China at present imports 60% of the oil needed by it. It is a measure of the fuel-guzzling juggernaut of its economy that from being a net exporter of oil in the early 1990s, it has now become the worlds second largest importer of oil. That rising thirst is the reason for its so piquant an interest in exploration and production of oil in countries around the world Canada, Russia, Kazakhstan, West Sudan, Saudi Arabia, West Africa and Iran. Despite aspirations of diversity in energy resources and commensurate effort, China is becoming increasingly dependent on Middle East oil. 58% of Chinas oil imports come from this region now and in 2015, the share of Chinas oil imports from Middle East is expected to be 70%. Hence the escalation in Chinese diplomacy for oil you see and a race for acquisition with countries such as India. India with one billion-strong population and an economy only a little less red hot than China is in matching pursuit of the same commodityoil. India has invested $750 million in Sudan for import of oil. With Nigeria, it has reached a deal last November accrediting it to purchase about 44 million barrels of crude oil per year on a long term basis. Recently, India has also finalized a contract in Syria for exploration, development and production of you guessed itoil. India is also persisting with relations based on acquisition of oil with Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Iran. The rivals vehemence for oil is also creating geo-political tension between these two rising powers. And energy resources all over the world, from Sudan to Siberia, is the prize two are vying for, each consumed by desire to secure these resources to fulfill its growing economy. In October 2004, as India was preparing to close a deal for about $620 million to buy shells 50% share in block 18 in Angola, China entered at the last minute to win the major oil deal. China offered $2 billion in aid for various projections in Angola. In Indian Ocean, where India is placed at an advantage to asphyxiate China, Indian naval power is extended full-stretch to choke China. With a view to increasing Chinas key vulnerability, India has constructed a naval base within striking distance of the Strait of Malacca at Port Blair on the Andaman Islands. Beijing is now taking steps to address what President Hu Jintao has called the countrys 'Malacca Dilemma with highly ambitious infrastructure projects. Chinas moves are being closely watched in India where the military establishment fears Beijings plans in Pakistan and Burma amount to a strategy of its encirclement. If the Chinese navy acquires permanent bases in the Indian Ocean, tension will likely grow. But Indian diplomats tend to believe these fears are exaggerated. They believe China is motivated by nothing more than securing its economic boom and taking normal precautions against unforeseeable events. Oil is the new game in Asia. Sure China is ahead in the game but India is fast catching up. -SYEDA NAYAB BUKHARI, Rawa-lpindi, August 16.