India takes its tussle with China to the high seas

India takes its tussle with China to the high seas

New Delhi has shifted focus from the Himalayas to the oceans to send a warning to Beijing

After 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a skirmish with Chinese troops along the Himalayan border this summer, New Delhi quietly dispatched a frontline warship on an unusual voyage to the South China Sea.

Little was revealed publicly about the vessel or its mission. But Indian security analysts saw its unexpected presence in the heavily disputed waters as a clear warning to Beijing, which has made vast maritime claims there.

“The message was: Don’t mess in my backyard or otherwise I’ll mess in your backyard,” said Nitin Pai, director of the Takshashila Institution, a Bangalore-based think-tank.

The incident highlights how India’s Himalayan border tensions with China could have big repercussions thousands of kilometres away in the seas of Asia. New Delhi is shedding its reticence to unleash India’s maritime power and strengthen it security partnerships as it seeks to counter what is considers Chinese aggressions on its land border.