Facing the dragon
India should prepare for the worst consequences of opposing the China-Pak nuclear deal, says N.V.Subramanian.
18 June 2010: If what a section of the press reports is true, India then has taken a very significant and consequential step in diplomatically conveying to the Chinese its reservations about China's prospective nuclear deal with Pakistan. The United States has indicated opposing the deal at the coming NSG meeting after having equivocated on it, and it is not clear if the Indian hardness follows the American decision.
When pointedly asked about the nuclear deal, Manmohan Singh, who had obtained one previously from the United States, said he had no objection. This writer in a commentary two days ago felt the prime minister should judiciously have said "no comments" which would have expressed his disapproval. Now from a position of "no objection" to taking umbrage at the deal, if media reports are to be believed, reveals a flippancy and a lack of serious application to so serious a matter as a potentially proliferative nuclear arrangement between China and Pakistan, which is inexcusable.
The argument of the Indian government appears to be that it did not earlier specifically object to the deal because it assumed relations with China were improving, especially since the Copenhagen deal. That India-China coming together at the climate-change summit must be seen in perspective. China as the leading world polluter was almost effectively boxed in by America and the West. China appealed to India and India, ever eager to please, went the extra mile for China. India had no reason to bandwagon with China for India's need, because India could well have taken care of its own interests if the Manmohan Singh government so wanted.
While India did do China a favour in Copenhagen, the Indians appear to be publicizing this more than the Chinese, which brings uncomfortable reminiscences of Nehru tom-tomming about introducing isolated Red China to the world. Nobody likes condescension, and the Chinese are proud Han who hate it worst. The other thing about the Chinese is that they understand and respect the language of power and prefer if not always appreciate straight talking. The Indian side had to be delusional to believe that China would reciprocate for Copenhagen when the exercise was purely opportunistic. This is also why this writer cautioned against expecting anything from President Pratibha Patil's visit to China. The foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, cooed that China had indicated support for India's admission as a veto power in the UN Security Council. This writer disbelieved that, and unfortunately, that is how it has transpired. Now, the press reports the sudden chill occasioned by the China-Pak nuclear deal. This off-on way of conducting foreign relations is most perilous when it concerns China.
It is still not clear to this writer if the decision to talk tough to the Chinese has come from independent decision-making or follows a nudge from America, which, as noted in the forgoing, is now opposed to the deal. If India is following an independent course on this, and this course has been decided upon after extensive deliberation, obviously including assessing its impact on neighbourhood rivalries and Asia, India's growth and rise, strategic competition with China, and so forth, then this magazine supports the decision. After all, once the Indo-US nuclear deal became a fait accompli, this writer was left with no option but to uphold it in India's interest.
But if India's decision to take on China has originated in Washington, then New Delhi beware. America's interests apropos China or Pakistan or Afghanistan or Iran do not coincide with that of India, however genuine the hugs and kisses were at the recently-concluded Indo-US strategic dialogue. India's problems in the external realm are uniquely Indian, and no other country has solutions for them. At any rate, if India has expressed its reservations to the Chinese on the Pak deal, there is no going back on it, whether the move originated internally or came at the behest of the US. Delhi must now be ready for a Chinese reaction, and short of hostilities, China will throw everything against India. Be prepared, be firm, and don't back down now.
N.V.Subramanian is Editor, www.NewsInsight.net
, and writes internationally on strategic affairs. He has authored two novels, University of Love (Writers Workshop, Calcutta) and Courtesan of Storms (Har-Anand, Delhi). Email: email@example.com