China-India Competition and Power Rivalry in Southeast Asia

Mr. Ankit Malhotra

China and India are not only immediate neighbors but they are also economic competitors and strategic rivals. Being the two most populated countries of the world, they need energy and other resources to feed their populations. They also need markets and partners to do business with, as well as security partners to enhance their own national and security interests. In recent years, China has increased its engagement with Southeast Asia, particularly through the Belt and Road Initiative. Similarly, India has increased its engagement with Southeast Asia through its Act East Policy. Though these initiatives have primarily focused on economy, infrastructural development and transboundary connectivity, there have also been security and strategic dimensions. This paper analyzes the initiatives of China and India in Southeast Asia either through bilateral relations or through the regional bloc ASEAN. The paper argues that the growing competition and power rivalry between China and India will inevitably entail Southeast Asian countries to play a balancing game between the two powers. Their economic and strategic interests will also make the two Asian powers more hesitant to speak out on issues such as human rights and democracy.