Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The Foreign Policy Hawks Swoop Again
The mainstream media, aided by hawkish commentators like Brahma Chellaney, have in the past few months consistently pushed the idea of China's supposedly aggressive anti-India posture. This trend has reached an absurd extreme with reactions in this morning's papers to yesterday's US-China joint declaration. In the past, Indian diplomats were prickly about the slightest interference in what we call our 'internal affairs' even when the affairs are bilateral or multilateral. In the current scenario, bureaucrats and politicians have behaved responsibly, while media reactions have been over the top.
The lead article in today's Times of India adopts a tone echoed in numerous publications. Titled, 'US wants China to police S Asia?', the piece by Saibal Dasgupta and Indrani Bagchi quotes a sentence from the US-China joint statement and proceeds to over-read it:
'“They (US and China) support the efforts of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight terrorism, maintain domestic stability and achieve sustainable economic and social development, and support the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan,” the joint statement said.
This is a rare occasion when a US president has acknowledged that Beijing has a role to play in the India-Pakistan relationship. The move, if serious, runs counter to predictions of US foreign policy experts that the US would not acquiesce in a future Chinese hegemony in the region.'
In other words, by joining China in supporting improved India-Pakistan relations, the US has accepted Chinese hegemony in the region. There is a double non-sequitur here. First, the desire to see an improved relationship between two nations does not constitute playing a role in that relationship. Second, playing a role in the relationship does not imply hegemony in the region. The leap from 'support for improved relations' to 'hegemony' is breathtaking.
This, by the way, is not the first time that a US-China joint statement has mentioned the India-Pakistan relationship. A little over a decade ago, when Bill Clinton travelled to Beijing, the two nations signed a declaration devoted entirely to South Asia. It called for a far more activist (intrusive if you like) role for the two nations, and explicitly mentioned the Kashmir dispute as an area which called for intervention:
'Reducing Tensions and Encouraging the Peaceful Resolution of Differences between India and Pakistan
We are committed to assist where possible India and Pakistan to resolve peacefully the difficult and long-standing differences between them, including the issue of Kashmir. We
welcome the resumption of dialogue between the two countries and encourage them to continue such dialogue, and we stand ready to assist in the implementation of confidence-building measures between them, and encourage the consideration of additional measures of this type.
Responsibilities of China and the U.S.
China and the United States have long sought friendly relations with both India and Pakistan. We reaffirm this goal and our hope that we can jointly and individually contribute to the achievement of a peaceful, prosperous, and secure South Asia.'