China’s Rise and India’s Obvious Partner (the US)

The release last week of an Indian think tank report entitled “Non-Alignment 2.0: A Foreign and Strategic Policy for India in the 21st Century” has prompted robust discussion about Indian foreign policy in the age of a rising China.

Indian national security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon provided remarks at the report launch and apparently participated in some of the private discussions in preparation of the report.

U.S. strategic thinkers who are eager to improve ties with India will be disappointed by the report, as it provides few imperatives and recommendations for solidifying a U.S.–India strategic partnership for the 21st century. While the report acknowledges that the U.S. (and China) will be global power centers and that a robust American maritime presence in the Asia-Pacific will help delay the projection of Chinese naval power in the Indian Ocean, it also says that it would be “premature” to conclude that India would benefit from close ties with the U.S.

Demonstrating distrust toward American intentions, the authors highlight that it would be risky for India to rely too heavily on the U.S. since an Indo–U.S. strategic partnership “could become a casualty of any tactical upswing in Sino-American ties.” The report says the American alliance system is in decline and that it is uncertain “how the U.S. might actually respond if China posed a threat to India’s interests.” The report further notes that another potential downside of focusing too much attention on building ties to the U.S. is that it could “prematurely antagonize China.”

Non-Alignment 2.0 spends considerable time addressing India’s competition with China and the threats New Delhi is likely to face from Beijing in years to come. The report states that the “challenge for Indian diplomacy will be to develop a diversified network of relations with several major powers to compel China to exercise restraint in its dealings with India, while simultaneously avoiding relationships that go beyond conveying a certain threat threshold in Chinese perceptions.”

The report recommends building up India’s naval capabilities to ensure it remains dominant in the Indian Ocean region, investing in infrastructure development in the border areas, and preparing for asymmetric responses to any possible Chinese aggression regarding their border disputes.

But not all Indian strategic thinkers agree with the report’s conclusions. Former Indian national security advisor Brajesh Mishra, while commenting on the report at its launch last Tuesday, noted that a U.S.–India strategic partnership (not “alliance”) developed on equal footing would obviate the need for India to pursue “non-alignment.” Mishra raised the obvious question of whether India can, in fact, remain “non-aligned” between the U.S. and China. Mishra further pointed out that India has increasingly moved toward the U.S. over the last two decades.

China is competing with India in increasingly aggressive ways. Beijing has refused to grant visas to Indian military officers from Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, is moving forward with plans to provide Pakistan with civil nuclear technology outside the international nonproliferation framework, and is expanding its maritime presence in the Indian Ocean.

In this environment, what dividends does New Delhi receive in remaining aloof from Washington? Instead of keeping the U.S. at arms distance, with the hope of placating the Chinese, India should be drawing closer to the U.S. in ways that solidify and build trust in their own partnership and deter the Chinese from considering a more aggressive posture toward India.

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One Comment

  1. The US is over extended and is opening new fronts while still reeling from the after effects of the Bush wars in Iraq (Three Trillion Dollars and 5000 Body Bags as a hired Gun of Saudi Arabia). China’s lebensraum is in its near neighbourhood. Not with standing hopeful speculations of “Cost Disease” in the PLA, China’s military expenditure doubling every year is more than enough, when combined with a strong alliance that the US has forged between Russia and China (what with Clinton’s deliberate dismantling of the Reagan-Gorbachev understanding being followed through by successive US regimes) to out trump the US with US dependencies well within the range of Russia-China fists.
    While Xi (who must be obeyed) has the PLA cavorting on Indian territory during his visit to India. Narendra G Modi Saheb has cancelled joint naval exercises with Japan to avoid offending China. Narendra G Modi Saheb and Co seem to be You Pay 3.0 in more ways than one. This is something I had written nearly two years ago;” That Nehruvianism works in India is not in doubt. The better man loses in Courts, and elsewhere to the raw power of Stalinism, but to expect countries outside India’s border to succumb willingly to Nehruvian Hobby Horses might be a step too far.
    If, indeed, India’s ruling politicians and bureaucrats had National interest in mind rather than their own, would they have gone on public record announcing that Daulat Beg Oldi does not belong to India? The “Hon’ble” (for they are all honourable men) External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid stated that possession of Daulat Beg Oldi is all about “perceptions” and the Hon’ble Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde proclaimed Daulat Beg Oldi as
    “NO MAN’s LAND”. Well, it is China’s now. Line of “ACTUAL
    CONTROL”. Remember? “Possesion is nine tenths of the law”. While
    the Home Minister might hope that China will forget what he said, like India’s vote-fodder will forget Coal Gate and Bofors (which last, he expressed in a public speech), this is unlikely. China works out its strategies on a fifty year horizon. In International Fora, they will now claim, with considerable
    credibility, that India’s rulers officially gave up their claim on Daulat Beg Oldi and that it is the jingoism of isolated media and military elements that are pushing for India to grab well established Chinese territory. Pakistan provides India’s rulers with a comparatively harmless bogey man to bully for their Indian “limited bullets” audience. It is when these jackals that rule India encounter lions like China and the US, that their mettle is
    exposed. The World will not stand still and wait for India to catch up. Indias
    ruling elites have had an easy time of exploiting the starving, illiterate, defecating-in-the-open, vote fodder to pass totalitarian laws and strip the middle class through inflation or expropriation for squirreling away in their “safe haven” accounts. They are nonplussed when they come across a foreign power that, as is their own wont, does not adhere to established rules. They do not have competence or integrity because the Indian political system does not give power to either factor. Corruption, which is high treason, as it hollows out the Nation, is the primary qualification to rule India. a few days ago, the Govt agreed further amendments to the anti-graft law to ensure that Indias corrupt extortionists are still better protected from retribution and that it will remain business as usual.
    The signals on Chinas intentions towards India were loud and clear long ago. In this regard, I had written in the Los Angeles Times and the Japan Times advocating an alliance between India, Japan and the US in 2006. The PLAs recent documents presented to their “New” Rulers on the doctrine of “War Zones” and starting limited wars in their periphery to become militarily unchallenged are explicit. India, though, has always had a penchant for the ornamental and the absurd rather than any traction on National Security because the limits of the horizons of Indias ruling elites is the “Z Class” personal security that they probably feel will protect them from all enemies and the “strategic depth” that will allow them to withdraw and re group in Switzerland and Mauritius.
    The real question that lingers in my mind is whether Julian Assange will ever let India know how much China paid into politicians’ coffers for the purchase of Daulat Beg Oldie, the only viable air field in the area, which together with
    Chinas road and rail infrastructure, now gives China absolute strategic and tactical superiority in the theater and an impregnable beach head for the further invasion of India, as made explicit in their published military doctrine.

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