Mar 31, 2008 5:59 pm


Frieda writes that one can also be blessed by a Sufi.

He even dares to speak outagainst Wahhabism!

Earl H. Tilford sends me his piece on Anti-Semitism and the religious left.

Ram brings to my attention Harsh V Pant's article on Dealing with China's power projection. He argues that"a rising China will not tolerate a rising India as peer competitor." I posted the entire article bellow. I believe this neglected topic is central to this century.

EARLIER THIS month, China announced that its military budget for 2008 will increase by 17.6 percent to about US$58.8 billion. This was not really surprising as it follows a 17.8 percent increase in 2007 and double-digit increases in China’s annual defence outlays most years in the last two decades. But what is causing concern in Asia and beyond is the opacity that surrounds China’s military buildup, with an emerging consensus that Beijing’s real military spending is at least double the announced figure.

The official figures of the Chinese government do not include the cost of new weapon purchases, research or other big-ticket items for China’s highly secretive military, and, as a result, the real figure may be much higher than the amount revealed. From Washington to Tokyo, from Brussels to Canberra, calls are rising for China to be more open about the intentions behind this dramatic pace of spending increase and scope of its military capabilities.

Whatever Chinese intentions might be, consistent increases in defence budgets over the last several years have put China on track to not only become a major military power but the one most capable of challenging American dominance in the A s i a - P a c i fi c . While China’s near-term focus rema i n s o n preparations for potential problems in the Taiwan Straits, its nuclear force modernisation, its growing arsenal of advanced missiles, and its development of space and cyberspace technologies are changing the military balance in Asia and beyond.

A growing economic power, China is also concentrating on the accretion of military might so as to secure and enhance its own strategic interests. That’s how great powers have behaved throughout history. The United States will try its best to preserve its own pre-eminence in the region. While the United States has been the regional hegemon in the Asia-Pacific since the end of the Second World War it has been preoccupied with its war on terror to pay significant attention to the region in recent years.

Traditional US allies have complained that they are no longer being heard in Washington. So when Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, visited a string of states in Asia last month, it sent a clear sign to China that the United States is back and has no intention of ceding strategic space to China. Mr Gates’s trip to the Asia-Pacific underlined the continued US commitment to a region that is rapidly emerging as the locus of global politics and economics. China’s rise, while offering opportunities to other regional states, is also unsettling other major powers in the region and beyond.

What is India doing to secure its own interests? India is the country that will be (and already is) most affected by a rising China. China has upped the ante on the border dispute. It protested against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh as well as his speech there hailing Arunachal as the land of the rising sun for India. While this was in line with its claims to the entire territory of the state of Arunachal Pradesh, what has caught most observers by surprise is the vehemence with which Beijing has contested every single recent Indian administrative and political action in the state, even denying visas to Indian citizens from Arunachal Pradesh. The recent round of boundary negotiations has been a disappointing failure, despite the reluctance of the Indian government to say so for fear of offending their Communist allies. There is a growing perception that China is less than willing to adhere to earlier political understandings on how to address the boundary dispute.

There is also a growing alarm in India because of frequent and strident claims being made by China along the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee was forced to go on record that the Chinese army “sometimes” does intrude on its territory though he added that the issues are addressed through established mechanisms, whatever they might be.

While realising fully well that it would take decades to seriously compete with the United States for global hegemony, China has focused its strategic energies on Asia. Its foreign policy is aimed at enhancing its economic and military prowess to achieve regional hegemony in the region. China’s recent emphasis on projecting its rise as peaceful is merely aimed at allaying the concerns of its neighbours lest they try to counterbalance its growing influence. China’s readiness to negotiate with other regional states and to be an economically “responsible” power is also a signal to other states that there are greater benefits in bandwagoning onto China’s growing regional weight than opposing its rise. China realises that it has thrived because it devotes itself to economic development while letting the United States police the region and the world. Even as it decries American hegemony, its leaders envision Pax Americana extending well into the 21st century, at least until China becomes a middle-class society and, if present trends continue, the world’s largest economy.

While the United States still remains the predominant power in the Asia-Pacific, the rise of China and India can no longer be ignored in the region. Japan is also getting back on track and also seems ready to shed its military reticence. The rise of China is a major factor in the evolution of Indo-Japanese ties as is the US attempt to build India into a major “balancer” in the region. Both India and Japan are also well aware of China’s not so subtle attempts at preventing their rise.

