December 30, 2011

Disposable friends : China & India

America is baiting China, and India could get sucked into it, warns Ramtanu Maitra.

Washington, 28 December 2011: On 20 December, a trilateral dialogue between India, Japan and the United States took place in Washington. "These discussions," said a joint statement, "mark the beginning of a series of consultations among our three governments, who share common values and interests across the Asia-Pacific and the globe."

Japan's foreign minister, Koichiro Gemba, was in Washington then. Together with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, he "affirmed that Japan and the United States are deepening [our] strategic relationship with India".

"Strategic relationship" is a loosely conceived phrase. The Americans notoriously use it to further their interests above those of others.

The US media said the trilateral dialogue took place "amid heightened tensions between China and the Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and the Philippines over the issue of sovereignty over the resource-rich South China Sea". This implied the dialogue centred on US concerns, dittoed by India and Japan, over the growing Chinese "threat' in the region.

US president Barack Obama's pugnacious speech in Australia in November flagged such concerns. "With my visit to the region," he said, "I am making it clear that the United States is stepping up its commitment to the entire Asia-Pacific region."
From next year, US troops and aircraft will operate out of Darwin to quickly respond to humanitarian and security issues in Southeast Asia which is at the heart of the tense stand-off with China. "It is appropriate for us," Obama said, "that the security architecture for the region is updated for the 21st century, and this initiative is going to allow us to do that."

Analysts like James Holmes of the US Naval War College argue that today's strategic questions represent a throwback of sorts to the debate before the First World War amongst strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, ex-president Theodore Roosevelt, and assistant secretary of the navy, Franklin Roosevelt, about stationing the American fleet. The three sea-power proponents agreed it should concentrate in the Pacific, said Holmes.

Holmes says that situation exists today. "A glance at the map," he wrote in The Diplomat online, "reveals two prospective adversaries for the United States and its allies, namely China and Iran. Both worry mainly about managing their own surroundings. Both can mass forces close to home. Neither has compelling interests that disperse its military forces to faraway theatres. And the chances of their ganging up on the US Navy are remote."

Holmes' prescription: The US navy must prepare to face -- or face down in crises short of war -- a single opponent fighting with full force near its own shores. "Cold War theatres like the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea no longer appear that menacing, while the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean could witness exciting times," Holmes concludes.

Many walking the corridors of power in India would like to align with the United States and identify China as an enemy. "Chinese perfidy" in 1962 and since compels them. They do not trust China and prefer the United States.

US-India relations have changed greatly since the time president Richard Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, considered India a "Soviet stooge." Now, Obama, to the great pride of the Indian premier, calls Manmohan Singh his "guru".

In Bali in November on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit, Manmohan Singh confirmed to Obama that "there are no irritants between our two countries." And last year in New Delhi, Obama said the India-US relationship is "one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century".

Even so, an Indo-US alliance against China is not a given, much less a trilateral partnership amongst India, America and Japan to contain the totalitarian behemoth. Australia which is key to a common front against China is keen to upgrade strategic ties with India. But New Delhi is cautious not to provoke Beijing.

At the same time, India has a much weaker constitution than it did in the years when it was staunchly non-aligned. Washington's China bogey could suck the Manmohan Singh government into a dangerous situation.

Ramtanu Maitra is South Asia analyst for the Executive Intelligence Review in Washington.


emily said...

Ramtanu Maitra you have brought out a major issue of the ongoing situation but India is just a puppet in the hands of big powers and they are just using Indian for their bigger game plan.

Maha from insert cheminĂ©e 

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