Saturday, May 16, 2015

Once Again, Not a Nixon Goes to China Moment

India's prime minister thinks China should reconsider their bullying of India:

"Our relationship has been complex in recent decades," Modi said, adding there were issues that "trouble smooth development of our relations".

"But, we have a historic responsibility to turn this relationship into a source of strength for each other and a force of good for the world," he said, adding that the Chinese leadership had been "responsive" in the meetings.

"We are committed to set a new direction between the two largest Asian countries," he said.

Heaven help us, but some in India actually thinks this is a Nixon goes to China moment.

Before the trip, that's what was being said. But India-China moves to improve relations is not a "Nixon goes to China moment" notwithstanding that Prime Minister Modi is known to be willing to stand up to China and actually went to China this week:

In that context, the name of Richard Nixon is never far from the lips of Indian strategists. Like Nixon, Mr Modi is a right-winger, a nationalist with form—for instance, in promising to be tough on China (as well as on Pakistan, China’s ally in South Asia). He is, in other words, probably better placed than previous Indian leaders to find a compromise that would settle the border dispute and make it acceptable back home. In conversation Mr Modi repeatedly emphasises the scale of his election victory last year. In international affairs, he implies, it gives him unusual latitude.

Just what sort of compromise on the border do those arguing for a border deal have in mind?

Pray tell, will China be content with just getting some of India's territory that Peking claims as their own?

With a third of the defense budget of China, this trip to China isn't a strong party seeking to end a confrontation with a weaker party in order to confront a common third party. This is more akin to pleading to be left alone.

Despite China's current fixation on the South China Sea, don't forget China's New Silk Road project to Europe that lies to India's north and the supporting naval deployments all the way to the Mediterranean Sea that must go through the Indian Ocean to India's south.

And speaking of Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles that everyone assumes are directed at our aircraft carriers in the western Pacific. Fun with maps, eh?

India should be grateful that they have the Himalaya Mountains between them. And focus more on disrupting the fragile China-Russia detente (where we are at least spared strained comparisons of who is the Nixon in that relationship).

For God's sake India should stop trying to dress up justified strategic worry about China's power and intentions as Nixonian leveraging and get another historical analogy.

And build a better military, of course. Or writers will start using the expression "a Modi goes to China moment" to describe futile efforts to downplay a strategic foe's ambitions at your expense (although Indian strategists might want to promote "a (Hillary) Clinton goes to Russia moment" given that whole "reset" debacle to preempt that).

UPDATE: Oh, and I forgot this piece of the naval puzzle:

China declined to confirm or deny a report that it was in talks for a military base in Horn of Africa country Djibouti, saying only that it wanted to make a greater contribution to regional peace and stability.

That is a new direction, you must admit.