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Battle Lines Drawn in Asia's Game of Thrones


The battle lines between friends and rivals are coming into sharper focus in Asia’s Game of Thrones.

Chinese Premier Li Kequiang traveled straight to Pakistan following his trip to India. There, Li deftly avoided touching on sensitive subjects; in Pakistan, he praised the military, promised to strengthen the two countries’ economic links, and gushed that “the China-Pakistan friendship has stood the test of hardship and is more precious than gold.” Pakistan is China’s “iron brother” and an “all-weather friend,” Chinese state media said after the visit.

Officials in Delhi didn’t wait long to let Beijing know that they felt scorned. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived this week in Japan, China’s arch rival, and immediately emphasized how closely India and Japan’s interests align. The two countries, he said, have: “a shared commitment to the ideals of democracy, peace and freedom”; “shared interests in maritime security”; “similar challenges to our energy securities”; and “strong synergies between our economies.” Japan is a “natural and indispensable partner in [India’s] quest for stability and peace in this vast region,” Singh also said yesterday. Today he met Shinzo Abe and vowed that the two countries would speed up progress on a partnership on civilian nuclear power. Chinese state media responded by calling Japanese politicians “petty burglars” and urging Delhi to avoid allowing “international provocateurs” to sully its relationship with Beijing.

The intrigue deepened further today when Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived in China on a four-day visit. He met Xi Jinping and the two leaders vowed to cooperate in “law enforcement, security and defense” in the Indian Ocean, Delhi’s backyard.

This is what makes this geopolitical competition so interesting: there aren’t just one or two all-powerful nations vying for supremacy. Numerous centers of power from Tokyo to Islamabad to Canberra to Washington have a stake in this game.

[Manmohan Singh image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

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  • Jim__L

    I’m pretty sure that the interests of China’s ruling elites are served by peace. Are the interests of the Pakistani military served by peace, or could “some damnfool thing in Kashmir” (to paraphrase Otto von Bismarck) lead to a broader regional conflict or world war?

    • Luke Lea

      I wish I could be so sure the interests of China’s ruling elites are served by peace. There is intense competition among China’s elites and there is no telling what some of them might elect to do as a way to gain power.

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