Yet when the major focus of the Indian foreign policy should be on how to best deal with the dragon in its neighbourhood, the India’s political elite is consumed by some hypothetical threat to India’s strategic autonomy from the United States arising from the nuclear deal.

India’s primary strategic challenge is to break out of the confines of the South Asian region. The only way this can be accomplished is by using the contemporary global balance of power to its advantage. This involves active and close cooperation with the United States as neither is interested in seeing the emergence of an aggressive China. Indeed, this was what China did during the Cold War when it broke with the Soviet Union, its Communist ally, and made its historic shift towards the United States. No one can credibly argue that China ended up becoming a junior partner. On the contrary, China used its unique position in the balance of power configuration to such effect that today it is on the verge of challenging the United States for global pre-dominance.

China has always viewed India as a mere regional player and has tried to confine India to the peripheries of global politics. But after the United States started courting India the Chinese rhetoric towards India underwent a slight modification. Realising that a close US-India partnership would change the regional balance of power to its disadvantage, China started tightening the screws on India. While it must be delighted to see the fate of the US-India nuclear deal being held ransom to the exigencies of Indian politics, it has further entrenched itself in the Indian neighbourhood. Boundary negotiations have hit a deadlock even as Sino-India competition for global energy resources has gained momentum. The development of infrastructure by China in its border regions with India has been so rapid and effective, and India’s response lackadaisical. While China has continued to make claims on Indian territory with impunity, India remains diffident about playing the Tibet card vis-à-vis China. Despite the Dalai Lama offering a number of political concessions to China, Beijing has refused to meet even the most basic demands of the Tibetans. The repression in Tibet, in fact, is at an all time high as the latest crackdown on protests in Lhasa underscores. China’s vigourous promotion of regional economic interdependence, which some take as a sign of Chinese liberal world-view is actually aimed as a tool for power projection, something that would reinforce China’s independence while helping it develop links with other Asian countries. This would involve regional arrangements that would not only promote Chinese power but would also marginalise the United States, Japan and India. China’s encouragement towards the creation of groupings like the East Asian Community and the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation should be seen in this light, underpinned as they are by Chinese values and norms.

Indian policy towards China continues to be premised on the “liberal fallacy” that strategic problems will inevitably produce satisfactory solutions merely because they are desirable and in the interest of all. India views stable Sino-Indian ties to be in the interests of both China and India. It is indeed in the interest of China to have good relations with India at least in the short-term when it wants to devote its energies to economic development. But its policy for medium to long term is clear: establish its pre-eminence in Asia and contain India. Therefore there is no reason why India should allow China a free hand in shaping the strategic environment of the region.

Now there is nothing particularly sinister about China’s attempts to expand its own influence and curtail India’s. China is a rising power in Asia and the world and as such will do what it can to prevent the rise of other power centres around its periphery. It did so in the 1960s and it is doing so today. China’s all-weather friendship with Pakistan, its attempts to increase its influence in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Burma, its persistent refusal to recognise parts of India, its lack of support for India’s membership to the United Nations Security Council and other regional and global organisations, its unwillingness to support the US-India nuclear pact—all point towards attempts at preventing the rise of India as a player of major import. China has consistently and successfully pursued this strategy without any apologies.

There is also nothing extraordinarily benign in China’s attempts to improve its bilateral relations with India in recent times. After cutting India down to size in various ways, China would not like to see India coming close to the United States in order to contain China. In this geopolitical chessboard, while both the United States and China are using India for their own strategic ends, India has ended up primarily reacting to the actions of others. This is both because of a lack of adequate recognition of the forces that drive international politics in general and also an inability to come up with a coherent strategy towards China in particular.

A rising China will not tolerate a rising India as its peer competitor. Even if a rising India does not have an intention of becoming a regional hegemon, China will try its best to contain India as it has already done to a large extent. And it is this containment that India must guard against. China’s intentions vis-à-vis India may seem entirely peaceful at the moment but that is largely irrelevant in the strategic scheme of things. India cannot have a foreign policy shaped by the assumed kindness of its neighbours. India cannot and should not wear rose-tinted glasses on Sino-Indian relations just because things seem to be going smoothly at present.

Harsh V Pant is a lecturer at the department of defence studies, King’s College, London.

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