A Tangled Triangle: India, China and USA P.S. Deodhar
elations among countries in Asia have undergone a dramatic change over after the demise of USSR. During the Cold War, Indo-US relations were rather estranged. The US did not approve of India’s non-aligned policy, close relations with the erstwhile Soviet Union and its tensions with Pakistan. On the other hand, the US had a strong alliance with Pakistan. It is only during the last twenty years that this situation has progressively changed due to some corresponding strategic, economic and political interests of India and the US. The US-India relationship is now as happily ‘engaged’ nations than ‘estranged’ mutually suspicious nations. This of course, has a lot to do with the changed US strategy and policy towards India as well as the other nations in South Asia and the $VLD3DFL¿F During this period remarkable changes have taken place in the Asian
region. China has emerged as a new, strong economic and military power that can challenge the US hegemony, thus leaving India far behind. However, India too in a limited way has emerged as a regional power of conVLGHUDEOH LQÀXHQFH ZLWK LPSUHVVLYH economic growth in terms of GDP. The growing strengths of China as well as India are evinced by their impressive economic growth, the development of nuclear arsenals, and their expressed DPELWLRQV VHHNLQJ WR LQÀXHQFH WKH
SINCE 2010, INDIA IS INDEED LEANING MORE TOWARDS THE US. TO SOME EXTENT, CHINA HAS ONLY ITSELF TO BLAME, FOR PUSHING INDIA AWAY BY SEVERAL OF ITS PROVOCATIVE POSTURES AND UTTERANCES WHICH DO NOT BEFIT ITS FRIENDLY OVERTURES.
world affairs. While China’s role as an economic and geo strategic player is more widely recognized, India is trying to establish itself as a regional competitor. China-USA Tensions For several decades now, the U.S. has had an unprecedented military presence in South Asia and the Asia 3DFL¿F UHJLRQ &KLQD KDV QHYHU EHHQ comfortable with this US supremacy in its waters. Americans would never ZDQWHURVLRQRIWKHLULQÀXHQFHLQWKH region. But the speedy economic decline of the US since a decade and its deep trade engagement with China, have created big problems for the US. Since 2003, it has fought wars that have distracted it from its economic problems, and wasted trillions of desSHUDWHO\ QHHGHG GROODUV LQ ¿JKWLQJ wars that did little else but spoil its image in the world community. These days American system appears to be in deep trouble. However, even today, strategically and militarily, the US indeed remains a super power that
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cannot be challenged even by China. Since the last 18 months, military tensions between the U.S. and China have begun to rise in the western PaFL¿F&KLQDLVXVLQJPXOWLELOOLRQGROODUVRILWVFRPPHUFLDOSUR¿WVIURPLWV export trade to US, Europe and other nations to fund its war machine. This obviously is to face the US military challenge arising out of American domination over the Asian and the PaFL¿FVHDURXWHVDVZHOODVWRSUHYDLORYHU other Asian economic giant, Japan. It is no secret that Beijing has a plan to establish its maritime predominance from Korea to Indonesia. The US is mindful of Chinese ‘assertiveness’ in South China Sea. A US report says that ‘the Chinese military modernisation is an attempt to deny the US an access to Asia, by acquiring ballistic missile capability to hit giant aircraft carriers of the US stationed in the region’. Relatively their mutual concerns about North Korea and Taiwan are on a back burner. If the Republicans were in power in the US, engaging in a war with China would have been more probable. After all, it did go for a war with Iraq due to the alleged ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ and was till recently, planning to start another one with Iran. In addition, the weak US economy needs the US to revive its ‘military industrial complex’.
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Chinese have their own Asian way and traditionally they plan long term. It is establishing its own network of 35 satellites for global positioning, communications, and reconnaissance capabilities by 2020. All this certainly rattles the current super power, and hence, it may not keep quiet. The US
CHINA BELIEVES THAT IT HAS THE RIGHT TO ITS OWN SPHERE OF INFLUENCE IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION. IT SAYS THAT EAST ASIA HAS BEEN SINO-CENTRIC FOR SEVERAL THOUSAND YEARS. THIS, SOME BELIEVE, MAY POSSIBLY LEAD TO A WAR-LIKE CONFRONTATION [BETWEEN CHINA AND THE US]. FOR THE PRESENT, IT IS LIMITED TO AN ARMS RACE BETWEEN THE TWO. CHINA’S ENORMOUS MILITARY BUILD UP HOWEVER MAY, SOMEDAY, PROVOKE THE US FOR A SHOWDOWN.
has its own plans. By 2020, the Pentagon will launch a three-tiered shield of space drones — reaching from the stratosphere to the exosphere, armed with agile missiles, linked by a resilient modular satellite system, and operated through total telescopic surveillance. These instances well SRLQW RXW WKDW VRPH NLQG RI FRQÀLFW between the U.S. and China may happen sooner than anticipated. &KLQD86&RQÀLFW3XVKHV%RWKWR Seek India’s Friendship 7KLV FRQÀLFW LV DQ LPSRUWDQW UHDson for remarkable changes that have taken place in the US-India security relations in recent years. China already has a complex security situation in South Asia, and therefore the current leadership of China recognises the importance of its friendship with India. In spite of some hiccups, China is careful in maintaining friendly relations with India by having close diplomatic ties. Besides this, its rapidly growing bilateral trade too demands that the relations between the two remain friendly. China fears that the US will push the situation and try to pull India away from China. India, therefore, has to be careful and keep its US tilt under control. History tells us that US never makes friends without a motive and turns its back with equal ruthlessness. The nuclear deal that India and the US signed in 2007 has to be understood in this context. The US always has a selfish and hidden motive in its strategic policies. Some experts are of the opinion that for the US, the nuclear deal is not really about allowing India to use it for generating power, but for allowing India to arm itself with nuclear weapons as a counter measure to China’s nuclear arsenal. After all India has done nothing about nuclear energy for power after six long years except talking and procrastinating. So much for the urgency that Dr. Manmohan Singh had harped on while rushing to sign the deal. The real motive is not the enHUJ\VKRUWDJH7KLVJHWVFRQ¿UPHGE\ the fact the deal allows India to undertake developmental work in this area,
without being questioned by the global nuclear powers. The intention indeed is not to help India, but to ensure that India is on its side if as and when the US engages in a war with China. This would ensure that such a war will then QRWEHIRXJKWLQWKH3DFLÂżFUHJLRQEXW on Indian soil. After all, the US has fought all its wars on foreign territory. India therefore, would be a good battle ÂżHOGIRUWKHSRVVLEOH&KLQD86ZDULI or when it happens. &KLQDÂśV6WUDWHJLF0RYHV Chinese leadership is also convinced that some form of confrontation with the U.S. could come earlier WKDQH[SHFWHG,WKDVEHHQÂżQHWXQLQJ its domestic and security policies to counter the perceived threat from what it calls the U.S. imperialism. China has always been conscious about disasters and downturns and thinks about dangers in the midst of current peace. It is building up strategic oil reserves along with that of industrial raw materials. Interestingly, all roads and other infrastructures in China have been planned keeping in mind the requirements of the defence forces. That a foresight indeed. The presence of the US, as if it is
an â€˜Asianâ€™ power, disturbs China like nothing else. China desires friendship with India for many valid reasons. However, its diplomatic effort to come closer to India is a strategic move to keep the US from getting India on its side. Unfortunately China certainly is not doing it right. If the Chinese do not recognise this soon, it is certain that India will gravitate more towards the US as a hedge against China. Perceived threat of China in India therefore, decides the extent of its tilt towards the US. China must see and feel concerned about this and speed up its friendly engagement with India to prevent this from happening. The Chinese know very well that India has stood by China till the 1962 crisis. Chinese aggression was a shock that many feel is one important reason for Nehruâ€™s early death. How can China forget that from recognizing the new Communist-led government of China in December 1949, and accepting Taiwan being a part of China, to voting in its favour by opposing the US resolution in UN Assembly in 1951, which labelled China as an aggressorIndia has always been by Chinaâ€™s side? Then, like a bolt from the blue, came WKHERUGHUFRQĂ€LFW/XFNLO\0DRÂśV
