[Assam] India: the price of choice -`Tehran Times
assamrs at gmail.com
Sun Jun 17 21:59:22 EDT 2007
There seems to be some discussions in the Internnational press regarding the
Indo-US 10-year military alliance, its affect on Indo-Chinese or Indo-Pak
relationship. Has the US taken India to the cleaners (as this article
Obviously, Arunachal Pradesh seems to have been dragged in once again with
the Chinese claiming it to be Chinese territory.
*India: the price of choice *
*By Gwynne Dyer *
Choices usually involve a price, but people persist in believing that they
can avoid paying it. That's what the Indian government thought when it
joined the American alliance system in Asia in 2005, but now the price is
clear: China is claiming the whole Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, some
83,000 sq. km. (32,000 sq. mi.) of mountainous territory in the eastern
Himalayas containing over a million people.
China has claimed Arunachal Pradesh for a century: during the Sino-Indian
border war of 1962 Chinese troops briefly occupied most of the state before
withdrawing and inviting India to resume negotiations. However, most Indians
thought the dispute had been more or less ended during Chinese Premier Wen
Jiabao's visit to New Delhi in April 2005, when the two sides agreed on
"political parameters" for settling both the Arunachal Pradesh border
dispute and another in the western Himalayas.
Indians assumed that the new "political parameters" meant that China would
eventually recognize India's control of Arunachal Pradesh. In return, India
would accept China's control of the Aksai Chin, a high-altitude desert of
some 38,000 sq. km. (14,000 sq. mi.) next to Kashmir. And that might
actually have happened, in the end -- if India had not signed what amounts
to a military alliance with the United States.
Informed Indians knew perfectly well that Wen Jiabao's visit was a
last-minute attempt to persuade India not to sign a ten-year military
cooperation agreement with the United States. Two months later Pranab
Mukherjee, then India's foreign minister, went to Washington and signed the
thing. Yet most people in New Delhi managed to convince themselves that
Wen's concessions during his visit were not linked to India's decision about
the American alliance. In June 2006 I spent two weeks in New Delhi
interviewing Indian analysts and policy-makers about India's strategic
relations with the U.S. and China. With few exceptions, their confidence
that India could "manage" China's reaction to its American alliance was
still very high. "India knows what it is doing," insisted Prem Shankar Jha,
former editor of the Hindustan Times, citing confidential sources close to
Prime Minister Singh. "It is not going to make China an enemy."
On the face of it, India got a very good deal in the lengthy negotiations
that led up to the military cooperation agreement. It got access not just to
current U.S. military technology but to the next generation of American
weapons (with full technology transfer). The Indian military are predicted
to buy $30 billion of U.S. hardware and software in the next five years.
They got all sorts of joint training deals, including U.S. Navy instruction
for Indian carrier pilots. And Washington officially forgave India for
testing nuclear weapons in 1998.
This was the only part of the deal that got much attention in Washington,
where the Bush administration waged a long struggle (only recently
concluded) to get Congress to end U.S. sanctions against exporting nuclear
materials and technologies to India. Stressing the military aspects of the
new relationship would only rile the Chinese, who would obviously conclude
that it was directed against them. Especially since America's closest allies
in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan and Australia, have also now started
forging closer military relations with India.
It took a while, but China was bound to react. Last November, just before
President Hu Jintao's first visit to India, the Chinese ambassador firmly
stated that "the entire state (of Arunachal Pradesh) is a part of China."
This took New Delhi by surprise, defense analyst Uday Bhaskar told the
Financial Times last week: "The Indians had taken the (2005) political
parameters (for negotiating the border issue) as Chinese acceptance of the
status quo." They should have known better.
It's mostly petty irritants so far, but they accumulate over time. Last
month, for example, Indian Navy ships took part in joint exercises with the
U.S. and Japanese navies in the western Pacific, several thousand kilometers
(miles) from home and quite close to China's east coast. Admiral Sureesh
Mehta, chief of naval staff, said the exercise had "no evil intent," and two
Indian warships also spent a day exercising with the Chinese Navy to take
the curse off it -- but Beijing knows which exercise was the important one.
Also last month, India cancelled a confidence-building visit to China by 107
senior civil servants. Why? Because Beijing refused to issue a visa to the
one civil servant in the group who was from Arunachal Pradesh, on the
grounds that he was already Chinese and did not need one.
A year ago, Indian foreign policy specialists were confident that they could
handle China's reaction to their American deal. In fact, many of them seemed
to believe that they had taken the Americans to the cleaners: that India
would reap all the technology and trade benefits of the U.S. deal without
paying any price in terms of its relationship with its giant neighbor to the
But there was confidence in Washington, too: a quiet confidence that once
India signed the ten-year military cooperation deal with Washington, its
relations with China would automatically deteriorate and it would slide
willy-nilly into a full military alliance with the United States. Who has
taken whom to the cleaners remains to be seen.
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