How India should calibrate its relationship with US and China
Policymakers in the foreign policy believe that expanding the military partnership with the United States might have huge negative consequences for Delhi’s engagement with Beijing. Thus they form US policy on the basis that, what China would think of it.
But the reality is otherwise. In Foreign Policy the nations have no permanent friends or allies but only permanent interests and every country calibrate its relationship with others with time. There are various instances when Chinese did that. Some of them are as follows:
- If military cooperation with the US was the defining factor in China’s relations with other countries, Beijing should be utterly hostile to Islamabad. Instead they are all weather friends inspite of Pakistan being a longstanding military partner for the US.
- In 1950 China signed military alliance with USSR and a decade later China criticised Russia as a “social imperialist” and began to make advances to America. China, which denounced America’s military presence in Asia during the 1950s, was quite happy to justify it in the 1970s and 1980s as a useful counter to Soviet power.
- Beijing mounts solid political pressure on Japan, America’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier”, while maintaining close economic relations.
- China woos South Korea that hosts nearly 28,000 US troops on its soil. Beijing deploys a carrot and stick policy towards Vietnam that is getting closer to America.
For China, this is about careful tailoring of its policies to specific contexts and not judging everyone by their ties with Washington. Ironically Some Chinese analysts seems to have better appreciation of Delhi’s changing policies than India’s own strategic community. They think Delhi today is playing a sophisticated game like Mao’s China that “aligned with the far” (America) to “balance the near” (the Soviet Union).
Neither Delhi nor Beijing, then, are innocent to geopolitical jousting. In the end, America is by no means the main problem between India and China. That lies elsewhere in their contestation of each other’s sovereignties across the Himalayas — in Kashmir, Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh.
Delhi should focus instead on managing, if not resolving, the territorial issues and expanding economic partnership with Beijing. When India and China are not a political threat to each other and can make money from the markets of the other, they will have less reason to worry about their relations with third parties.