China that crossed the border and its political thinking as well as its national ambitions have undergone sea changes since 1980. Presently China is a completely different country than what it used to be. Many of us expected WKLV WR UHĂ€HFW LQ LWV ,QGLDSROLF\&KLnese leadership must realise that most of the Indians still mistrust China. It friendship with India has not gone much beyond its diplomatic overtures. Today Chinaâ€™s diplomatic moves are seen by many as very opportunistic. )ULHQGVKLS1HHGVD&RRO0LQG After 26 years of diplomatic isolation, it was Rajiv Gandhi who went to Beijing in 1988 to start afresh Indiaâ€™s engagement with China, in spite of local resistance. Then Vajpayee, heading the non-Congress NDA government, upgraded it in 1993 by raising the border talks to a higher level with the National Security Adviser heading the Indian team and recognizing Tibet as a part of China with even stronger resistance in India. Dr. Manmohan Singh set in motion bilateral trade and over the years it resulted in China becoming Indiaâ€™s largest trading partner, with a trade volume of over US$70 billion in 2012; raising it from a mere US$1
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billion in 2001. So far China has greatO\ EHQHÂżWWHG IURP ,QGLD WKURXJK RXU bilateral relations. China should carefully assess what it has done in return in order to win over the Indian people. If China indeed wants to develop friendship with India, it needs to change the opinion of Indians about it through sincere overtures and not merely through diplomatic cordiality. China must understand that unlike in their country, in India people are supreme and not its weak government. One quick way to win over Indian people is by resolving the border issue in Indiaâ€™s favour or at least a quick FRPSURPLVH WKDW LV EHQHÂżFLDO ,QGLD I am sure that this single action will change the anti-China feeling amongst Indian people. Chinese often complain that Indian PHGLD NHHSV WKH FRQĂ€LFW DOLYH China should know that press today is so powerful that all the governments in the free world fear them. After all, the Indian press is not like the state controlled media in China. The freedom of press is Indiaâ€™s strength. One wonders why China creates such rather unwise irritants if it actually does not want to push India away from it. All Indians know that press is a weapon in India. Therefore, if China desires to build good will amongst Indians, it should avoid such provocations. Maintaining mere cordial and diplomatic ties are too bureaucratic, and certainly not enough. China must understand that India is a democracy and that its people are far more important than its handful of diplomats and politicians. Such misjudgements by China make for good opportunity for the shrewd Americans to relish it and exploit it. After all, the Yankees are experts in exploiting the media machine to their advantage. The American PHGLD DOVR DGGV IXHO WR WKH ÂżUH WR add to the Indian doubts regarding China. Its press added to these fears with an observation that China is encircling India by constructing ports in the Indian Ocean that could potentially have military use later. This has proved to be a great fodder for further enhancing the India-China |36| India-China Chronicle Âƒ January 2014
friction. China unfortunately does not UHFRJQLVHWKDWLWVVLOHQFHFRQÂżUPVWKH validity of the theory. One also wonders why China made such an issue out of the meeting of the Indian PM with 'DODL/DPDRUWKHYLVLWRILWVGHIHQFH minister to Arunachal Pradesh. Till the border issue is under negotiation, such provocation is certainly uncalled for. &KLQHVH,QDFWLRQ:LOO+DYH 8QGHVLUDEOH&RQVHTXHQFHV Some of us fear that if China does not revisit its India policy, India would one day get sucked into the global rivalry between the US hegemony and China. So far, India has been careful in maintaining cordial relations with both China and the US, without reference to the proximity or otherwise with either power. For example, India not only exercised its military regularly with the US, but also has had two rounds of exercises with China. If India seems to be getting closer to the US during the last three to four years, a part of the reason for this development is Pakistan. China has not behaved in a way that would make the average Indian feel friendly towards it. I wonder why the Chinese ever created minor irritants like stapled visas to Indians from Jammu & Kashmir. The
HISTORY TELLS US THAT US NEVER MAKES FRIENDS WITHOUT A MOTIVE AND TURNS ITS BACK WITH EQUAL RUTHLESSNESS. CHINA IS THE MAIN REASON FOR THIS NEW LOVE THAT THE US HAS DEVELOPED FOR INDIA OTHER THAN THEIR DISILLUSION WITH PAKISTAN. THESE CHANGING RELATIONS ARE INDEED MAKING A GREAT IMPACT ON CHINAâ€™S SECURITY ENVIRONMENT.
