India's nuclear and strategic relationship with the US fits into this, with Washington perhaps hoping to build up India as a hedge against China's rise, in an act of old-school balance-of-power politics. This has its limits, however, with the
also giving billions of dollars in aid to US . The big picture is, that, despite India's growth and dynamism, Chinese military spending is bigger, and has been for some time, meaning that India is falling farther behind year by year, with China set to launch its first aircraft carrier in coming years, significantly boosting its ability to project power into the Indian Ocean and beyond. Pakistan , therefore, sees itself as needing to engage with India to counter Burma , economically and strategically. China
China's new port and pipeline facility on Burma's west coast will not only allow it to pipe gas from the Shwe field into China, but also involves Beijing's building of a terminal to allow it to pipe oil and gas shipments from the Middle East and Africa into China, avoiding the need to send tankers through heavy traffic through the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea, where US naval power is likely to be dominant for a long time to come. Indian energy companies are investing in the Shwe field nonetheless, which is expected to bring almost US 1billion a year in additional revenues for the Burmese regime, once it comes on stream.
At least five major militant groups from India's northeast, where numerous tribal and ethnic groups are fighting for greater autonomy or independence, have at one time or another had training camps in the dense jungles of Sagaing in northern Burma, while ethnic militias in Burma have in turn used India's remote northeast as a retreat and staging post into Burma.
As well as Indian support for his plan to coerce Burmese ethnic militias into joining the border guard force, Than Shwe will also, presumably, acquire much-craved international legitimization for the 2010 election, signing agreements with the world's largest democracy almost simultaneous to US President Obama renewing American sanctions on the Burmese regime. Than Shwe's four-day visit to India notably takes place just a few weeks after he hosted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, thereby reassuring New Delhi that it remains central to his thinking.
It is doubtful if
's leaders were rattled by pro-democracy protests marking Than Shwe's visit, or by the India 's attempt at exhorting US to put more pressure on Than Shwe to ensure a free and fair election or work toward national reconciliation in New Delhi . Growing mutual links—in the context of Burma 's growing regional clout, needed to improve regional trade links and counter India —mean that, as K. Yhome told The Irrawaddy, “It is unlikely both countries would want to rock their hard-earned relationship in the near future.” China