US offers empty promises to India

By Long Xingchun Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/22 19:53:39

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will embark on a trip to India this week. Before his visit, he made a speech over the US-India relationship, noting that India could become the world's second-biggest economy by 2050 and surpass China's population within 10 years. Since India is a democratic nation, Tillerson claimed "in this period of uncertainty and somewhat angst, India needs a reliable partner on the world stage, I want to make clear: with our shared values and vision for global stability, peace, and prosperity, the United States is that partner." While praising the significance of US-India ties, Tillerson also criticized China in various aspects, leaving the impression that the relationship between Washington and New Delhi is crucial because of China.

The US-India relationship has great potential. India, being a major power in the international arena with the second-largest population in the world, as well as one of the fastest growing economies, can be a critical market for the US in the future. Since the US is the largest economy and the only superpower in the world, New Delhi needs to maintain a good relationship with Washington for its economic development and the promotion of its global status. The two nations have enough reasons to keep close ties without specifically mentioning Beijing. Otherwise it makes people doubt Tillerson's India tour is really about India.

Tillerson also cited the US as having important relations with China, but that it will never have the same relationship with China, a non-democratic society, that it can have with a major democracy. Anyone with political sense knows that it is conventional for US and Indian diplomats to talk about democracy, freedom and values before any substantial content.

India has been a democratic country since its independence. However, during the Cold War, US-India relations were far worse than ties between India and the Soviet Union. In the meantime, Washington allied with Pakistan, New Delhi's long-standing enemy. Even after the Cold War, relations between the US and some non-democratic nations were far better than US-India ties. For the results-oriented Trump's administration that emphasizes "America first" and downplays ideology, it is hard to imagine that democracy would be the reason why the US strengthens its ties with India.

Washington is not sincerely supporting New Delhi. In terms of India's desire for UN reform, from the outset the US backed only Japan to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council while holding a negative attitude toward New Delhi's bid. The White House later changed its attitude and started to support India when then US president Barack Obama visited the country in 2009, after which he raised the Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy. It made people suspect the US was not genuinely giving strong backing to India, but was drawing New Delhi out to contain China. Such a presumption was proved right when the US failed to take any practical measures in support of India.

For instance, the US encouraged India to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Yet the bid encountered objections from US allies including Norway, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Ireland, Turkey and Austria. Obviously Washington did not strive hard enough to make its allies change their stances. Nevertheless India seems to have only held a grudge against China for not being supportive. In the end, this disagreement did the US a favor and drove a wedge between China and India.

The behavior of the US indicates that supporting India is nothing more than a cover. All the US wants is to contain China and split Asia. As Tillerson said, "We are already capturing the benefits of our important trilateral engagement between the US, India and Japan. As we look ahead, there is room to invite others, including Australia, to build on the shared objectives and initiatives." The Trump administration has not given up on the Asia-Pacific rebalance. The US intention to create a NATO in Asia has not changed.

India can certainly take advantage of US intentions to win itself more. But clever Indians will eventually see through Washington and realize the US will only help New Delhi when the US is in need, not when India is in need.

Indians should be aware that China is not the former Soviet Union. The Sino-US relationship will not develop into an all-round confrontation like the one once forged between the US and the Soviet Union. Washington itself is now avoiding conflict with Beijing. It is thus difficult to imagine how much support the US would give New Delhi if a clash broke out between China and India.

Washington is not the one that will make India great again. Both Beijing and New Delhi should try more to pursue the "Asian Century," rather than losing that chance by fighting each other.

The author is a senior research fellow at The Charhar Institute and director of the Center of India Studies at China West Normal University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn



Posted in: ASIAN REVIEW

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