Monday, September 29, 2014

Achieving a Pivot to China

India considers China their major military problem now rather than Pakistan. Repeatedly defeating Pakistan in wars since World War II and China's recent dramatic rise in economic and military power led India to this conclusion. Unfortunately, Pakistan remains an enemy to India's rear as India faces China.

China now considers Indian possession of territory on their side of the line of actual control (LAC) in the north a violation of China's "core interests" that China considers worth going to war to achieve:

Besides Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang where Beijing has territorial disputes, its core interests include maritime territorial disputes with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Official sources said [China's new ambassador to India, Le Yucheng's] remark linking PLA's latest transgression in Chumar with "core interest" is significant as it indicates China's hardening of stand on its dispute with India.

ET had reported earlier that PLA transgresses into Chumar to neutralise India's strategic advantage in the area and sent an unusual large contingent of troopers ahead of Xi's visit to negotiate hard so that India is forced to dismantle its infrastructure there.

More broadly, adding another "core interest" to China's ever-growing list makes me wonder what won't become a core interest of China? It's like a friggin' Amazon wish list at this point.

For India, the important thing is that they are now on that core wish list and must prepare accordingly.

Yes, India is shifting focus and forces to the north. That's good.

But even as China has become India's biggest problem, India remains Pakistan's biggest problem. Which means that Pakistan continues to demand attention from India's defense planners.

And Pakistan has nukes. Surely China wouldn't shed too many tears if India and Pakistan exchanged nukes.

So actually ending the India-Pakistan front rather than merely demoting Pakistan in the Pantheon of Foes is the best course, as India's new prime minister said at the United Nations:

"I do want to hold bilateral talks with them but it is also the duty of Pakistan to come forward and create an appropriate atmosphere," Modi said, according to a translation of his comments made in the Hindi language.

This won't be easy. Pakistan's military justifies its outsized role in Pakistani politics and economy on the need to confront India. The military may not be eager to lose another conventional war with India (but jumping in on a war between India and China is another thing, hence the need for India to end the conflict with Pakistan), but they do support terrorism and separatism inside India to keep India an enemy and justify their privileged position.

But the need for peace with Pakistan should not be in doubt as India seeks to pivot to China. For a lesson, India can look no further than our own pivot to Asia to face China, which involved downgrading both Europe and the Middle East to do so.

And now we find ourselves confronting a new Russian threat to peace in Europe and another war in the Middle East against jihadi fanatics.

Pity that Pakistan can't be persuaded that a nuclear-armed Iran is a bigger actual threat to Pakistan than India, which truly would prefer to have peace on their western border.

UPDATE: Related on increased India-America security cooperation:

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has wrapped up a momentous maiden voyage to the United States. On Tuesday, he met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, which resulted in the customary joint statement. Obama and Modi had to that point spoken exclusively on the phone. Regardless of this meeting’s status as an ice breaker for the two leaders, the joint statement points to a bright future for U.S.-India cooperation in security and defense matters in particular.

In a perfect world, we can use our relationship with Pakistan to get them to wise up and stop looking for a fight with India--or acting like it to maintain their privileged position in Pakistan.