PM Modi threads path between rising China and uncertain US
PM Modi navigated carefully between the two regional military powers
He studiously avoided any mention of the US, Japan and Australia — a grouping known as the Quad — in his speech
He hammered the kind of protectionism currently practiced by the US, both of which were sure to satisfy Chinese delegates
US defense secretary James Mattis described India as the “fulcrum’’ of security in the Indo-Pacific region as he traveled this week to an annual security conference in Singapore, attended for the first time by an Indian leader.
But, if Mattis was hoping that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would use the platform to join the US, Japan and Australia — a grouping known as the Quad — in a more muscular challenge to China’s regional expansion, he was disappointed. Instead, India’s strongest leader in decades navigated carefully between the two regional military powers.
Modi studiously avoided any mention of the Quad in his speech, and he hammered the kind of protectionism currently practiced by the US, both of which were sure to satisfy Chinese delegates.
“Asia and the world will have a better future when India and China work together in trust and confidence, sensitive to each other’s interests,” Modi told defense ministers and military officials assembled for the Shangri-La Dialogue, an event organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
He did echo US appeals for “freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law.” And he attacked governments that put other nations under “impossible burdens of debt.” Both were likely references to China for its behavior in the disputed South China Sea and its Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure projects -- which can come courtesy of large loans — in other countries.
Yet, Modi has done something of a turnaround on China in recent weeks, a far cry from his ground-breaking shift to deepen engagement with the US when he came to power in 2014, which was accompanied by a show at home of standing up to China’s rise with a more robust "act east" policy.
Tensions came to a head last summer when Indian and Chinese troops engaged in a standoff over a long-running border dispute. To embrace a more proactive India, the US rebranded its Asia-Pacific policy as “Indo-Pacific + ,” a change that fuels Chinese concerns about containment.
“The organizers of the Shangri-La Dialogue have been waiting for Modi for a while. India is seen as the linchpin for a longer term coalition to confront China,” said Manoj Joshi, a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. “Changing Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific was a means of getting Indian military capacity into the equation.”
“Modi gave a positive assessment of China-Indian relations in his speech,” Lieutenant General He Lei, who was leading the Chinese delegation, told state-run China Central Television afterward Friday. Modi’s speech was constructive and reflected a strong outlook for relations between the two countries, he added.
Next week, Modi will travel to China again, for a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security body dominated by China and Russia that India joined as a full member last year.
For some, the change is real, driven by a growing recognition that India simply lacks the economic and military capacity to compete with China, combined with growing uncertainty over the reliability of the U.S.
“Reality has hit home’’ when it comes to measuring up to China’s power, said Kanti Prasad Bajpai, director of the Center on Asia and Globalisation at Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. China’s military budget is more than three times as large as India’s, and its economy almost five times as big.
“Modi has simply understood that after a certain point India is not in a position to bear its fangs to China, especially given the unreliability of the U.S. under Trump,’’ he said.
The raw spending numbers may even underestimate the disparity in hard power between the world’s two most populous nations. Whereas China has plowed resources into developing and buying high-tech weapons, India spends as much as two-thirds of its defense budget on routine expenses such as personnel. In recent years, the percentage of the budget spent on capital investment has fallen.
When it comes to competing economically for the loyalties of countries in the region, the gap is even wider. India has no response to China’s Belt and Road program, + according to Syed Munir Khasru, director of the Institute for Policy, Advocacy and Governance, an international think tank headquartered in Bangladesh.
当涉及在经济上争夺该地区其他国家的忠诚时，差距甚至更大。据总部位于孟加拉国的国际智库--政策宣传和治理研究所所长Syed Munir Khasru说，印度没有对中国的“一带一路”计划做出任何回应。
“India has a lot of soft power, with rich history, art and culture, Bollywood and its vibrant democracy and so on,’’ Khasru said by phone. “But China has cash power.”
For others, though, the change is only one of optics, geared to the coming election. The security establishment remains alarmed by Chinese military expansion, in particular by signs it is looking for footholds in the Indian Ocean, which India has always seen as its preserve, said Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, who heads the South Asia program at IISS. Modi is simply seeking to ensure tensions don’t flare up for the next year, he said.
At the same time, India doesn’t want to let the U.S. draw it into a confrontation with China over the South China Sea, where China’s territorial claims cross over with nations such as Vietnam and the Philippines. India has always been leery of freedom-of-navigation operations -- where ships sail through areas of contention to make a point -- and of developing the Quad into a security-focused organization.
“Modi,’’ said Roy-Chaudhury, “is relentlessly pragmatic.’’
Biranchi Narayan Acharya-Cuttack-17 hours ago
Yes, Modi''s foreign policy & diplomacy is excellent.
Bijay3364 Bijay-Noida-16 hours ago
Vote for MODI in 2019 else Hindu will be in second grade citizen.
Crazyfrog-17 hours ago
this is certainly right diplomatic stance taken by India. No need to take sides and appease US, after all China is a neighbour and its better to have a friendly neighbourhood with China and Russia than with US. US foreign policies keep changing with times. Look how closely the Europe is except for Britain and Turkey
sanjoy-15 hours ago
We need to be economically strong with strong leader & determination I.e. why I like Modi.
Hemant Pursnani-Mumbai-16 hours ago
MODI = MAN OF DEFINITVE INTELLEIGENCE,
Give him 10 more years, Indians will travel to almost all countries visa free.