India-China Great Power Rivalry starts

Posted in China , Asia , India | 03-May-10 | Author: Balaji Chandramohan

If anything could be read aloud at end of the 16th South Asia Association of Regional Co-operation ( SAARC) in Thimphu, the capital of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, is the beginning of the great power rivalry between India and China first in the region of South Asia and in the greater part of the Asia-Pacific in the years to come.

Nothing illustrates better than this example than the attendance of Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya in the 16th SAARC summit. China has been an observer nation in the SAARC summits since 2005 and wishes to have a permanent membership much to India's irritant. It seems that China is taking its observer status in the SAARC seriously.

Meanwhile, to lure other South Asian countries into its ambit, China has announced US$300,000 to the SAARC Development Fund at the end of the SAARC summit. Now, what India should worry is that China could overtake India as the leading trading partner with other countries in the South Asia. This is a classic example of Chinese "soft power"

Besides, China wishes to break the so called "Himalayan Barrier." No invasion has occurred in the sub-continent thought the plateau of Tibet except in the winter of 1962. China wishes to change the status quo and wants to use the other members of the SAARC countries to give a red-carpet welcome to the Middle Kingdom to spread its influence in South Asia and in the Indian Ocean.

To counter the spread of the influence of China, India has borrowed a great prophetic line from former United States, Bill Clinton, "Engaging with your adversary is not endorsement".

This thought was one of the reasons why Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided to "engage" with his Pakistan counter-part Yousuf Gilani on the sidelines of the SAARC summit. This was the high point of the 16th SAARC summit held in Bhutan. India wishes to make peace with Pakistan before the Asia Giant can spread its wings in the other parts of Asia.

India and Pakistan agreed to resume composite dialogue at the Foreign Secretary level in the immediate future. India's gamble is simple to counter China; it needs to make peace with Pakistan. From the corridors of the South Block in India, the message is clear; India will strengthen the position of Yousuf Gilani in Pakistan in return for actions against terrorists in Pakistan.

At the end of the SAARC summit, India decided to d├ętente its relations with Pakistan. This is a clear departure from the cold relation prevailed between India and Pakistan following the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, India.

The brain behind the compromise formula is believed to be current National Security Advisor and former Foreign Secretary, Shiv Shankar Menon who has a diplomatic background unlike his predecessor, M.K. Narayanan who had a Intelligence background and was highly suspicious of the motives of Islamabad. In fact, India's this stance is a departure from earlier stance of militarization of the diplomacy in order to counter Pakistan.

In fact, there seems to be minor chuckle and advice that has come from Washington which has forced India to solve its problem with Pakistan so that it can better ( read along with Uncle Sam) counter Dragon's presence in the greater party of Asia in the years and decades to come.

Manmohan Singh though an economist by background has it seems read Monroe Doctrine at least before the SAARC summit. Security establishment in India has always cited the 19th Century Monroe Doctrine of then the United States James Monroe to emphasize if other great powers in the world needs to" interact" with any countries in the sub-continent, India needs to consulted before.

Incidentally, the Monroe Doctrine insulated the Americas from the Concert of Europe and the Balance of Power from the European continent. Theoretically, the Monroe Doctrine helped the United States to projects its power as a great power in the later part of the 19th century and this is exactly the analogy that Indian security establishment wishes to have to projects its might in the later stages of the 21st century.

Understanding, the importance of India in the changing global order, the Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai had paid a state visit to India just ahead of the SAARC summit. Afghanistan was inducted as a SAARC member during the July 2008 Colombo summit, courtesy to India for that.

The 16th SAARC summit was attended by eight member nations such as Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Maldives. Besides, there are eight other "observer nations" such as Iran. the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Mauritius, Australia and Myanmar. India wishes to extend the SAARC membership to countries such as Australia and Mauritius for greater co-operation in the Indian Ocean region.

The 16th SAARC summit commemorated the 25th anniversary of the formation of SAARC as a regional forum. In fact, the wheel had come full circle when the SAARC was started in 1985. It was feared that the countries in the sub-continent had started a forum to act as a counter -weight to New Delhi. However, after the 25th anniversary of the SAARC, India has decided to counter the influence of the big Asia Giant China in its own backyard by borrowing a phrase from the great Chinese Strategist and Military General, Sun-tzu who had written ins in his book "Art of War" " Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer"