Friday, September 3, 2010

India Can't Master Great Game By Playing The Same Game

Communist Chinese apparently rejected a visa to an Indian General, who happened to command forces in J&K fighting Islamic terrorists sponsored by Chinese all-weather-friend Pakistan, to visit China to continue the bonhomie between PLA and BR. While this is not the first time Chinese played their usual visa games, Indian establishment expressed sharp indignation that no one knew they had when it came to China. And after expressing their new found indignation, the establishment went back to what it always does - pretend that it is the mature party of the two and, of course, looking for validation of the pretense.

Rory Medcalf, Australian India watcher, offers such validation in Wall Street Journal. Indian establishment probably passed on the column amongst themselves and are patting themselves on their backs by now. We have seen the movie before.

Although Sri Medcalf says all the right things, they don't add up to much more than what India is doing currently. So it's a hard case to make that India would somehow master the great game with China by making the same bidding.

First, how it is that, if India broke off defense relations with China, India would end up losing on other areas on cooperation - such as man-made-up man-made climate change issue to serious issues such as global financial reform or world trade negotiations? Why is that it never hurts China when it plays its games?

On making new allies, India has shown no capability, since its inception in the current form, to form and lead alliances when key strategic and national security issues are at stake. This non-capability is the direct result of Nehru's foreign policy shadow on Indian establishment, which still persists. Beyond the utterly useless talk shops like Non-Alignment movement, India formed key alliance with Soviet Union to counter US, British, and Pakistan alliance during cold war, but only as a junior partner of the Soviets, with nothing to contribute to the alliance. The only strategic alliance India formed with other nations was an quasi-alliance to support the Northern Alliance of Afghanistan pre-9/11. But India won't lead its allies to complete the mission even as Pakistan, and its ally, Taliban, took over most of the nation to rule over Afghanistan for several years. Post-9/11, US scooped up the existing Northern Alliance to meet its own objectives while bringing erstwhile anti-Northern Alliance Pakistan into the mix, sidelining the former quasi-alliance that India was part of! India is mulling again to re-form the same Northern Alliance with Iran and Russia. Expect the same result. Beyond bragging rights for Indian establishment, it means nothing on the ground.

So this notion that India will form a strong, or, for that matter, loose, alliance with nations impacted by Chinese actions in South China is just not viable. It simply does not exist in Indian establishment's DNA. Again, with a few exception, the current Congress I establishment is still under the shadow of the left wing liberal Nehru foreign policy contours. (With few exceptions, most BJP leadership also follow under that dark shadow.) So it is comfortable with appropriating and pursing silly ideas, that originate mostly in the Washington, such as narrowing trust-deficit with terror sponsoring Pakistan.

The other suggestion that India should act as a grown up by simply following the current maritime strategy of not competing, but by remaining second tier defense force to China, is more puzzling. How exactly does a weaker power act as though it is the more mature one in a great game?  Chinese leadership may be communists, but they are not stupid to see the pretense of maturity as anything but just that. If India aggressively becomes, or takes a trajectory to become, more powerful than China then, and only then, can it act as a mature power. One can't be both a guerrilla and be a mature party in the game.

Until Indian establishment comes out of Nehru's shadow of abstract, and frankly pompous, foreign policy, with little substance to back it up, China will continue to play the game on its own terms and get away with it.

Beyond taking shot at liberal Indian media for its silliness on serious issues, which is not the most difficult thing to do, at least Sri Medcalf doesn't suggest that India should use Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM, as mediator to improve relations between India and China because, well, Sri Rudd can speak impeccable Mandarin.

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