Home Contact Us  
   

US & South Asia - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4452, 20 May 2014
 
Will China ‘Rig’ the Indian Ocean?
Shreya Upadhyay
Shreya Upadhyay, Research Intern
vini.shreya@gmail.com
 

China’s deployment of the Haiyang Shiyou 981, a massive billion-dollar rig designed to drill oil, in the South China Sea (SCS), has sent a clear message to the region – Beijing will drill as and where it pleases.  

Is China is using the oil rig as a political statement to reinforce its control over the region? Can China do the same in Indian Ocean?

Oil Rigs as Strategic Weapons in the SCS 
China’s dispatching of the rig inside Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and then defending it with 80 coast guard and naval vessels is reflective of the lengths Beijing is prepared to go to assert its territorial claims in the SCS. China’s naval and coast guard vessels present to protect its parked rig outnumbered and outgunned the Vietnamese force; and 15 Chinese ships rammed several vessels and sprayed an on-site Vietnamese vessel with water cannons. 

It has been pointed out that the decision to move the rig into an area with questionable hydrocarbon reserves had the intention of inciting a diplomatic crisis. A foreign Policy article quoted David Lai, Research Professor, Asian Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI), the U.S. Army War College, stating that the "dispatch of the rig to disputed waters, which is hard to justify on commercial, oil-extraction grounds, makes more sense if understood in terms of the stones, or pieces, that are strategically placed on a wei qi board." Wei Qi is an "encircling game" that originated in China more than 2500 years ago and is rich in strategy. The recent activity of wresting control over offshore areas is about position based power where the rig has the ability to create an aura of authority and control than just scramble for resources. 

China timed the move just as US President Barack Obama left Asia, and days after India and Vietnam agreed to additional presence by India’s state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) in Vietnam’s oil blocks for joint cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector. Vietnam has offered two new exploration blocks to ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL) in addition to the five existing blocs offered in the SCS. Previously too, China carried out energy survey activities in disputed areas while preventing other countries, including Vietnam, from carrying out their own surveys. In 2011, Hanoi had accused Beijing of deliberately severing the cables of an oil and gas survey vessel in two separate instances.  

Haiyang Shiyou 981, over 100 meters high and capable of operating in 3,000 meters of water, is indigenously built. For China, self reliance was necessary for undertaking deep sea exploration. The China National Offshore Oil Corporation's (CNOOC) Chairman Wang Yilin, while launching the rig in 2012, stated that, “large-scale deep-water rigs are our mobile national territory and a strategic weapon," that can extend Chinese sovereignty to open waters. 

China ‘Rigging’ the Indian Ocean
Will China repeat the assertiveness it projects in the South China Sea in distant waters as well? Beijing has maintained that its strategic focus is the Pacific and not the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). However, it eyes the region as a vital energy and trade route. The Chinese scientific agenda for 2014 includes dispatching its research vessels into the Indian Ocean to assess seabed resources and record biodiversity for exploration and mining. 

China's state-owned companies are making considerable financial and diplomatic investment in East Africa and in the South-West Indian Ocean. Chinese agencies are conducting explorations in the South-Western Indian Ocean ridge in the Madagascar Plateau. China has also been offered oil blocks in the Gulf of Mannar off Sri Lanka for exploration. The opening of deep sea oil and gas exploration in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Seychelles, and Madagascar means competition to secure rights over these resources will further intensify.

China is planning to deploy research vessels such as the indigenously built Jialong in the Indian Ocean. Deep-sea submersibles will be used carry out research activities as mentioned in the 2014 Chinese scientific data. However, China currently faces technological challenges in developing undersea exploration and extraction systems and equipment. However, Jialong can potentially monitor submarine cables that run across the Ocean and carry nearly 99 per cent of digital data.  Thus, it can keep a tab on maritime and naval activity in the IOR. 

It is implausible that, at least in the near future, China has the will or the ability to behave as aggressively in the Indian Ocean as it does in the South China Sea. Yet, the idea of Chinese ships and technicians searching for oil around the Indian Ocean indicates towards a bigger challenge. China is vying for a greater space in the IOR not just in resources but governance and security as well. The recent MH 370 incident is a case in point. China proved to be an active participant with over eleven naval and coast guard ships taking rounds in the Southern Indian Ocean. Nonetheless, the current scenario has provoked worries in India, the US, and in the region about an expanded Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean. 

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
 
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Indo-Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within


OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 
Related Articles
Vivek Mishra,
"China, the CUES, and Freedom of Navigation," 20 May 2014

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Modi-fying Indo-US Relations

India-US: DTTI and India's Quest for Self Reliance

Military Implications of the Rebalance: Increasing Chinese Aggression

American Endgame in Afghanistan Post-2014

Will Obama Rebalance Further?

ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.