India’s strategic rapprochement with the US is a topic of continuous anguish or irrational joy, depending on which side of the political spectrum one is located in India. It is a profoundly misguided way of looking at how national interests are pursued and how diplomacy is conducted. The latest cause of worry: a Sino-American strategic dialogue that some have argued may turn into a group of two (G-2) arrangement to lord over the world. India, it is argued, does not matter for the new US administration.
This is an argument, if it can be called one, which says many things: geopolitical illiteracy, a lack of confidence and a vision of India that is locked into a 1970s imagination of drought, poverty and industrial stagnation.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
The fact is that the world is a deeply uncertain place today. There is a global economic crisis of the kind not seen since the Great Depression. There are serious doubts if the US can weather the financial and economic storm unleashed in the wake of the subprime crisis. For those countries that hold large amounts of US treasury securities and dollars in foreign exchange, the fear is that a precipitous decline in the value of the dollar may spell ruin for them. Equally, for the US the fear is that if such countries unwind their positions in US securities and dollars, it will fuel a near-uncontrollable economic situation. Is it any wonder then that China (holder of $727 billion worth of treasury securities and a huge hoard of US dollars) and the US are trying to make arrangements for an orderly conduct of affairs in a chaotic financial world?
In the current situation, China is no doubt in a position to demand concessions from the US, ones that the latter may not like. These could include relaxation of opposition to unification with Taiwan, ensuring that Tibet drops from the radar of US opposition and any manner of trade-related issues. Between these bilateral matters and a Cold War-style “carving up” of the globe that a G-2 type agreement would presuppose is an unbridgeable gulf. Europe, Russia, India and a host of other nations are unlikely to ever let such an ambitious reordering of international relations occur. The US is in no position to enforce such a framework and China raises deep fears in large parts of the world.
In the 1970s, India was a non-aligned country with marked proximity to the Soviet Union. Today, we are notionally non-aligned, but much more diversified in terms of friendly relations with many nations. A Sino-American strategic dialogue should be the least of our worries.
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