Frustrating the Chinese dream
US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to India hit the world headlines for several reasons: Obama’s subtle assurances to Indian premier Narendra Modi on nuclear and several other trade deals but the most important was America’s apparent backing of India’s bid for permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
While ambitious planning by any country for maximum economic gains should not be anyone else’s business, however, the scenario of India’s gaining of permanent UNSC membership is enough to cause worries for both Indian neighbours – China and Pakistan – against whom Indian designs and hostile past is no secret.
Though neither Obama nor Modi said anything official about the nuclear deal and the Indian quest for UNSC permanent membership, but diplomatic sources have leaked enough details to ascertain the fact that the deal has almost been finalised, paving the way for a waiver to India on nuclear supplier group (NSG). The US also decided to back the Indian bid for a permanent seat in the UNSC – a longstanding desire by India.
But the question is why is America helping materialise Indian ambitions? As explained before in this space, in a bid to counter the fast growing influence of China, the US was trying to pit Indian against China.
President Xi Jinping’s vision of the Chinese dream – the plan under which not only the people of China are to be provided fruits of development but it is to be expanded to neighbours – has pushed western powers to devise strategy to block the Chinese rise on the global map. The strategists of the US believe that they could only block China by creating a fake economic giant in the region and they have chosen India for this strategic move.
The US president’s visit to Delhi was China-centric. As when Modi and Obama sat down to talk, the first 45 minutes of the discussion were consumed by China.
India and China have seldom been too friendly. India has a history of suspicion and rivalry with Beijing. So far, India has been running an independent foreign policy, resisting American plans of a joint front against China. But the recent economic boom of China has worried America, and it wants to curtail this flight through its neighbour. So, America showered billion in deals on India to offend China.
An editorial appeared in New York Times reinforces my analysis. The newspaper said: “There are strategic imperatives at work as well. Both leaders need to expand their economies, and both see the other as a crucial partner in offsetting China’s increasingly assertive role in Asia. The potential for cooperation is considerable. Much of the public focus on the visit was on trade, energy and breaking a logjam that has held up the sale of American nuclear energy technology to India.”
When Modi and Obama issued a joint statement rebuking China for triggering conflict over the South China Sea, China gave a clear message: “Enough is enough”. And the response was quite diplomatic – by inviting Pakistan Army Chief Raheel Sharif to Beijing. Islamabad feels that the US decision to enter into a nuclear deal with New Delhi under Modi would be as detrimental as was the case with the western support extended to ISIS, al Qaeda and other groups to dislodge the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
Moreover, the country-specific exemption from NSG rules to grant membership to India would have a far-reaching impact on regional peace. This move would not only further compound the already fragile strategic stability environment in South Asia but it would further undermine the credibility of NSG and weaken the non-proliferation regime.
Policymakers here feel that though they can’t do much on the US selective-picking of India for civil nuclear deal, however, New Delhi’s quest for UNSC membership could be resisted on principles. Diplomatic circles here say that Pakistan wants the principles of non-discrimination and objective non-proliferation criteria to be examined on Indian whims for civil nuclear cooperation and NSG membership.
Both China and Pakistan think it necessary to counter the hegemonic designs of New Delhi in the South Asia region, feeling it would only destabilise peace and harmony in the continent. Some other key regional players like Sri Lanka also agree to this view.
Though Modi is making an attempt to schedule a visit to Beijing in a bid to clear the air about future designs, it seems that the damage has already been done and the frosty equation between India and China is not going to improve anytime soon.
The Indian bid for UNSC permanent membership is not new. There have been proposals suggesting the introduction of new permanent members to the UNSC. The candidates usually mentioned are Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan who have formed an independent group of called ‘G4 nations’, mutually supporting one another’s bids.
Three out of five permanent members including Britain, France and Russia have traditionally been supporting the G4 bid. The US support for India would add to the strength of this group, keeping in view the massive diplomatic influence enjoyed by the only super power of the world.
However, there are around 120 states who oppose the G4 club idea and these would be the nations Beijing and Islamabad would be looking to for support. The group is led by Italy, Spain and Pakistan. Italy and Spain have been opposing Germany’s bid for UNSC permanent membership; while Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina are opposing Brazil; Pakistan is opposing India; South Korea is opposing Japan. Turkey, Canada, Indonesia and many others including African Union, Mexico and many more also are members of the club.
The response from Islamabad however suggested that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was caught napping, and he was taken aback by the Modi-Obama deal. The impression of clemency was reinforced as on Sunday Sharif’s advisor on national security Sartaj Aziz hoped that the visit of Obama would help decrease tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad and Obama would pressure Modi to restart the suspended dialogue on Kashmir.
However, only two days later as General Raheel Sharif landed back home after his Beijing visit, Aziz reversed his stance, and chose to fiercely criticise the ‘operationlisation of the US-India nuclear deal’ and New Delhi’s bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Islamabad believes that New Delhi’s quest for more power would have a global and regional impact, and the nuclear deal would have a detrimental impact on stability in South Asia. Moreover, it would be interesting to note if the US could lobby for India to take a permanent seat at the UNSC as India has been refusing to comply with the UN resolutions on Kashmir since 1948.
The Obama administration and Modi regime are at work to frustrate the Chinese dream as envisioned by President Xi Jinping, but it seems that Indo-US nexus may fall short of achieving its objective as Sino-Pakistan strategists are working on alternative options which may marginalise premier Modi and company due to its extremist and chauvinistic agenda.