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China and India: New Actors in the Southern Atlantic

China and India: New Actors in the Southern Atlantic

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This policy paper examines the role of China and India in Latin America and Africa, and the implications for the United States and Europe.
This policy paper examines the role of China and India in Latin America and Africa, and the implications for the United States and Europe.

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Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Nov 29, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/29/2015

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Dhruva Jaishankar

In late 2006, India’s chief of naval staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta,

surprised many observers — both at home and abroad — by
defining India’s “greater strategic neighborhood” as extending
from Venezuela to Russia’s Sakhalin Island.1

This lofty aspiration
appears to have been driven by India’s concerns about maintaining
open sea lanes in an effort to secure its energy interests. But it may
also have represented one of the first conscious attempts at bringing
the Southern Atlantic Basin — the maritime littoral extending
from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Cape of Good Hope, and from
the Gulf of Mexico to Tierra del Fuego — into India’s strategic
consciousness.

As India’s economy has opened after the end of the Cold War and
grown from $320 billion to $1.8 trillion in less than two decades, its
global interests have expanded and its international engagements
have increased exponentially. India’s priorities have revolved
around refashioning its ties with the United States, expanding its
economic and commercial links with East and Southeast Asia, and
stabilizing its relations with China and Pakistan. Historical legacies,
the large Indian diaspora, and pressing economic and strategic
interests have also meant that Russia, the Middle East, Europe,
and East Africa have featured prominently in India’s international
relations. But until relatively recently, Latin America and Western
and Southern Africa — the countries comprising the Southern
Atlantic — remained lower priorities. For a number of reasons, not
least growing economic and trade links, resource imports, cultural
connections to the Indian diaspora, and political alignment on
multilateral issues, this is likely to change. We can soon expect the
Southern Atlantic to feature more prominently on India’s strategic
radar.

1 Mohan Malik, “Asia’s Great Naval Rivalry,” The Wall Street Journal Asia, September 5,
2011.

WIDER ATLANTIC SERIES

26

This paper provides a broad overview of India’s engagements to
date with the Southern Atlantic, covering some of the historical
and geographic roots of its limited interaction; the gradually
intensifying economic and commercial linkages with the region,
driven largely by India’s quest for resources; and India’s most
important multilateral and bilateral political relationships in the
region. It concludes with some possible implications for the United
States and Europe, including potential areas for collaboration.

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