December 10, 2010


[The Himalayan Voice remained inaccessible for sometime December 9 and  today, December 10 also. It disappeared by itself apparently for no reason at all. We apologize to our valued readers and contributors for any inconvenience the disappearance might have caused otherwise. Editor]


By Alam Rind
President Obama after spending three days in India left for Indonesia on November 8, 2010 that was followed by G-20 meeting in South Korea and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Japan before returning home. His visit to India can be termed as a success from US point of view. Business deals worth $10 billion were concluded. These deals are likely to create around 50,000 new jobs in USA and help the country to wriggle out of recession. On the other hand Indians managed to purchase a large chunk of military and nonmilitary hardware. The major military purchases include 10 Boeing C-17 cargo planes, artillery radars, aircraft engines etc.

Interestingly a tussle over the price of 10 C-17, which was quoted as $4.1 billion in the preliminary agreement signed during the visit, has surfaced. Indian Air Force is unhappy over unrealistic price while the top executives of the company hold that the $4.1 billion price tag excludes cost of engines and certain spare parts. Surprisingly Indian Air Force was expecting the cost of aircrafts to be around $3 billion. This huge difference in perceived and asked prices is likely to pose tough challenge for those negotiating final prices. If both side stick to their ground it may turn into an ugly irritant causing friction in the relations between the two countries.

While the Indian government was busy purchasing military hardware and convincing US President to relax conditions on the sale of dual use technologies, Indian media impatiently looked for anti-Pakistan remark that could be ascribed to US President. President Obama although was made to stay at Hotel Taj Mahal refrained from committing mistake similar to that of Prime Minister Cameron. While he asserted that extremism is hurting Pakistan he emphasized that a strong and prosperous Pakistan is in the interest of India. He even offered mediation on Kashmir if both the parties agree. His assertion that Kashmir is a long standing dispute between the two countries is an adequate acknowledgement that the problem of Kashmir needs to be resolved. Another observation is lack of remarks on Indian role in Afghanistan though he encouraged India to continue developmental works. All this reflects on the type of balance American’s want to create in the region. As Americans will not be able to realize their Asian ambition without the support of Pakistan they have started respecting Pakistan’s regional hope to have a friendly Afghanistan

While Americans are trying to keep Pakistan on their side by engaging into strategic dialogue and to some extent addressing her legitimate concerns. They are building India as a military power that critically disturbs regional balance of power. Few believe that India is being nurtured as a counter weight to China. The theory seems to be embedded in Washington’s desire to be sole leader of Asian security structure with US lead bilateral alliances as its backbone. In contrast to the American thinking, Chinese believe in multi-polar world, relative security and staunchly feel that technological advancement is always temporary as it can be surpassed through human innovation and ingenuity.

American resolve to impose hegemonic stability in the region is likely to be contested as absolute security of one state leads to absolute insecurity of other states. It is demonstrated by the fact that US is using force more frequently now than it did in the Cold War era. The fact that nothing is absolute and any nation can develop weapons for its self defense will force US to interfere in the internal affairs of the weaker nations to maintain her hegemony for longer duration. That is going to reduce these countries to a status of satellite states impeding their development and growth. But Asia is the home major powers of the world. The countries with whom Americans can deal only on a “win-win” proposition. While surrounded by the major powers of the world and located on future energy gateway, Pakistan needs to make smart choices.

Pakistan enjoys friendly relations with China and at the same time is US ally in GWOT. It is a stated fact that US will face difficulties in securing a respectable exit from Afghanistan without Pakistan’s assistance. At a time when Americans are in the process of imposing hegemonic stability in Asia, China must be feeling the heat of their presence. China will not like to see Pakistan converted into US satellite state. 

It is time for Pakistan to play her cards correctly. Pakistan must strengthen her economic relations with China. Strong economic ties with China will protect Pakistan from unnecessary American interference in its internal affairs. It will also add to its security and will provide greater leverage while dealing with USA and India.

The Global Powers


[Pessimists believe China and America are condemned to be rivals. The countries’ visions of the good society are very different. And, as China’s power grows, so will its determination to get its way and to do things in the world. America, by contrast, will inevitably balk at surrendering its pre-eminence.]

