August 11, 2008


India as a US hedge against China (Jeff M Smith, 8/07/08, Speaking Freely: Asia Times Online)

And yet, history and national identity are notorious for trumping raw economic interests in Asia. Consider the most fundamental of inter-state relations: a shared border. China and India's has been under dispute for nearly a century, and China has been testing New Delhi this year with a wave of abrupt but underreported incursions into Indian territory. Beijing still claims tens of thousands of square miles of Indian territory in the Indian states of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, the subject of a 1962 border war.

China's incursions, in some ways routine by now, have become more numerous (anywhere between 60 and several hundred) and brazen (one crossing having driven a kilometer into Indian territory) in the past six months - an unusual provocation, given China's sensitivity to world opinion ahead of the August Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.

Were the border incursions an isolated incident, they would likely be swallowed by the mounting ties that bind China and India. But isolated they are not, and in 2006 a warning by China's ambassador to India put in question the warmth generated by a dozen of rehearsed summits: "[T]he whole of the state of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory ... we are claiming all of that. That is our position." The point was not lost on the 1.1 million Indians living in a state the size of Maine. Indian diplomats from the state have even been denied visas by Beijing, which reminds them documentation is not required to travel their own country.

Ominous gestures like this add to the sense of anxiety generated by a host of Chinese policies in recent years. Years of Chinese military (and probably nuclear) assistance to India's arch-enemy, Pakistan, has earned it no friends in Delhi. Nor has China's assertive expansion into the Indian Ocean. Indeed, Beijing's plan to litter the South Asian coastline with a series of naval bases - its so-called "string of pearls" - has put India on the defensive in its own backyard. And abroad, a fierce competition for natural resources in Africa and beyond has swung decisively in China's favor, curtailing India's access to raw materials, and wounding New Delhi's pride.

Even the blossoming Sino-Indian trade relationship generates friction: where their account was only recently in balance, India has suddenly discovered a $10 billion trade deficit, ushering them into the same frustrated and indebted club as the US and European Union. Finally, China's expanding ballistic missile and space capabilities have kept Indian defense analysts on edge, as has China's clandestine submarine base on Hainan island.

India's new challenges in Afghanistan (Harsh V Pant, August 11, 2008, Rediff)
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returned from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit after getting Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to agree to an independent investigation into the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul.

It will be simplistic to assume that Pakistan just gave into Indian demands because of the rapidly deteriorating India-Pakistan and Pakistan-Afghanistan ties. More important is the pressure that the Pakistan government has come from the US in recent weeks. During Gilani's visit to Washington recently the Bush administration made it clear that its patience is running out with the shenanigans of Pakistan's security establishment and the role of the Inter Services Intelligence came under the scanner.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2008 3:29 PM
blog comments powered by Disqus