August 1, 2005
By Peter Brookes
The Bush administration's most unheralded
foreign policy success - besides Libya's WMD disarmament and
freeing Lebanon from Syria's iron grip - is the dramatic upswing in
As evidence, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President
Bush issued a joint statement deepening relations, including
civilian nuclear power cooperation, during Singh's recent
Washington visit. Ties with the South Asian giant haven't been
Strong relations with Delhi make sense for many reasons, including
energy security and counterterrorism, but, perhaps, for no more
important purpose today than balancing China's strategic rise in
China's emergence onto the world stage as a major regional - and
global - power will define this century's international political
landscape. Fortunately, India and the U.S. are natural, even
well-suited, allies in managing and tempering China's
In addition to being the world's second- and third-most populous
nations (after China), India and the U.S. are the world's first-
and second-largest democracies.
India, though still a developing country, has the world's
fastest-growing economy (behind China) and the world's
12th-largest, posting an impressive 7 percent growth rate since
implementing reforms in the early 1990s.
The U.S. is India's largest trading partner, with bilateral trade
topping $18 billion per year. America is also the largest investor
in India's economy, and over 40 percent of U.S. temporary work
visas go to Indians - most for the IT sector.
On the security front, after China, India has the largest military
in Asia with an armed force of 1.3 million - not to mention a
nuclear arsenal. Concerned about its security environment, Indian
defense spending is up by 33 percent.
Delhi has concerns about Beijing's rise - though, in general, India
doesn't necessarily see China as an imminent threat. Although they
fought a 1962 border war that remains unresolved, the Sino-Indian
relationship is stable - and, perhaps, may even improve as trade
Despite this, some Indians are increasingly wary of Chinese
regional intentions. Nothing is more troubling to Delhi than
China's security relationship with India's long-standing rival and
nuclear neighbor, Pakistan.
China provided significant assistance to Pakistan's conventional,
ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs over the years.
Today, China's continued cooperation with Pakistan on these issues
remains a thorn in the side of Sino-Indian relations.
India is also troubled by China's financing of a major port
facility at Gwader in western Pakistan. Delhi fears that the
Chinese navy will use the strategically located port (near the
Persian Gulf) for future Indian Ocean operations.
Equally disturbing is China's robust military buildup - a
development that is raising eyebrows in both Washington and Delhi.
The Pentagon suggests in a recent report to Congress that China now
has the world's third-largest defense budget (after the U.S. and
Russia) at $90 billion per year.
While some dispute the ranking of China's defense spending, they
don't contest that Beijing has the world's fastest-growing
peacetime defense budget. In fact, Beijing recently announced a 13
percent addition to its defense budget, compounding more than a
decade of double-digit increases.
While Indian strategists see China's military buildup as mainly
directed at its neighbor Taiwan, they've taken careful notice of
reports about Beijing building military airfields in southwestern
China near India and its presence in nearby Burma - both far from
the Taiwan Strait.
By most accounts, Delhi isn't interested in a confrontational
relationship with Beijing at the moment, much less the notion of
containing China. But Delhi - not to mention Washington - is keenly
attentive to Chinese ambitions and the Beijing's rapid accumulation
of political, economic and military power.
Both countries recognize China's potential for destabilizing an
international system that has long favored balance. One has only to
think of the disruptive effect that the emergence of a new major
power, such as Bismarck's Germany or the Soviet Union, has often
had on international peace and stability.
Beijing's emergence as a significant threat to the United States or
India - or their interests - isn't a foregone conclusion by any
means; China's trajectory is uncertain. But one thing is certain:
China is intent on challenging both India and the U.S. for
preeminence in Asia - even globally.
That likelihood makes it critical that both Delhi and Washington
continue to develop an effective partnership for not only
addressing regional/global challenges, but for building a strategy
for peacefully balancing China's inevitable rise in the
First appeared in The New York Post. Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow. E-mail: email@example.com
THE Bush administration's most unheralded foreign policy success — besides Libya's WMD disarmament and freeing Lebanon from Syria's iron grip — is the dramatic upswing in U.S.-Indian relations.
Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
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