Originally Published 2005-08-01 13:13:11 Published on Aug 01, 2005
The fact that the People's Republic of China (PRC) has so far avoided giving any direct official comment on the Manmohan Singh-Bush Joint Statement, needs to be weighed carefully for its significance.
Manmohan Singh - Bush Joint Statement
The fact that the People's Republic of China (PRC) has so far avoided giving any direct official comment on the Manmohan Singh-Bush Joint Statement, needs to be weighed carefully for its significance. It may not be wrong to assume that Beijing is still in the process of evaluating the full implications for the PRC arising from the important US-India agreements, reached during the Indian Prime Minister's visit to Washington (July 18-20, 2005) and would like to wait and watch further before coming out, if found necessary, with its well articulated stand in this regard at government-level.

It may at the same time be useful to put on record here the solitary official response from the PRC to the Joint Statement which came from the Foreign Ministry spokesman (Beijing, July 25, 2005). Answering to a press question on the agreed civilian nuclear energy cooperation, he said, "the international community has reached a consensus on relevant nuclear issues. We hope the relevant cooperation between US and India will be conducive to safeguarding the regional peace and stability in Asia". The tentative, indirect and guarded nature of the response has been obvious.

On the other hand, reactions to the Joint Statement noticed so far in the PRC's State-controlled English and Chinese language media dispatches and articles have been fairly indicative of the developing authoritative thinking on the subject. The following points are notable in this connection:

China factor

To a large extent, the Chinese official media tended to identify the US strategy to contain a 'rising' China as one of the motivating factors for Washington in promoting relations with New Delhi. A firm trend in this regard started emerging even prior to Manmohan Singh's visit. For e.g., The People's Daily-affiliate Global Times (Chinese, July 1,2005) observed that the ten year US-_India Defence Cooperation agreement was being regarded as " another important US step, which is partly intended to diminish China's influence in Asia and to safeguard and expand US strategic interests in the region". Post-visit Chinese comments have picked up the same theme. The ' Global News' (Chinese), a China Daily publication , highlighted (July 21,2005) the opinions of "Washington Times' and 'International Herald Tribune' that behind the US selection of India as its strategic weapon, lies the perception of the former that India, as a rising Asian big power, has the required potentials to restrict China. 

This was followed by a Chinese language signed Study paper meant apparently for domestic audience in China which expressed similar assessments on India-US relations. The Study captioned "Can India become a new instrument to obstruct China?" (originally carried by the China Management Daily, reproduced in the website of the PRC Foreign Ministry-affiliated Chinese Academy of Social Sciences-CASS, July 25,2005) remarked that Washington perceives India as a counter-balancing force with regard to a 'rising' China and accordingly feels the need to draw India into its fold as part of the US strategy to restrict the PRC. The Study quoted 'scholars' to say that using India to balance China's influence has become the nucleus of Washington's India policy. Another US aim is to make use of the powerful pro-American forces within India to affect Sino-Indian relations. 

The role of the ' China factor' in US-India ties was once again commented upon in a subsequent signed article in the issue dated August 4,2005 of the English-language journal Beijing Review.. " China factor is also a strong boost to US-India relations", it asserted, while highlighting in this connection the recent recommendations of an American think tank for US help to India in the latter's becoming an "Asian superpower", capable of 'counterbalancing' China. The issue also carried prominently the remarks made by Professor M.D.Nalapat of the Manipal Academy of Higher Education in India that the 'China factor' has played the biggest role in the increasing international attention given to India by the US, 'although the officials of both the countries will deny the same". 

India will not be submissive to the US

The Chinese media in all overall sense are assessing that India, with its independent foreign policy, is not going to be submissive to the US. Global Times ( see para above) focused on a statement made by the Indian Defence Minister Mukherjee( Washington, June 27,2005) that if US seeks hegemony, India will not be its attaché. It interpreted the statement as showing that "India, with an independent foreign policy, will not agree to establish an Indo-US strategic alliance against China". Xinhua (English, online, July 28,2005) publicized Mukherjee's remarks in the Parliament that "India will not fall in US trap".The aforesaid CASS Study made similar observations by saying that "Indian scholars" believe that " New Delhi will remain concerned over the impact of warming up of US-India relations on its efforts to improve relations with Pakistan, China and other neighbours". Noting in this connection the assurance given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the New Delhi-Washington relations will not be at the expense of India's relations with China, Russia and the European Union, the Study summed up its views by saying that "for Indians, their country is a natural big power equal in status to countries like US, China and Russia. The development of India-US ties would depend on the extent to which the US will be able to satisfy India's demands. 

The ties would also be subject to the course of domestic political forces in India". The Beijing Review issue, referred to above, ruled out an India submissive to the US, by arguing that "New Delhi always acts independently and relies on itself when dealing with international affairs". The silence of Bush during Manmohan Singh's visit on the question of India's UNSC permanent membership means visit not a full success from India's point of view (PD July 20).US did this because India is not submissive as Japan. 

Strategic considerations - India and US

The PRC media have commented on strategic considerations of US and India while deepening their ties. Besides the 'China factor', the other two points identified in the Beijing Review analysis (see above) are - US hopes to protect its strategic political, economic and military interests in South Asia and surrounding regions, especially to better enforce its anti-terrorism strategy through close ties with India and secondly, Washington's aim at achieving economic gains at a time when India has become the third largest economy in Asia after Japan and China. A third motive for the US is to utilize the potentials of India, a multi-religious big power with a tolerant policy towards its Muslim population, in opposing Islamic military strength (China Daily's World News, see above). On India's strategic considerations, the Beijing Review analysis said that' a stable India-US relation can bolster India's ambition to become a world power'. It added that 'since the 90s, rapid economic growth has boosted India's comprehensive national strength and as a result, the country has a growing desire to reshape the world. India really needs support from the US, since their "quasi-ally' will help India play a larger role in the world'

US-India civilian nuclear technology cooperation agreement

The Chinese media have indirectly criticized both US and India for the agreement. The authoritative People's Daily (online, July 20, 2005), quoting media, described the agreement as reflecting "victory of power politics against the NPT'. The same daily (July 22, 2005) described the step as a 'gesture to India against the non-proliferation policy which the US pursued for decades. It further questioned the qualification of India for receiving nuclear technology transfer in accordance with the NPT or US domestic laws as "India is not a party to the NPT, instead it developed nuclear weapons secretly and only promised to open its civilian nuclear facilities to international inspection". It then predicted that the agreement may run into trouble 'judging' from the responses being noticed in the US Congress on the matter of approval and in other nuclear countries concerning their recognition.

India-US relations: Present and future scenario

The PRC media assessments on the present and future course of India-US relations, especially those seen in the two important items - the CASS Study and the Beijing Review article, could be a pointer towards the emerging Chinese official thinking on the subject. According to the CASS Study, Manmohan Singh's visit signaled a "high tide" in US-India relations. As indicators to this effect, it said that Bush's call to respect the sanctity of the India-Pakistan LOC was in support of India's stand on the subject. Also, he delayed the US visit programme of the Pakistani Prime Minister to favour India, hinting US priority to India. Lastly, the US Asst Secretary of State Nicholas Burns described (June 25,2005) India as an ideal candidate for the UNSC Permanent membership though the US has not yet decided to support in this regard any second country other than Japan. As indicators in the military field, the Study said that the US is preparing to supply India advanced fighter aircraft in order to help the latter in realizing its dream of becoming a big power. 

In 2004, US and India held joint military excercises in Indian Ocean, territory near to the Sino-Indian border and Alaska.. The US-India Defence Cooperation Agreement of June 28, 2005 agreement, Indian left oppose that. The CASS Study saw a high tide in India-US relations The bottomline in these assessments seems to be, as Beijing Review puts it, that India is strategically valued by the US, the potential India-US competition and the US discontent with India are still not factors dominating US-India relations, in the coming years, Washington is likely to continue tolerating a defiant New Delhi and their relations will warm up. "But in overall interests of the respective countries, both the US and India will not compromise on key issues like India's bid for a permanent seat in the UNSC, India's meeting of its energy requirements through building an Iran-Pakistan-India oil pipeline etc.

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