Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lecture at North Carolina State University (NCSU)


I was in North Carolina recently and had given a lecture on the rising Chinese military power at the North Carolina State University (February 23, 2010). The lecture was essentially for two classes, one on Chinese Politics of Prof. Oliver Williams and the other, US National Security Strategy of Prof. William Boettcher.



Rise of China has clearly stirred a debate not only in India and other countries in Asia, but in the US and other western countries. It is unclear as to how China will behave as it grows stronger, but it is clear that it will have significant impact on the region. As a recent US report put it, as “Chinese military power grows, its leaders’ options increase with respect to the use of coercion to press diplomatic advantage, advance interests, or resolve disputes.” While some of the major powers have adopted inclusive and accommodative approaches, other powers have tended to assume exclusive approaches that are not congenial to a stable Asian security order.

What drives Chinese military strategy is its fast-paced growth rate that allows greater money in its kitty along with greater ambitions and even greater sense of insecurity. Chinese military modernisation is also clearly in tune with its ambition to become the number one power in the world. Chinese military modernisation and its enhanced capabilities have resulted in uncertainties in the region. While procurement of weapon systems need not necessarily result in better capabilities, China has systematically relied on Russian, Western and Israeli technology to buy as well as imbibe the technology into its own indigenous technology kitty.

China’s military modernisation and the secrecy that shrouds it also have serious consequences for Asian stability. China’s military modernisation would directly impact on the general military build-up in the region, particularly in countries like India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. If India modernises its forces, there would be almost simultaneous enhancement of defence capabilities by Pakistan. China’s military modernisation, thus, has a cascading effect in the region, with increasing arms race as a constant feature.

While China’s behaviour, for the near-term, is likely to be defensive towards more capable powers such as the US, its overall capability building goes beyond its stated objectives (of defending themselves against Taiwan). This fits within its overall grand strategy of ensuring a peaceful external security environment in order to focus on its economic development. However, the increasing Chinese defence expenditure and its military modernization suggest that other powers need to be cautious in estimating the consequences of China’s rise.

This is the first time in centuries that there is simultaneous rise of three major powers in Asia. While China is realistic to understand that rise of other major powers in Asia -- Japan and India -- cannot be halted, it does adopt approaches that are counterproductive to a cooperative framework in Asia. India and Japan, for instance, will continue to look for an inclusive approach as opposed to the Chinese’ exclusivist approach that appears directed against India, US and Japan. Beijing has continued to believe that its peaceful rise and the emergence as a dominant power in Asia is only an assumption of its rightful place in the region and in fact a return to the old, but natural order for the region. India may not be willing to see an Asia dominated by any one power.

Therefore, competition for influence between China and Japan, China and the US, China and Russia and China and India are going to be some of the unfortunate features of the new Asian century. US choice as either an engaged Asian power or a reclusive offshore balancer will be an indicator to its key security partners in Asia about the credibility of the US extended deterrence strategy as well as the future Asian security matrix.

ISA Annual Convention in New Orleans


I recently attended the International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Convention at New Orleans, USA (February 17-20, 2010). I had put up a panel on India and the Major Powers, where I had Prof. Vincent Wang presenting paper on India-China relations titled, The Rise of India and / versus the Rise of China:
“Chindia” or Rivalry?; Dr. Katsuhisa Furukawa on Japan’s Evolving Perspectives toward India; Dr. Rudra Chaudhuri on Re-assessing India’s Emerging Foreign Policy of Strategic Engagement: An Inside Look at India’s Response to the Iraq War (2003); and I had a paper on US Strategy and Indo-US Relations.

For a panel abstract and brief synopsis of the papers, continue reading.



Asia is widely expected to be at the center of global politics in the 21st century. All the major powers today are Asian powers, either because they are on the continent, or, as in the case of the United States, they have vital interests and direct impact on the politics of this region. Whether they will cooperate with each other or compete will at least partly be determined by the kind of bilateral and multilateral interactions that each of these countries have with each other. India has been touted as the next major power that cannot be ignored by the international community. This panel on India and the Major Powers looked at India’s relations with the US, China, and Japan. Each of the papers looked at the important variables determining the state of bilateral relations as also make some prognosis about the future.

The Rise of India and / versus the Rise of China: “Chindia” or Rivalry? How and whether India and China can continue their respective rises will critically shape international relations of the young twenty-first century; they will also provide key answers to the debate on whether an “Asian century” has finally arrived, eclipsing five centuries of Western dominance.

