s leading economic powers. As of today, Japan is still the third largest economy in terms of nominal GDP.

Yet, this does not mean that Japan did not have its own military. The terms of Article 9 notwithstanding, the country still had to make concessions. In 1954, it established its armed forces, which took the name of Japanese Self-Defense Forces (or JSDF). But as their name suggests, they were not comparable to the full-fledged militaries that other states had. The …

Pakistan Protests in Pictures

A policeman takes a picture of a car burned during clashes near the Faizabad junction in Islamabad, Pakistan November 26, 2017. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

Pakistani police officers beat a protester during a clash in Islamabad, Pakistan. AP

A demonstrator detained by a policeman gestures near the Faizabad junction in Islamabad, Pakistan. [Caren Firouz/Reuters]

Police retrieve their motorcycles which were burned during clashes with protesters near the Faizabad junction in Islamabad, Pakistan November 26, 2017. REUTERS/Caren Firouz – RC11A631CD10

Supporters of religous group ”Tehrik Labayk Ya Rasool Allah” shout slogans to protest the crackdown by Police on their group’s supporters in Islamabad, in Lahore. [Rabat Dar/EPA-EFE]

A protester walks near burning tents during clashes with police at Faizabad junction in Islamabad, Pakistan November 25, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer – RC1DC6445490

Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, an Islamist political party, chant slogans as they walk to join the sit-in protest in Karachi, Pakistan November 25, 2017. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro – RC12F79D3520

Pakistani police officers beat a protester during a clash in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. Pakistani police have launched an operation to clear an intersection linking capital Islamabad with the garrison city of Rawalpindi where an Islamist group’s supporters have camped out for the last 20 days. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Pakistani protesters gather next to burning police vehicles after setting on fire them during a clash in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. Pakistani police have launched an operation to clear an intersection linking capital Islamabad with the garrison city of Rawalpindi where an Islamist group’s supporters have camped out for the last 20 days. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Protests began after a reference to the prophet Mohamed was omitted from a constitutional bill in parliament AFP/Getty Images

Six people are believed to have died in the protests and hundreds were injured, including police. AFP/Getty Images

Rangers stand guard at a flashpoint with protesters near the Faizabad junction in Islamabad on November 26, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Protesters hurled back a tear-gas canister fired by the police during clashes near Islamabad, Pakistan, on Saturday. Anjum Naveed/Associated Press

At least 8,000 police officers in riot gear and a paramilitary police force begun trying to clear out then protesters from the main interchange near Islamabad. Anjum Naveed/Associated Press

The police fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters. Officials took television news off the air to prevent live coverage from inflaming religious sentiments. Anjum Naveed/Associated Press

A protester near burning tents. The protests spread to other Pakistani cities in response to then confrontation in the capital. Reuters.

copyright picture-alliance/abaca from dw.com

copyright picture-alliance/abaca from dw.com

copyright picture-alliance/abaca from dw.com

A protester pours water on a tear gas shell fired by police during a clash in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Saturday. (Anjum Naveed/Associated Press)

The South China Sea Dispute | The Rise of China Mini Documentary | Episode 4

The South China Sea Dispute | The Rise of China Mini Documentary | Episode 4

KJ Vids is pleased to have launched the fourth episode in our Rise of China 2017 documentary series. In this episode you will learn more about the Sino-American conflict in the South China Sea.

Once both China’s dominant economic market and its physical infrastructure have integrated its neighbours into China’s greater co-prosperity area, the United States’ post–World War II position in Asia will become untenable.

The attempt to persuade the United States to accept the new reality has recently become most intense in the South China Sea. An area approximately the size of the Caribbean and bordered by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines and others of Southeast Asia, the sea includes several hundred islands, reefs, and other features, many of which are under water at high tide.

In 2012, China took control of Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines. Since then, it has enlarged its claims, asserting exclusive ownership of the entire South China Sea and redefining the area by redrawing the map with a “nine-dash line” that encompasses 90 percent of the territory. If accepted by others, its neighbouring countries have observed that this would create a “South China Lake.”

China has also undertaken major construction projects building ports, airstrips, radar facilities, lighthouses, and support buildings, all of which expand the reach of its ships and military aircraft and allow Beijing to blanket the region with radar and surveillance assets.

The United States has no doubt about what is driving this undertaking. As a recent Defense Department report notes, China’s “latest land reclamation and construction will also allow it to berth deeper draft ships at outposts; expand its law enforcement and naval presence farther south into the South China Sea; and potentially operate aircraft that could enable China to conduct sustained operations with aircraft carriers in the area.”

China’s longer-term objective is also clear. For decades it has chafed at the operation of US spy ships in waters adjacent to its borders.

While Chinese military planners are not forecasting war, the war for which they are preparing pits China against the US at sea. The powers that dominated China during the century of humiliation all relied on naval supremacy to do so.

Xi is determined to not make the same mistake, strengthening the navy, air, and missile forces of the PLA crucial to controlling the seas, while cutting 300,000 army troops and reducing the ground forces’ traditional dominance within the military.

Chinese military strategists, meanwhile, are preparing for maritime conflict with a “forward defense” strategy based on controlling the seas near China within the “first island chain,” which runs from Japan, through Taiwan, to the Philippines and the South China Sea. A third world war is not inevitable, but if there is to be WW3, it will certainly begin here.

Previous Episodes

Link to Episode 1 | https://youtu.be/MJLpGiHhr8E

In the first episode we had a look at the scale of China’s Economy today and China’s economic …

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