China as meddler


The reference to relations between India and Pakistan and the acceptance of a role for China in South Asia in the joint statement issued during US President Barack Obama’s visit to China cannot be dismissed as routine diplomatic verbiage. They have implications for India and New Delhi cannot but be concerned and disappointed with them. India has done well to reject the possible suggestion of a monitoring role for China in the region as this cannot be in India’s interests. This is the second time India is referred to in a US-China statement after 1998. If the then reference to India’s nuclear tests was unnecessary, the present mention is more significant, because there is no specific reason for it. India has always rejected any third country role in its relations with Pakistan and there cannot be any compromise on this.

Promise of China’s co-operation with the US in resolving North Korean and Iranian nuclear issues is seen as having prompted the US to mention Indo-Pak ties in the statement. But China even otherwise has reasons to look for a dominant role in the region and acceptance by the world, especially the US, of that status. The division of the world into areas of influence is an old international practice. India cannot accept the grant of any such position for China in its neighbourhood. A bigger role for China in Pakistan and Afghanistan is not in India’s interests. The nexus between China and Pakistan has historically harmed India. Even the US interests in those two countries will not be served well by legitimising a bigger role for China in them. China and Pakistan do not see Afghan President Karzai as a friend, but would the US accept it?

There have been persisting doubts about the Obama administration’s policy on India and its outlook on New Delhi’s relations with others. Some of these doubts like those about the US position on Kashmir and the position on India’s nuclear status have often been clarified but they tend to surface again and again. They do not provide a stable and reliable framework for relations between India and the US. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is visiting the US next week. He should convey India’s concerns and unhappiness over unhelpful US policies in the region. He should get a clearer picture of the shape of India-US relations in future, in themselves, and with respect to other countries.

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