Yet these two Asian great powers demonstrate sharp contrasts in terms of their political systems, economic models, and social structures, despite their common aspirations for greater stature on the world stage. They have also maintained a very complex relationship that is weighed down by history but also offers promising opportunities in an era of globalization.

While the implications for the rise of China have been debated in the global or systemic contexts, as well as regional or bilateral contexts, thin scholarly attention has been devoted to the rise of India, and how these two Asian great powers perceive the ascendancy of each other. Yet how they view each other and consequently negotiate their paths in substantially changed international milieus will be important for scholarly interest and policy making.

This paper examines the key factors influencing India-China relations, including history, geography, territorial disputes, mutual threat perception and alignment patterns, economic partnership and competition. It categorizes Indian elites’ perspectives on the rise of China into three paradigms: geopolitical, geoeconomic, and geocivilizational. It ends with a discussion of the possible scenarios of future India-China relations.

Japan’s Evolving Perspectives toward India
The bilateral relationship between Japan and India has been evolving rapidly over the past decade. Japanese Prime Minister Mori’s visit to India in August 2000 provided the momentum to strengthen this relationship. Similarly, the "Joint Statement on the Advancement of the Strategic and Global Partnership between Japan and India” and the "Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation between Japan and India" signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan in 2008, have sought to promote bilateral cooperation on a range of areas, including security. While this paper examines factors that have determined the new direction in Japan-India ties, it will also examine the future trends and conceivable scenarios for the future.

From the Japanese perspective, various factors -- the rising China and its expanding influence on the sea-lanes of commerce -- have affected Japan’s interests in deepening bilateral cooperation with India. This is a motivation driven both by realist strategic calculations and liberal perspective, emphasizing the importance of promoting democracy and human rights which an increasing number of Japanese expect India to share with Japan. Japan also aspires to play a more leading role in global affairs partly in response to expanding Chinese influence on global politics, and partly as a reflection of the reality in Japan where new generations who are accustomed to the Western idea to respect rule of laws, governance, human rights, and democracy, takes responsible positions in Japan. Lastly, as globalization has blurred the regional boundaries for new security threats, such as infectious diseases, climate change, WMD proliferation, Japan needs to address challenges in other regions, including South Asia which was regarded as a far region for Japan traditionally.

Re-assessing India’s Emerging Foreign Policy of Strategic Engagement: An Inside Look at India’s Response to the Iraq War (2003)
The conventional wisdom regards India’s contemporary approach to foreign policy is underpinned on the central theme of change. Strategic engagement is a mantra that has come to replace the traditional moorings of non-alignment. Scholars and practitioners alike argue that since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Government came to power in 1998, a normative shift took place. ‘Pragmatism’ opposed to ‘age-old ideals’ came to inform policy. Yet, a detailed assessment of India’s response to the US request to contribute troops in 2003, an under-studied case, and the negotiations of the US-India Nuclear Deal in 2008, demonstrates that in fact, the political leadership were far more restrained in there interactions with US officials than commentators make out. This paper, based on extensive interviews with key bureaucrats, politicians, and negotiators both in India and the US, attempts to re-assess what now seems to be understood as the conventional wisdom in both countries. It makes the case that rather than change per se; India is undergoing a process of cultural change. Embedded are tensions that both these case studies make clear have not yet been unraveled by India’s policy/political elite across political parties.

US Strategy and Indo-US Relations
While it is difficult to predict the future of any bilateral ties, this would be particularly the case in US-India relations given the new administration in both New Delhi and Washington. It will be more useful to look at US grand strategy in Asia, and then analyze where India fits in the US scheme in Asia. Ever since the end of the Cold War, there has been an extensive debate about what kind of grand strategy the US should adopt. Although not conclusive, these debates provide a way of looking at American concerns and their impact on important bilateral relations.

US Grand Strategy has faced a couple of internal problems, problems inherent in the logic of the American approach. First, the US has swung between policies of confrontation and engagement, between a strategy based on ensuring American primacy and one based on American leadership. Second, the US has several strategic goals and they do not always complement each other. These problems are visible in all of the areas that are described below. The main components of the US grand strategy are changing conceptions of how Washington would deal with emerging great powers; manage the spread of weapons of mass destruction; prosecute the war on terrorism; and finally handle the complexities of the economic dynamism of the Pacific rim.

In addition to these grand strategic factors, there are three other factors that could potentially affect the US-India bilateral relationship. These include: the rise of China, nuclear-related issues including bilateral civil nuclear cooperation, concerns about nuclear proliferation in India’s neighbourhood and bilateral defence ties.