Sino-Indian Relations in the Bay of Bengal.

  • Darryl Lupton

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Premised on realist theory, strategic and historical analysis, some level of conflict between China and India is likely in the short-to-medium-term (2020-2030). An evaluation of the relevant literature and deduction from existing maritime actions and strategic behaviour suggests that the Bay of Bengal is the location for future friction and possible conflict. Whereas some literature on Sino-Indian relations acknowledges this likelihood of armed conflict, it does not offer detailed evidence or highlight particular situations. This thesis, by contrast, uses an original process culminating in the application of data to a model that helps to provide likely strategic behaviour to plausible conflict scenarios.

China and India may have had predominantly peaceful relations for millennia, but in 1962 that changed and the ensuing war has left a legacy of fractured relations between the two neighbours. Using John W. Garver’s insights from his 2001 book Protracted Contest: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Twentieth Century as a foundation, this study takes account of the ensuing twenty years and shows how rivalry has been driving the relationship. In addition, this thesis addresses precisely the issues that could trigger conflict between China and India, the likely strategic responses by the two powers, and the time-frame involved.

This thesis starts with an analysis of China’s defence white papers, Indian maritime doctrine and the writings of experts in the field. This project then assembled qualitative data by interviewing specialists in international relations from China and India to help identify specific areas of conflict. By mobilising the perspectives of these scholars and professionals, who have insight on issues specific to their home nations, the research then develops a model that integrates a quantifiable independent variable (relative power factors) with strategic culture as the intervening variable. This served to analyse the identified conflict areas to predict a range of likely strategic behaviours from the two competitors. The results produced from this process of research, interviews and predictive analysis provides insights into the two nations’ probable strategic behaviour in the Bay of Bengal. This can be utilised to avert future conflict and instead promote cooperation mechanisms that flow from the data gained, most notably in the realm of accommodating ‘core interests’ and reducing threat perceptions.
Date of Award16 Jun 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRosita Dellios (Supervisor) & James Ferguson (Supervisor)

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