Samudra Manthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific

C. Raja Mohan Book October 24, 2012 Washington
Despite the huge differences in the current naval capabilities of China, India, and the United States, the three countries are locked in a triangular struggle destined to mold the future Indo-Pacific.

Rising China and emerging India are becoming major maritime powers. As they build large navies to secure their growing interests, both nations are roiling the waters of the Indo-Pacific—the vast littoral stretching from Africa to Australasia.

Invoking a tale from Hindu mythology—Samudra Manthan or “to churn the ocean”—C. Raja Mohan tells the story of a Sino-Indian rivalry spilling over from the Great Himalayas into the Indian and Pacific Oceans. He examines the prospects of mitigating the tensions and constructing a stable Indo-Pacific order.

America, the dominant power in the area, is being drawn into the unfolding Sino-Indian competition. Despite the huge differences in the current naval capabilities of China, India, and the United States, Mohan argues that the three countries are locked in a triangular struggle destined to mold the future Indo-Pacific.

Reviews for this publication

“Samudra Manthan offers deep insights into the emerging Indo-Pacific theatre as the rising maritime profiles of India and China begin to intersect. Raja Mohan’s perceptive analysis of the U.S. role in shaping Sino-Indian rivalry is a valuable contribution to the debate on changing great power relations in Asia and its waters.”

—Shyam Saran, former foreign secretary and special envoy of the prime minister of India

"Mohan’s realist approach to the Sino-Indian competition in the Pacific and Indian Oceans merits serious reflection. His penetrating strategic analysis underlines the importance of the two Asian powers dispelling mutual suspicion and stabilizing the oceans in our rapidly changing world."

—Shen Dingli, professor of American Studies, Fudan University, Shanghai

“C. Raja Mohan demonstrates once again why he is India's finest strategic thinker. In Samudra Manthan, he explores a complex issue, namely the prospect for a serious Sino-Indian naval rivalry in the Indian Ocean, well ahead of its time. As the United States sustains its own strategic rebalancing towards the Indo-Pacific, Mohan's judicious and balanced analysis bears close reading not only for its insights into how the evolving naval contestation between China and India promises to intensify their existing security competition but also how American choices will shape, and be shaped by, the outcomes produced by this encounter.”

—Ashley J. Tellis, senior associate, South Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

End of document

About the South Asia Program

The Carnegie South Asia Program informs policy debates relating to the region’s security, economy, and political development. From the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan’s internal dynamics to U.S. engagement with India, the Program’s renowned team of experts offer in-depth analysis derived from their unique access to the people and places defining South Asia’s most critical challenges.


Comments (2)

  • thmak
    2 Recommends
    The first thing to consider is that the dominant naval power in that area is America. So the issue should be the rivalry between the American naval power and the upcoming India and Chinese naval powers. If there is no rivalry between American and India naval power, there should also no rivalry between American and Chinese naval power, not to mention the Indo-China rivalry. So to mention Indo-Chinese rivalry has a devilish intention.
    Reply to this post

    Close Panel
    • Pegasus replies...
      That Is true if you would consider both countrys as the same politcally and economically however these two powers (India and China) are both Politically very different and the U.S may have more rivalry against a Socialist System than a democratic one stemming from conflicts of intrest and uncertainty as to motives

Publication Resources

In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20036-2103 Phone: 202 483 7600 Fax: 202 483 1840
Please note...

You are leaving the website for the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and entering a website for another of Carnegie's global centers.