The New CIA... China, In­dia and Amer­ica

The de­cline of Sino-US ties is an op­por­tu­nity In­dia must seize, and place it­self firmly in the mid­dle to have the best of both worlds


SHAKE­SPEARE WISELY SAID, , “There is a tide in the af­fairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to for­tune; omit­ted, all the voy­age of their life is bound in shal­lows and in mis­eries.” Such a win­dow of op­por­tu­nity has now opened for In­dia to join the ‘A’ league of pow­ers. The elec­tion of Don­ald Trump has opened this win­dow.

A rocky, prob­a­bly even tur­bu­lent, road lies ahead for US-China re­la­tions. Even be­fore tak­ing of­fice, Trump has chal­lenged China on many fronts, from trade to Tai­wan. In the face of this, In­dia has two choices. It can sit back and smack its lips with sat­is­fac­tion watch­ing the tra­vails of Bei­jing as it han­dles the mer­cu­rial Trump. Or it can cun­ningly ex­ploit this new tur­bu­lence in US-China re­la­tions to cat­a­pult it­self into a new ‘A’ league of great pow­ers, best cap­tured in the acro­nym: CIA. CIA will now stand for China, In­dia and Amer­ica.

The big ques­tion here is whether In­dia can be cun­ning. Calm and de­tached cun­ning geopo­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions are sup­posed to be the hall­mark of strate­gic think­ing. It is there­fore puz­zling that some­times petu­lance seems to trump cun­ning in In­dian strate­gic think­ing. Ev­ery time a new ‘slight’ ap­pears, In­dia re­sponds with great emo­tional ag­i­ta­tion rather than with an ef­fort to see if ad­ver­sity can be turned into an op­por­tu­nity. Pak­istan is the big­gest drag on In­dia’s for­eign pol­icy. Given the his­tory, a love af­fair be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan is not on the cards. How­ever, many erst­while ad­ver­saries, like France and Ger­many, China and Ja­pan, Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia, have achieved nor­mal re­la­tions. For ex­am­ple, they con­duct ‘nor­mal’ trade with each other. In­dia and Pak­istan do not. This is why In­dia should re­con­sider its re­fusal to join the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) ini­tia­tive of China. Con­trary to a few para­noid voices in New Delhi, OBOR is not an evil scheme de­signed by China to ex­clude In­dia. In­stead, it is China’s in­sur­ance pol­icy to de­velop land links in Cen­tral Asia to over­come any pos­si­ble mar­itime en­cir­clement by Amer­ica against China. OBOR was a de­fen­sive, not of­fen­sive, move. If In­dia wants to be truly cun­ning, it should en­thu­si­as­ti­cally join OBOR and use it to cre­ate a whole new web of trade and en­ergy links with Iran, Afghanistan and Cen­tral Asia. In the mid­dle of the web will be Pak­istan. Such a web will also help nor­malise In­dia-Pak­istan trade re­la­tions and lib­er­ate In­dia from a geopo­lit­i­cal bur­den.

To achieve all this, In­dia will have to look at China with fresh eyes. In­dia and China have had a tu­mul­tuous his­tory due to now-dor­mant bor­der dis­putes as well as the is­sue of Ti­bet. The In­dian

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