TCS Daily


The Indian Gambit

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - April 25, 2002 12:00 AM

Thirty years ago, the United States brilliantly neutralized Soviet power during the Cold War through a diplomatic opening to the People's Republic of China. For the rest of the Cold War, the United States successfully played the Chinese off against the Soviets keeping the Kremlin concerned about fighting two front conventional wars, and benefiting from valuable Chinese economic, intelligence and military cooperation with the United States.

Now, the United States should balance against potential Chinese belligerence, open up new opportunities for American business, and cement an alliance that will help in the ongoing war against terrorism. The best way to accomplish these goals is by improving relations with India.

China Fold

The Sino-American alliance has hit hard times. China's habitual arrests and torture of American citizens suspected unfairly of spying for Taiwan, have cast a pall on the alliance. Additionally, while the Chinese have expressed some sympathy for the United States in the wake of Sept. 11th, have also celebrated the attack as a blow against hegemonic American power.

Hateful rhetoric against the United States is commonplace on certain Chinese chat sites, and is encouraged by the Chinese government. Because of the American desire, particularly in the wake of the Sept. 11th attacks, to construct a missile defense in order to protect against future potential chemical, biological or nuclear attacks from terrorist states or organizations, the Chinese fear that the United States is organizing militarily against it, possibly for a first nuclear strike.

Additionally, a formidable al-Qaeda cell exists in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. The Chinese may very well go after the Xinjiang cell in order to destroy any potential Muslim opposition to the rule of the Communist Party. However, the Chinese could also ally with radical Muslim groups as a way to counter American power. Considering some of the deals entered into between China, and terrorist states like Iran and North Korea (part of the now famous "axis of evil"), this concern cannot be dismissed out of hand.

India Card?

An alliance with India offers many benefits to the United States in balancing against any hostile moves on the part of China. The Indian military is battle-hardened, as a result of their many conflicts with Pakistan over the Kashmir region, and because of their border dispute with China. It could therefore potentially assist the United States in any military conflict with China. Additionally, for many years, India has been openly hostile towards China as a result of the aforementioned border dispute, and each side's desires for regional hegemony. As a result, India will likely be receptive to creating an alliance that is designed to balance against Chinese power in the region. This will either cause the Chinese to be friendlier, or allow the U.S. to benefit from having a powerful ally in the region that can help resist any Chinese aspirations towards malevolent hegemony.

The United States would also benefit economically by this diplomatic opening. The Indian economy grew at a rate of 6% in 2000, according to the latest estimates from the CIA. It has invested a great deal in the creation and enhancement of computer technology, and Indian programmers have already contributed tremendously to the development of the high tech sector in this country. American businesses would realize significant profits if the Indian and American governments sought to deepen economic ties between their countries.

Additionally, American interaction with India could lead to further free-market liberalization on the part of the Indian government. Strengthened Indo-American ties could also lessen our reliance on economic cooperation with the Chinese, and would position us to use our economic relationship with China as a way of deterring Chinese misbehavior on the international stage. This helps contain China's hegemonic ambitions, as well as limit its capacity to injure American security interests.

Anti-terror partner

Improved Indo-American ties could also assist in the war against terrorism. Like the United States, India has been the victim of terrorism; having suffered repeated attacks by militant Pakistani-backed Kashmiri terrorists over the years, including the dramatic attack against the Indian Parliament in December 2001.

India is as concerned about Islamo-fascism as the United States. Indeed, Jainsh-e-Mohammad, a major Kashmiri terrorist group, was specifically denounced by President Bush in his State of the Union address, a statement which may very well have been an opening to deepen Indo-American ties. India has every incentive to assist the United States in fighting fundamentalist terrorism, and could provide valuable intelligence, logistical, economic and military support to American forces.

By reaching out to one of the most powerful countries in Asia, the United States could dramatically offset China's hegemonic ambitions, garner significant economic advantages, help institute further free-market reforms in the Indian economy, and gain a marked advantage in the war against terrorism.

President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee both have a strong interest in laying the foundations for perhaps the most potent geopolitical alliance of the 21st century. They should do so as soon as possible.

The writer is an attorney living in Southern California. He edits the blog http://pejmanpundit.blogspot.com

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