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An Emerging Great Power Triangle? China, India and the United States in the Indian Ocean

An Emerging Great Power Triangle? China, India, and the United States in the Indian Ocean

Over the past decade the Chinese navy has made significant inroads in the Indian Ocean Region. These activities have accelerated since the initiation of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, and analysts and scholars have devoted enormous attention to these developments. While this field of research continues to expand, much of it is focused on Chinese actors and the politics surrounding Beijing’s goals. Missing from the research is a more fine grained analysis of how India and the U.S. are responding to this situation. A key question is how far is New Delhi willing to go in its relations with Washington? While it may appear that the signing of several foundational defense agreements between India and the U.S. provide increasing evidence of a China driven quasi-alliance between New Delhi and Washington, it is important to note the strong opposition within India to such a potential coalition. 

This project analyzes these developments from the perspectives of China, India, and the United States. It will highlight the points of convergence as well as the obstacles between India and the United States. It also examines areas of cooperation between India and China that may reduce the tension between Beijing and New Delhi. A central question is how deep is the frustration in Washington with the slow pace of expanding ties with India? In recent years the American Department of Defense has been repeatedly ignored by their Indian counterparts when trying to institutionalize defense ties. Related to this, how cognizant and responsive is New Delhi of American frustration? A secondary question is how concerned is Beijing with the warming of ties between India and the U.S.? The results of the project will advance knowledge about the evolving strategic dynamic between India, China and the U.S. 

Christopher Colley

Image removed.Christopher K. Colley is an Assistant Professor of Security Studies at the National Defense College of the United Arab Emirates. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Indiana University Bloomington where his dissertation examined the linkages between the Sino-U.S. and the Sino-Indian rivalry and how these linkages are driving naval modernization in China and India. He holds a Master’s degree from Renmin University of China where he focused on the Chinese navy. His current research is centered on India’s reaction to China’s increasing activities in the Indian Ocean Region, and in particular, how this impacts New Delhi’s relations with Washington.

Dr. Colley has lectured on Chinese politics, foreign policy and security at numerous universities and organizations including Indiana University, Renmin University, China Foreign Affairs College, and the Foreign Military Attaché Corp Club in Beijing. He has also briefed the congressionally mandated United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission on his research. He has written extensively on Sino-Indian relations and has published numerous book chapters, reports and articles on the subject. He lived in China for over a decade and has visited all of China’s provinces and political entities multiple times and has spent months trekking across that vast country absorbing its customs and understanding its people.