Thursday, November 23, 2006

India: The France of Asia?

Many observers have pointed to the US relationship with India as an attempt to check China in Asia - one Asian giant against the other. This little bit of grand strategy may very well be the most farsighted thing Bill Clinton ever started. In some ways, it's a historical echo of Austria-Hungary's strategy of allying with Germany against Russia. Though maybe I've overplayed the historical analogies today.

The wrinkle in US plans, however, is that the Indians themselves are actual people, with minds and ambitions of their own. Alyssa Ayres has an interesting perspective here:
However, those in the US who see India simply as a hedge against China will likely be disappointed—for the two Asian giants have also taken giant strides toward better ties. The US may be better off viewing India as an ally like France—one which shares many values with Americans, but pursues its own course.


Underscoring this change is a new robustness in economic ties. As recently as 2001, two-way trade between India and China was a paltry $3.6 billion, but it nearly doubled in 2004, rising 79 percent from the previous year to $13.6 billion dollars. By 2005 the figure reached $18.7 billion, and is expected to top $20 billion in 2006. The India-China Joint Study Group of Comprehensive Trade and Economic Cooperation predicts enormous growth potential because each country’s respective share of the other’s imports is still so small—both under 5%. And both countries anticipate growth in services trade, the sector in which their bilateral trade has grown faster than the sector has in each country. While some Indian commentators raise concerns about Chinese economic influence--underscored by the recent disqualification of Chinese firms from a mobile tender—this remains a mere blip overridden by economic pragmatism. Today’s talks, for example, between Hu Jintao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh produced a commitment to double trade from current levels to $40 billion by 2010.
Those who've been reading this blog the longest might remember that I once described the big question of the 21st century as whether China and India would play the roles of Germany and France, 1914-1945, or whether they would instead play Germany and France, 1946-present. The hard work both countries are putting in to forge a friendlier relationship makes me optimistic. The equally hard work other countries are putting in to making the relationship fail makes me less so. (America, Pakistan, I'm looking at you.)

1 comment:

Abhishek Upadhyay said...

India-China relationship will have to face many obstacles before it is forged into a good realtion.Eventhough both are coming closer still mutual distrust exists.Unsolved border disputes and dispute on the status of Arunachal pradesh which China claims is his territory can be a major hindrance.Also India's support to Tibet is also one of the issue that diesnt goes well with China.
Also Indians are more attracted towards USA as compared to India.China is considered more as an competitor and adversary in India,and not as ally.
It will be more pragmatic for India to go ahead in developing strong ties with USA.But for this USA may have to sacrifice its friendship with Pakistan.