Russia and China are conducting joint naval exercises, termed Joint-Sea 2013 on July 5-12. The exercises as the Chinese Defence Ministry stated are the Chinese navy’s “single biggest deployment of military force in a China-foreign joint exercise.” Next month both the countries are holding joint exercises in Urals Mountains of Russia under the rubric Peace Mission 2013. Since 2005, both the countries have started conducting joint exercises under the broad framework of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). At the surface value, these may appear like prosaic data but the underlying assumptions are indeed significant.
In an officially released statement last month, available in the Chinese government website, President Xi Jinping stated “I cherish my personal friendship and mutual trust with President Putin. China is ready to maintain close communication and cooperation with Russia on bilateral relations and major international and regional affairs in the spirit of comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.” It was no surprise that in March 2013 the Chinese leader made the first official visit to Russia. Vladimir Putin after coming to power in Russia took steps to normalise relations with China including addressing contentious border issues.
Source: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/mil.ru
Perhaps among its big neighbouring countries, China has the most peaceful border with Russia. As members of SCO, BRICS and G20, both the countries have played crucial roles in shaping international politics. While SCO has broadly aimed at security and stability including combating extremism and terrorism in Eurasian space, G20 is geared to impact the economic equations in the world, while the BRICS – the smallest organisation among the three – aims at shaping a fair, democratic and just world order. President Putin expressed that he valued “the constructive friendly relationship between the two heads of state and is willing to keep regular exchanges with President Xi.”
Russia-China relations are getting stronger, though the situation in Asia-Pacific has shown signs of instability. Though the region has long been an area of contestation and power politics, the recent developments such as tensions between China and Japan, or the testing of nuclear device by North Korea have added new grounds of activism. The US has also geared its policy mechanism to increase its influence by cultivating relations with countries of the region. Its recent espousal of the idea of New Silk Road starting from Bay of Bengal to Pacific through South East Asian countries, or its recent policies towards countries like Myanmar are some of
the signs that the US will continue its manoeuvres to maintain or increase its influence in the region. The relations between the three have recently been into rough weather particularly as the US accused China of cyber attacks and both China and Russia for sheltering Edward Snowden, a former CIA agent charged for leaking classified information. Though in the globalized world, these developments between the three cannot be termed determinative, it nevertheless shows fault lines or polarisation along East-West lines posing Russia-China on the one side, and the US on the other. Developments like the Syrian crisis further corroborate this polarization.
The biggest ever naval exercises between Russia and China, hence, assume a new dimension in this background. The rising bonhomie between the two powerful countries is certainly a determining factor in world politics. The possible coalescing of other rising powers such as India, Brazil and South Africa and other willing powers towards his centre will shift the axis of power from the West to the East. Such a transformation may not lead to creation of another centre of hegemonic power but evolution of, as BRICS leaders often reiterate, ‘a just, fair and democratic world order.’ Such a world order will not only prove sanguine for Russia, China, or other members of the BRICS, but also for all members of the world. The positions of these countries for reform of international bodies like the UN, Bretton Woods structures, and peaceful resolution of conflicts around the world including in the Middle East, on a deeper analysis, are steps towards a better world. The naval exercises show the rising prowess of these two powers and also their rising bonhomie. The spirit of these exercises needs to be further bolstered in areas of culture and people-to-people contacts. In the globalised world in which information spreads in a jiff, it is but necessary that the hard power of the rising global balancers must be complemented by soft power of culture. The Sochi Olympics in Russia next year will certainly be watched by other powers, including Russia’s friends as well as detractors, as to how the Eurasian behemoth portrays its power, hard as well as soft.
Source: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/mil.ru
The eight-day naval exercises will take place in Peter the Great Bay at Vladivostok with participation of about 20 warships and more than 10 aircrafts and helicopters. The exercises will include ‘liberating a ship seized by pirates.’ As stated by the Colonel General Fang Fenghui, chief of General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, “The joint drill conducted by the two militaries of China and Russia do not target any third parties. Their aim is to deepen cooperation between the two militaries in the training field, boost capacity in coordinating military activities, and serve the purpose of safeguarding regional security and stability.” Despite the assurance, the exercise may be seen with suspicion by some of neighbours of China and some outside powers. China’s policies of ‘peaceful and harmonious rise’ have been perceived differently by its neighbours. The other exercise at Urals, involving 600 personnel from each country, from July 27 to August 15 is equally significant from the point of view of its objective to counter terrorism. Religious extremism and terrorism are two major obstacles to peace and stability in Eurasia, and as two major powers in the region Russia and China can play active roles along with other members of SCO and other powers such as India to contain the menace.
Dr. Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra is an Indian commentator. His areas of interests include conflict, terrorism, peace and development, Kashmir, South Asia, and strategic aspects of Eurasian politics.
Source: RIA Novosti
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