The endless run of Asia Pacific conferences attended by the region’s powers have founded a deeply troubling new paradigm, with the US insisting that China must be contained by the multitude of smaller states that surround the country.
Sounds familiar? A tropical cold war? Beijing, the new Moscow?
India plays no small part in this US obsession with the meteoric rise of China, which, in ten years will enjoy a GDP that will surpass that of the US.
The US State Department sees India as a wonderfully heavy counter-weight to the ‘Red Menace.’
This has manifested itself with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard declaring, without consulting Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd (who vehemently opposes the policy), that Australia will supply uranium to India.
This was hot on the heels of Ms Gillard’s meeting with Barack Obama, Australia’s Commander-in-Chief in Hawaii.
The State Department will not be devastated by India being armed to the teeth with Nuclear weapons, vaguely pointed at Shanghai and of course even less concerned if Indian manufacturing is better fueled by nuclear plants.
India’s containment role will not end in this new muggy war.
High on the agenda in this long season of expensive talk-shops was the fact that China has staked claim to the better part of the South China Sea.
This area is sickly rich in oil. India’s thirst for black gold is desperate. India is increasing its reach in exploration by scouting for new partners in the region, which, the Chinese confidently challenge.
It will be strongly in India’s’ interests to side with the region’s powers against this stake.
The Chinese claim has also scared the living daylights out of the US.
The US Navy Seventh Fleet has used the South China Sea as its own by perpetually patrolling the area for decades in enormous convoys.
Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating recently said China had good grounds for this claim. He also said that the Chinese Navy patrolling off the coast of Florida would not be polite.
I believe that it should not be a given that India should side against China.
In fact, India should take a leaf out of the wizened diplomacy of former dictator of Singapore Lee Kwan Yew.
My Father (former New Zealand Prime Minister the late David Lange) once asked him why he let the Russian fleet in after the Americans fleet had barely just set sail out of Singapore’s docks.
His reply was, “Oh David, you are so young!”
He was a Statesman who knew how to play each superpower off each other.
I believe India could benefit enormously from this.
One month Washington’s darling and the next up for anything with Beijing.
India must not be bullied into playing this counter weight role to China just because it fits the US’s motives so beautifully.
India has its own destiny to reclaim and cannot be distracted by signing up as the US’s wingman in this fast developing geopolitical nightmare.
Roy Lange is a New Zealander living and working in Melbourne, Australia.