[A-List] Competing and collaborating imperialisms
Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Fri Mar 22 06:38:39 MST 2002
The reality and illusion of Sino-Indian cooperation
By Ehsan Ahrari
Asia Times, March 22, 2002
The January visit to India by Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji led to speculation that the two great Asian neighbors were seeking avenues for cooperation. The issue that was prominently mentioned as of the utmost concern to both of them was terrorism.
Undoubtedly, China and India have reasons to be wary of terrorism within their own borders: China is fighting Uighur separatists in its extreme western regions, whom it accuses of indulging in terrorism, while India is fighting Kashmiri insurgents who are bent on ending India's rule in Indian-administered Kashmir. There are two other related common variables involving the Uighur and the Kashmiri separatists.
First, both groups are Muslims, and have been accused of receiving assistance from the Taliban-al Qaeda nexus that operated in Afghanistan until last October. Even though that nexus has been destroyed through the US military campaign, the separatist movements are very much alive in Xinjiang and Kashmir. Second, the issues of the independence of Xinjiang province and the resolution of the Kashmir conflict have been a part of US concerns.
The Bush administration cloaked its concerns over Xinjiang under the umbrella of human rights before September 11. Since then, at least from its own viewpoint, China has had pretty much of a free hand in handling Uighur separatist activities, which Beijing has conveniently lumped under the rubric "terrorism".
But in all likelihood the Bush administration will retain its pre-September 11 mode of scrutiny of the Chinese treatment of the Uighurs since it has already adopted a similar posture vis-a-vis the Russian handling of the Chechen separatists. (1)
Regarding Kashmir, the high-level US involvement in putting pressure on India for its peaceful resolution remains a source of concern to Indian officials who have consistently rejected outside interference on that issue. As a fallback option, various Indian spokespersons have sent out trial balloons suggesting the conversion of the present Line of Control separating the Indian and Pakistani troops into an international border.
Thus, China and India definitely have high hopes of maintaining their respective control in Xinjiang and Kashmir for continued cooperation. But that basis may not be sufficient.
China and India have high aspirations of emerging as great powers. Their economies are growing at annual rates of between 5 and 7 percent at a time when the US and Japanese economies are in a state of decline. This means that both China and India will be able to bankroll their ambitious force modernization projects, and, indeed, are already doing so.
Since all wanna-be great powers have their respective spheres of influence, both China and India have also been focused on finding partners in regions that they deem significant. China has staked out East Asia as its area of primary concern, but has not ruled out having a heightened naval presence in an area that India regards as its sphere of influence, the Indian Ocean. In this regard, the Sino-Pakistani nexus becomes significant from the Chinese perspective, since Pakistan's primary interest is to upstage India.
China's presence in Pakistan's Gwadar seaport in the Arabian Sea will become an important point of China's presence on the northwestern flank of India, while the availability of Myanmar's ports serves a similar purpose for the Chinese navy in India's southeastern flank.
India, for its part, has been active in East Asia through its "Look East" policy, but not with a great deal of success. Lately, however, India's emerging close ties with Israel and Turkey have been touted as the making of a "new triple alliance in Eurasia".
If this relationship, indeed, were to evolve in the coming years, India would gain a decisive advantage over China through the continued purchase of high-tech weaponry from Israel. Needless to say, the United States has the power to veto such transactions between Israel and any third party that Washington deems improper from its own strategic interests. In fact, the Bush administration is reportedly blocking the sale of the Arrow anti-missile system - jointly produced by Israel and the United States - to India. (2)
At the same time, given the fact that Sino-Israeli military ties have also been in existence for the past decade or so, China may easily position itself to engage Israel in such a way that the military aspect of the India-Turkey-Israel nexus would not harm its strategic interests.
So, despite expressing their genuine willingness to cooperate on transnational terrorism, China and India remain classic adversaries whose aspirations for strategic primacy remain supreme over other issues, no matter how intractable or how ominous.
(1) Peter Baker, "US-Russia Ties Suffer A Renewal of Tension", Washington Post Foreign Service, electronic version, January 15, 2002.
(2) Janine Zacharia, "US Trying to Stop Arrow Sale to India", Jerusalem Post, electronic version, January 16, 2002.
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michael.keaney at mbs.fi
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