Monday, July 02, 2018

It's Just the Normal Noises in Here

India is maneuvering very normally in light of the US-China rivalry, and not in some "authentically" Indian way.

Is this something uniquely and authentically Indian?

Rather than joining in a compact with the United States against China, Modi was staking out a an authentically Indian position: standing up to China on its own terms, as a champion of the rules-based order. Modi thus gave coherent voice to a pattern of policies that have already emerged in practice. In 2017, India boycotted the Belt and Road Initiative conference, resisted territorial encroachments at Doklam, and resuscitated the informal consultative mechanism between India, the United States, Japan, and Australia, known as the Quad. The Shangri-La speech codified Indian policy as a defense of an inclusive, rules-based order, rather than a self-aggrandizing contest with China.

And doesn't this undermine the claim of avoiding a "self-aggrandizing" contest with China?

India has been accelerating its security competition with China, albeit gradually. On the border, India is raising a massive new mountain strike corps, and revitalizing its road and air-strip infrastructure. At sea, India is publicizing an aggressive tempo of “presence patrols” in the Indian Ocean, leading the development of a new multilateral network for maritime domain awareness, and striking deals for new port access in Oman, Indonesia, and possibly the Seychelles. Across domains, it is gradually expanding its slate of military exercises and other cooperation with partners, including the United States. And it continues to develop longer-range ballistic missiles, and is even introducing new joint military organizations to run special forces, cyber, and space operations.

I'm not sure what "self-aggrandizing" means and why the lack of it means that beefing up Indian military capabilities is an "authentic Indian position" rather than just normal international politics in action.

This is how I see it:

China is stronger than India and India needs a military ally to deter China.

America is stronger than China, and so is a useful counter-weight to China while India builds up military capabilities to counter China.

But India probably thinks that in the long run, China will be stronger than America. So India doesn't want to tie its fate to America in the long run with a more formal defense alliance when America may need India as much as the reverse.

And India would like to use the loose alignment with America to pressure China into supporting a rules-based code of conduct while China is inferior to the Indian-American friendship so that when China is superior to any potential opponent, China will behave within those rules.

This is hardly a uniquely authentic Indian approach to international relations. It's just measuring power and future power and trying to maximize your ability to deal with or exploit the power you measure.

Although it is possible that it is authentically Indian to wrongly believe that any rules China agrees to now won't be reopened for amendment when China is more powerful (which I don't assume will happen).