Nayan Chanda at PostGlobal

Nayan Chanda

New Haven, Conn., United States

Nayan Chanda is the Director of Publications and the Editor of YaleGlobal Online Magazine at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. For nearly thirty years before he joined Yale University, Chanda was with the Hong Kong-based magazine the Far Eastern Economic Review as its editor, editor-at-large and correspondent. Close.

Nayan Chanda

New Haven, Conn., United States

Nayan Chanda is the Director of Publications and the Editor of YaleGlobal Online Magazine at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. more »

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Asia and the Middle East

New Haven, USA - As long as oil and gas continue to fuel the global economy, no importer can enjoy prosperity with the Middle East in turmoil. This is particularly true for heavily oil-dependent China and India. The two countries may not display outward concern about the clash between Israel and Hezbollah, but they are acutely aware of the risks of a prolonged conflict.

That China dispatched its top Arabic-speaking diplomat Sun Bigan to the Middle East to talk to the parties in conflict was not front-page news, but it marked the first time in my recollection that China has directly and openly involved itself in pursuing an end to the region's conflict.

Beijing's motivations are clear. China is the world's third-largest importer of oil, half of which comes from the Persian Gulf. It cannot afford to let the growing conflict to affect its vital supply. The mainland is particularly concerned about preserving its relationships with Saudi Arabia and Iran. In April, Chinese President Hu Jintao made an historic visit to Saudi Arabia, which is China's main supplier of oil as well as a country with which it has a long-standing military relationship. Chinese military personnel reportedly maintain the intermediate-range missiles that Beijing sold to the kingdom. With Iran, China has a $100 billion deal to import 10 million tons of liquefied natural gas over a 25-year period.

In addition to nurturing these vital relations, China also has to remain on good terms with major Islamic powers while it clamps down on Islamic militants at home in Xinjiang. The fact that a U.S. veto has blocked the sale of Israeli AWACS and other defense technologies to China has also allowed Beijing to adopt a more pro-active and pro-Islamic stance.

India, on the other hand is more constrained. It relies on the Middle East for most of its energy as well as for remittances from Indians working in the Gulf, amounting to some $20 billion a year. While Israel has emerged as an important defense partner in recent years, India's large domestic Muslim population, coupled with its ongoing tensions with Pakistan and its traditional ties with Iran and the Gulf, limit Delhi's options. India thus voted at the UN Human Rights Council to condemn Israel's military assault on Lebanon, but has avoided emulating China's high-profile involvement in the current Middle East crisis.


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