India media made it a â€˜Breaking Newsâ€™ whereas China accomplished nothing. May be, China believes that by indirectly warning India through such actions, it would prevent India from turning for close support from the US. China should realise that this policy does not work within a friendship. /DUJH6FDOH&LYLO6RFLHW\,QWHUDFWLRQV9LWDOIRU'HYHORSLQJ7UXVW As neighbouring countries wanting to groom friendly ties, China and India must realise the importance of developing people-to-people contact rather than merely relying on diplomacy. In this respect the US is miles ahead of China. Close to half a percent of all Indians today either live in the US or work for it, on-line, IURP ,QGLD /DQJXDJH LV DQRWKHU good cementing material for social connectivity. India therefore, has many Westernised Indians who believe that India needs to get closer to the US since it needs technology, both civilian and military, as well as capital. The US, on its part, is shrewd enough to oblige since it needs India as a counterweight to China. The US, however, has a poor UHFRUG RI ÂżGHOLW\ LQ LWV UHODWLRQVKLSV It is known to interfere with local domestic matters and it does so quite trickily. Many Americans themselves have proved it conclusively. Traditionally, war has not been the methodology for resolving problems in India as well as in China, except in the event of war for liberation. Even the short border invasion was a conĂ€LFW RQ DFFRXQW RI HUURUV RQ ERWK WKH sides and not a full-scale war. Both countries would rightfully want to be militarily strong nations, but the people in both countries certainly want peace, development and reduction in poverty. Both countries want to march towards inclusive development and prosperity. This is very unlike the people in the West and the middle-east, who love wars to settle disputes. One must remember that Hinduism and Buddhism are religions that spread through love and human search for peace and salvation. Thatâ€™s exactly how Buddhism enveloped China;
improve Indiaâ€™s relations with China. So far India has always attached the highest value to maintaining independence in making its foreign policy and sovereignty, and avoided becoming the part of a US or Western agenda towards China. The United States is also unlikely to be willing to underwrite the costs of guaranteeing Indian security and it would be foolish for India to entrust her security to a superpower. Its people are able enough if it focuses on self-reliance on modern armaments. If a little state like Israel can do it, why not India? We have great talents waiting to be gainfully utilised.
through love and not war. That cannot be said of Christian, Muslim or Jewish religions that were born in the desert. The spread of these faiths was primarily through wars and it involved imposition on others rather than conviction. Thus neither India nor China has attacked any country to rule over it or have shown imperialistic ambitions. I donâ€™t see any war between the two in the near future. In any case, both nations actually have enough challenges in ruling over their own countries. &DQ,QGLD5HPDLQ1RQ$OLJQHG" Some Indians have their reservations on whether India can remain non-aligned. The best option for India is to stay friendly with both, the US and China. India needs to engage them in regular dialogue. India should be seen as non-aligned and equidistant. This would give it time to speed up its economic growth by having the best of both in this endeavour. China would then gradually develop FRQÂżGHQFH WKDW LW GRHV QRW QHHG Pakistanâ€™s support anymore. Beijing needs to do a lot more than India since
it is not still an â€˜openâ€™ country. It has to soften its generally abrasive talks about the border dispute and help the Delhi diplomats to convince people of the merits of its friendly diplomatic ties. Diplomacy is required in speedily concluding the border talks. China, in a sense, is a far larger power than India. China loses little by conceding to Indiaâ€™s border claims. Indian people must also understand the basic truth. Before the British, there was nothing OLNH,QGLDZLWKGHÂżQHGERUGHUV,QGLD got its borders drawn by the British arbitrarily. â€˜Aasetu Himachalaâ€™ is an idea that indeed was never fully realised. Peace with neighbours is vital for India since it has many internal problems including poor and weak governance, and this strategy would give it time to set its house in order. ,QPDQ\ZD\V,QGLDFDQEHQHÂżWDORW more from China in creating good infrastructure that is necessary for its economic and social development. The US has little to offer other than technology and, of course, weapons of mass destruction. A visible nonaligned foreign policy would certainly
7KH)XQGDPHQWDO5HDOLW\ The fundamental reality at a social and economic level is that both China and India need Americaâ€™s cooperation and support for their economic development whereas the US needs the huge markets of 2.5 billion Indians and Chinese. The US, therefore will do well by encouraging Sino-Indian relationship for the regional stability in South Asia and help both China and India in their economic modernization. /HW ÂľWHFKQRORJ\ IRU SHDFHIXO KXPDQ raceâ€™ be the new principle of the globalised world. Knowledge needs to be freed by mobilising it for the good of human race so that it does not become â€˜a propertyâ€™ that gives unreasonable returns to businesses. China too needs to revisit its India policy and realise its importance in geo-politics as well as in its role in regional affairs. There is a reason to believe that China desires that the nature of their relationship with India should be like that between good neighbours and good friends in economic cooperation and good partners in international affairs. Â‰
Mr. P.S. Deodhar is author of â€˜Cinasthana Todayâ€™, published by McGraw Hill in 2012. He shares his views in this piece
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