TOWARDS the end of 2003 and early in 2004 China’s most senior leaders put aside the routine of governing 1.3 billion people to spend a couple of afternoons studying the rise of great powers. You can imagine history’s grim inventory of war and destruction being laid out before them as they examined how, from the 15th century, empires and upstarts had often fought for supremacy. And you can imagine them moving on to the real subject of their inquiry: whether China will be able to take its place at the top without anyone resorting to arms.
In many ways China has made efforts to try to reassure an anxious world. It has repeatedly promised that it means only peace. It has spent freely on aid and investment, settled border disputes with its neighbours and rolled up its sleeves in UN peacekeeping forces and international organisations. When North Korea shelled a South Korean island last month China did at least try to create a framework to rein in its neighbour.
But reasonable China sometimes gives way to aggressive China. In March, when the North sank a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors, China failed to issue any condemnation. A few months later it fell out with Japan over some Chinese fishermen, arrested for ramming Japanese coastguard vessels around some disputed islands—and then it locked up some Japanese businessmen and withheld exports of rare earths vital for Japanese industry. And it has forcefully reasserted its claim to the Spratly and Paracel Islands and to sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea.
As the Chinese leaders’ history lesson will have told them, the relationship that determines whether the world is at peace or at war is that between pairs of great powers. Sometimes, as with Britain and America, it goes well. Sometimes, as between Britain and Germany, it does not.
So far, things have gone remarkably well between America and China. While China has devoted itself to economic growth, American security has focused on Islamic terrorism and war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the two mistrust each other. China sees America as a waning power that will eventually seek to block its own rise. And America worries about how Chinese nationalism, fuelled by rediscovered economic and military might, will express itself (see our special report).

The Peloponnesian pessimists

Pessimists believe China and America are condemned to be rivals. The countries’ visions of the good society are very different. And, as China’s power grows, so will its determination to get its way and to do things in the world. America, by contrast, will inevitably balk at surrendering its pre-eminence.
They are probably right about Chinese ambitions. Yet China need not be an enemy. Unlike the Soviet Union, it is no longer in the business of exporting its ideology. Unlike the 19th-century European powers, it is not looking to amass new colonies. And China and America have a lot in common. Both benefit from globalisation and from open markets where they buy raw materials and sell their exports. Both want a broadly stable world in which nuclear weapons do not spread and rogue states, like Iran and North Korea, have little scope to cause mayhem. Both would lose incalculably from war.
The best way to turn China into an opponent is to treat it as one. The danger is that spats and rows will sour relations between China and America, just as the friendship between Germany and Britain crumbled in the decades before the First World War. It is already happening in defence. Feeling threatened by American naval power, China has been modernising its missiles, submarines, radar, cyber-warfare and anti-satellite weapons. Now America feels on its mettle. Recent Pentagon assessments of China’s military strength warn of the threat to Taiwan and American bases and to aircraft-carriers near the Chinese coast. The US Navy has begun to deploy more forces in the Pacific. Feeling threatened anew, China may respond. Even if neither America nor China intended harm—if they wanted only to ensure their own security—each could nevertheless see the other as a growing threat.
Some would say the solution is for America to turn its back on military rivalry. But a weaker America would lead to chronic insecurity in East Asia and thus threaten the peaceful conduct of trade and commerce on which America’s prosperity depends. America therefore needs to be strong enough to guarantee the seas and protect Taiwan from Chinese attack.
How to take down the Great Wall
History shows that superpowers can coexist peacefully when the rising power believes it can rise unhindered and the incumbent power believes that the way it runs the world is not fundamentally threatened. So a military build-up needs to be accompanied by a build-up of trust.
There are lots of ways to build trust in Asia. One would be to help ensure that disputes and misunderstandings do not get out of hand. China should thus be more open about its military doctrine—about its nuclear posture, its aircraft-carriers and missile programme. Likewise, America and China need rules for disputes including North Korea (see article), Taiwan, space and cyber-warfare. And Asia as a whole needs agreements to help prevent every collision at sea from becoming a trial of strength.

America and China should try to work multilaterally. Instead of today’s confusion of competing venues, Asia needs a single regional security forum, such as the East Asia Summit, where it can do business. Asian countries could also collaborate more in confidence-boosting non-traditional security, such as health, environmental protection, anti-piracy and counter-terrorism, where threats by their nature cross borders.
If America wants to bind China into the rules-based liberal order it promotes, it needs to stick to the rules itself. Every time America breaks them—by, for instance, protectionism—it feeds China’s suspicions and undermines the very order it seeks.
China and America have one advantage over history’s great-power pairings: they saw the 20th century go disastrously wrong. It is up to them to ensure that the 21st is different.