Wednesday, May 11, 2011

India needs a very savvy foreign must align with the US

A story in the papers today prompted this post. Apparently, India now has direct proof that hundreds of Chinese military engineers are working in PoK on projects that have not been made public. Apparently, the US had already informed India about this in the past. The report said that it was highly unlikely that the Chinese military engineers would be working on civilian projects like highways.

Let’s look at what the international scenario is looking like at the moment. From Pakistan’s point of view, in spite of their severe indictments in terror related cases and the embarrassment caused to them because of Osama’s proven presence on its soil, it is in an enviable position. Everyone wants to be a friend of Pakistan. The US wants to be a friend of Pakistan because it has made Pakistan the gateway to Afghanistan. The Chinese want to be a friend of Pakistan because the Chinese have a longtime anxiety about India’s rising clout. In the past, India used to reach out to the USSR for support and for fending off pressures put on it by the then US-Pakistan axis.....but today there is no USSR left to support us. Pakistan also plays its Muslim card rather well and gets a fair degree of political and financial support from the Arab world. Further, the Chinese have built....or are building.....a “ring” around India with partnerships in Burma (a long lasting relationship of theirs given the presence of the military junta there), Srilanka (a strong India partner....but with strained relationships because of their Tamil-Sinhalese conflict) and the Arab world. This is a very scary scenario where the world’s two largest powers – US and China – are both aligned with Pakistan. We must not forget that Western Europe – the other major power block in the world – usually sides with the US on international matters. So India is totally isolated in the world right now.

One has to admit that Pakistan has played its cards rather well. It used the first proxy war between the US and USSR in Afghanistan to its advantage. It got into the good books of the US by allowing it to use its soil for mounting attacks on the USSR in Afghanistan. Later, when the US left Afghanistan, it used the left-over mujahedeen as a tool of foreign policy. The mujahedeen directed their efforts at Kashmir....and the western world couldn’t care less. Where Pakistan miscalculated and mishandled the situation was when it could not control these mujahedeen from attacking the West. 9/11 has made the US-Pakistan relationship very suspect and has given India a chance of gaining its own ground in this see-saw battle in the subcontinent.

India has no option today but to ally with the US. The Left parties in India and the BJP be damned (actually the BJP also is a pro-US party). If India can swing the US to its side, it will help balance the China-Pakistan nexus. Else, if China were ever to use Pakistan to mount a proxy war against India, the US would stay out and India would suffer another humiliating defeat. It’s a global world today. It’s no longer about an individual country’s military’s all about global alliances. Without the US on its side, India is an easy prey for the Chinese.

One must wonder why the Chinese are so aggressive against India. Is it related to border issues or are the reasons beyond such small things? In my mind, clearly, the Chinese concern is with India’s rising economic clout. China sees what many of us do not. It knows its internal chinks and fissures that we don’t know of. The Chinese society is bound to revolt against its government some day. Dictatorship simply cannot continue forever. The current frenetic pace of economic growth is putting a veil over the people’s aspirations for liberty for the moment. The moment the economic growth slows down, people will become restless. The Chinese are also worried that most of its economic clout comes from state-controlled companies. There is hardly any privatization in China (and even the private sector that does exist is largely controlled by ex and present communist leaders). There is also hardly any entrepreneurship there (in spite of being an economy 4 times ours). China is largely a manufacturing facility the world has created. It hardly owns any “intellectual properties” (IP). India on the other hand wields ‘soft power’ and is an economy based on entrepreneurship. In the long run, the Indian model may prove to be better than the Chinese model. China is worried that its long term global competitor – apart from the US – is India. The Goldman Sachs “BRICS” report highlights this very strongly. Hence, China wants to keep India embroiled in local and regional issues so that it can itself focus on grabbing the global opportunity. China’s main focus today is the doesn’t want India to gain center stage and become an alternative to itself.

This is where astute foreign policy comes in. India + US is a powerful combination. It can block the China-Pakistan nexus. The US itself is worried about the Chinese. It needs Indian support in this important part of the world. The huge NRI community in the US is made up of people who have contributed immensely to the US’s growth. There have been no terrorists found who belong to India. There are loads of Indians in Silicon valley....and NASA....and even in the US government. India is a democracy; an almost-capitalistic country. The US and India are natural allies.

For India to befriend the US, it needs to trap the US using its economic muscle. The US badly needs the market that India has. It wants a piece of the infrastructure that India is building. Let’s be clear....the US is a mercenary nation. It will always keep its own interests in mind when making allies. But this is not unique to the US. Even India keeps its own interests in mind when it takes its global policy decisions. India sides with Iran to protect its energy needs. And to needle the US a little bit. The hawks in India are going to remain suspicious of the US’s intent forever. That should not be of concern to policy makers. India must court the US. India must become a strategic ally of the US. In the recent past, there has been interesting speculation that Japan (another country deeply suspicious of the Chinese) and the Israelis (deeply suspicious of the Arabs) could be part of this US-India strategic partnership. If this were to happen, India would feel a lot more secure.

The real truth is that India’s strategic options are limited. There is no alternative to the US. It must wholeheartedly befriend the US and Japan and Israel. Once this relationship is in place, it must then appeal to the Arab world....with which it shares quite a decent relationship even today. The Arabs are required for our energy security. The US also has allies in the Arab world. Once the US-India partnership is forged, it wouldn’t be difficult to bring Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and others back into our fold.....I sincerely hope we can keep domestic politics out of this. For all our good.

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