August 06, 2010
China's "assertiveness" in regional disputes, particularly Tibet, is causing disquiet among the member nations of ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations). ASEAN is now looking into territorial disputes in the South China Sea:
Although Tibet was never mentioned as part of the dispute in the South China Sea, and the Chinese position over its sovereignty is both very clear and undisputed by all attending ASEAN nations and observers, it is obvious that China’s 60 year old assertiveness towards regional disputes has reached a plateau. Buddhism is still a strong influence in many ASEAN member countries and the plight of the Dalai Lama, while not officially recognized or discussed, still causes regional discomfort. Add to that skirmishes with Vietnam in 1979, and still ongoing border disputes over Tibetan territorial claims with India, and China’s position as asserting more regional sovereignty is now starting to be questioned.
Neither India nor China is a member of ASEAN, but the two countries are wrestling for influence in southeast and central Asia and are the elephants in the room at ASEAN discussions. The two countries are vying for influence with Burma's junta, and along with Pakistan have active territorial disputes in Kashmir. Consequently India continues to watch China's military movements in Tibet with concern:
China's high-altitude railway line to Tibet, which opened four years ago, has begun to be used as a supply-line to enhance the mobilisation capabilities of China's Air Force in the region, State media reported this week.
Ladakh, yet another point of tensions between China and India, is developing rapidly under Indian rule, and its nomadic way of life and fragile ecosystem are under attack.
Time looked at a possible military conflict between China and India back in March:
By sheer demographics, it's the world's most important relationship. China and India comprise 40% of humanity and boast economies that are expected to loom large over the 21st century. They also represent two of the world's fastest-growing militaries, armed with nuclear weapons, and are expanding their spheres of influence across oceans.
But some residents of the region aren't concerned about the Sino-Indian dispute at all: spiny frogs.
[Images: Indolink, MSNBC]