Yes, to prevent Chinese hegemony in Asia

By RAJEEV SRINIVASAN

Chanakya said it best: your neighbor is likely to be your enemy; therefore ally with its neighbors and rivals. Until the swallowing of the buffer state of Tibet, China wasn’t India’s neighbor, although it was always India’s rival for influence in Asia. Today, China is reverting to its ugliest imperialist mode and wants to be the absolute hegemon in Asia.

This is the sentiment behind the encirclement of India that China has been doing purposefully, the latest examples being the Chinese-built Pakistani port of Gwadar and the Myanmarese-owned Cocos islands where Chinese listening posts eavesdrop on India’s naval activities in the Andaman Sea.

The same is behind the orchestrated attacks on Japanese interests in China in April, under the pretext that “Japan hasn’t apologized enough for its WWII atrocities.” This, when China has extorted $34 billion from Japan (according to Farid Zakaria of Newsweek) as “reparations.”

In both cases, China is asserting that it will keep other Asian powers down through a variety of means, one of which is preventing India or Japan from getting the veto power in the UN Security Council. Nehru gave up the seat offered to India and insisted China get it (Selected Works of J. Nehru, Series II, Vol. 29, pp. 231), but China won’t help India.

China is a major strategic problem for India, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, and ASEAN: the 800-pound Chinese gorilla is throwing its weight around. China has territorial disputes galore. As historian R.C. Majumdar wrote perceptively, China is prone to bring up the most laughable “historical” claims to demand territory: the latest fairytale is that Korea’s founding imperial dynasty was Chinese. They will be demanding (energy-rich) Russian Siberia similarly any day now.

The United States cannot afford to simply leave Asia: China is looking to displace America and deny Taiwan and Japan the United States’ security umbrella. But America has been generally benign, Cambodia, Nixon-Kissinger, and Vietnam notwithstanding. China, with 200 million unemployable peasants driven off the land, will simply suck jobs out of its neighbors and export poverty if it becomes the major power in Asia.

From a military perspective, China is rapidly building up its blue-water navy, which it will use to bully neighbors in littoral waters, as it has been doing to Vietnam and the Philippines as well as to Japan, and most egregiously, Taiwan. Eventually, it will be eyeing vast, empty Australia as lebensraum for its teeming millions as it continues down a ruinous path of degrading land and water in headlong industrialization.

There is no alternative but a cordon sanitaire around China to encourage good behavior. This can only come about as the result of an alliance between the United States, Japan, and India, along with Taiwan, Vietnam, and Australia.

Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this from Singapore.

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No, India should collaborate with China

By SUGRUTHA RAMASWAMI

A Japan-India-U.S. alliance posited to counter China is so sweet a dream that it almost tastes like saccharine. With China’s near-completion of its encirclement of India, such an alliance, if it were to ever become reality, would kill not just two birds but close to a dozen with that one stone. Recent events such as the Japan-China textbook fracas and the Japanese prime minister’s warm visit to India seem to give us hope that such a dream could become a reality.

Add to it ongoing overtures from the United States, albeit tentatively, for a strategic partnership with India. All in all, it certainly is tempting to put two and four together for a clear overhead shot for a sixer. But the sad fact is that these are no simple arithmetic games, and even aiming for a ground-level square drive to the boundary for a four will be nothing less than wild speculation.

When someone wants something very badly, the whole world conspires to give it to them. I don’t remember who said it, but that is how China seems to have had it for the past 50 years. The main reason that this proposed tripartite alliance has so little chance is that United States and Japan themselves would never go for it wholeheartedly. In today’s world, economic inter-dependency is what security is all about, and China has very well established this security, even without resorting to brute military strength.

In comparison to China, India is still a wannabe, its great potential notwithstanding. Forget the UN Security Council seat, India is still struggling to enhance its partnership with ASEAN. It was denied a place in the ASEAN Plus 3 association, and has been placed in a dubious Plus 1 category. ASEAN is skeptical about India’s value.

At the moment, if India decided to pursue any strategic alliances to contain China, China is in a position to hurt us, with so many of its assets positioned around us. India does not have the political will or the economic and military strength to face down an irate China. At least not just yet. The United States has too much business interest at stake with China, and will not cover India in the event it becomes a victim of Chinese wrath.

India has only one option—to engage with all friends and adversaries economically. India has to explore economic ties with China, Japan, and ASEAN individually. India’s offer of a free trade zone with ASEAN is a right step in this direction. Equally sound are its overtures to Japan and China in trade and commerce. Building economic alliances will guarantee India its security far better than any strategic alliances, alliances in which India would be the partner carrying enormously more risks than the others.

Sugrutha Ramaswami is an IT professional in Piscataway, N.J.

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