STRING OF PEARLS
String of pearls is the name given to strategic encirclement of India by China in Indian Ocean WHICH comprises a chain of Chinese facilities, commercial or military, along its sea lanes of communication, extending from the Chinese mainland to Africa. This runs through many choke points like Strait of Mandeb, Strait of Hormuz and Strait of Malacca. The term was first used in US DoD report. But China insists that its strategy is entirely peaceful; designed solely to protect its sea lanes; and is not encirclement of India. Though many scholars find China to be a good example of offensive realism, but today I will prove that it is the theory of defensive realism that explains this concept of string of pearls in Indian Ocean. The point is that we focus only on Indian Ocean.
China is a rising economy, future of which also depends heavily on steady flow of imported resources, especially oil. For China, it is not just an issue of economic growth, but of the longevity of the Communist Party, which derives its legitimacy from the economic growth. Therefore Chinese leadership employs strategies to ensure continued energy supplies, which largely depends on SLOC in the Indian Ocean. China fears that adversaries could block the sea lanes thereby devastate China’s economy.
According to defensive realism, the only way to counteract such vulnerability is to pursue military and diplomatic strategies to increase security. Thus China has chosen the concept of “active defence” and therein the tenet of “offshore defense.” It says that since China’s national interests are extending, its “security boundary” is spreading.
In the eyes of India, which has similar concerns over energy security, China’s actions appear to be a “power maximization” strategy. This may induce India to engage in similar behaviour. A security dilemma may follow in which a series of reactive security strategies may destabilize the region.
More recently realism has evolved into “an offensive and defensive branch.” We know that realism says that nations act as competitive actors to pursue their key national interests in an international system of anarchy where there is absence of central authority. Power is sought and enhanced. Kenneth Waltz stipulates the critical tenets of survival as a constant preoccupation with the possibility of conflict, counteracting those threats and never letting one’s guard down. Deterrence, containment, power alliances and balance of power politics are the hallmarks of realism. The importance of such aspects is magnified by geography and access to resources. According to defensive realism, nations gain power for self-preservation; in offensive realism to project power.
Defensive realism predicts that when nations, like China, feel threatened they will pursue ambitious military, economic and diplomatic strategies to increase their security. But when a nation pursues such strategies, other nations may misinterpret them as threats of force. This leads them to their own pursuit of similar strategies. This type of mirroring effect can lead to a reciprocal cycle of action and reaction. Thus, in the long run, strategies which are meant to reinforce national security can actually undermine it. According to offensive realism nations attempt to amplify their influence, particularly when they have the power to do so. This is “power maximization”. Acquiring power can cause increased insecurity among opposing nations. So even defensive realist strategies which intend to increase state security often lead to a security dilemma, what Benjamin Friedman refers to as “You Never Knowism.” Indeed, strategies meant to counter unknown threats before they arrive may unintentionally lead to further instability. Other nations may believe that they do not enjoy their own security unless they do something to provide it for themselves. So in...
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