‘Bal­ance of power’ a strate­gic trap for In­dia

Global Times US Edition - - ASIANREVIE­W -

While schol­ars in the US and In­dia gen­er­ally be­lieve that a full al­liance be­tween the two sides is un­likely, the two coun­tries can still reach a gen­eral con­sen­sus on bal­anc­ing the rise of China, since it is in their com­mon in­ter­est.

In an ar­ti­cle ti­tled “The In­dia Div­i­dend: New Delhi Re­mains Wash­ing­ton’s Best Hope in Asia,” which was pub­lished in the Septem­ber/oc­to­ber edi­tion of For­eign Af­fairs mag­a­zine, au­thors Robert D. Black­will, a Henry A. Kissinger se­nior fel­low for US for­eign pol­icy at the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions, and Ash­ley J. Tel­lis, se­nior fel­low at the Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace, noted that for the Us-in­dian part­ner­ship to bear fruit, both sides must rec­og­nize that their pri­mary shared in­ter­est is to bal­ance a ris­ing China – and not ex­pect a close al­liance or align­ment on all ma­jor pol­icy is­sues.

The In­dian gov­ern­ment hasn’t ex­plic­itly an­nounced it was adopt­ing such a strat­egy to bal­ance the rise of China, but there are in­di­ca­tions that In­dia and the US are mov­ing for­ward on this path.

The bal­ance of power theory in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions sug­gests that if a coun­try wants to pre­vent it­self from be­ing dom­i­nated by oth­ers, it must have the power or a re­li­able sys­tem to coun­ter­bal­ance oth­ers. The theory em­pha­sizes vig­i­lance and con­tain­ment be­tween dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

In re­al­ity, bal­ance of power is usu­ally uti­lized by a cer­tain pow­er­ful coun­try to make coali­tions or mil­i­tary al­liances to counter its ri­vals – the bal­ance of power dur­ing the Cold War is a clas­si­cal ex­am­ple. Ad­di­tion­ally, such a bal­ance is likely to de­velop into hos­til­ity.

Amid the rise of China in re­cent years, some Amer­i­cans have brought up again the bal­ance of power theory. Wash­ing­ton’s strate­gic choice on China

has also turned from bal­anc­ing to containing China. The US Indo-pa­cific Strat­egy is sure to con­tinue this men­tal­ity.

There is some­thing in com­mon be­tween the Indo-pa­cific Strat­egy and In­dia’s con­cerns about China’s rise.

China and In­dia have had dis­putes in the past and still have bor­der is­sues to set­tle. Ad­di­tion­ally, China has main­tained a close re­la­tion­ship with Pak­istan, In­dia’s tra­di­tional ri­val.

New Delhi wishes to safe­guard its in­ter­ests in a rel­a­tively bal­anced re­gional sit­u­a­tion through a bal­ance of power with Bei­jing. This is un­der­stand­able.

How­ever, the bal­ance of power which In­dia hopes for is dif­fer­ent from that up­held by the US. The US’ so-called bal­ance of power is aimed at keep­ing its dom­i­nance in the Asia-pa­cific re­gion and containing China.

Af­ter World War II, some Asia-pa­cific coun­tries have in­deed en­joyed rel­a­tive sta­bil­ity un­der the Us-dom­i­nated or­der. But the struc­ture of the re­gion is chang­ing. The rise of China is only a part of the changes. In­dia and South­east Asian coun­tries are also ris­ing, and they are ac­cel­er­at­ing the process.

An­other ma­jor change is con­stantly up­grad­ing re­gional co­op­er­a­tion. New Delhi is strength­en­ing its co­op­er­a­tion with its neigh­bors, and it has thus de­vel­oped the Look East pol­icy. China’s co­op­er­a­tion with neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, in­clud­ing In­dia, has also seen un­prece­dented strength­en­ing. Amid such changes, there is no foun­da­tion for the out­dated bal­ance of power theory. No force is able to stop the Chi­nese econ­omy from de­vel­op­ing. China’s ris­ing strength will cer­tainly change the struc­ture of the Asia-pa­cific re­gion, and can­not be bal­anced by ei­ther out­side forces or mil­i­tary pow­ers. Re­gional coun­tries need to build a new or­der.

Bal­anc­ing China will jeop­ar­dize In­dia’s own in­ter­ests. Since China’s devel­op­ment is un­stop­pable and is in line with the gen­eral devel­op­ment of the re­gion, car­ry­ing out con­tain­ment against China is highly likely to lead to the loss of op­por­tu­ni­ties for co­op­er­a­tion with China.

In­dia should think this through. It is im­pos­si­ble for re­gional coun­tries to jointly con­tain China’s rise with the US while strength­en­ing co­op­er­a­tion with China at the same time. Such a strat­egy might work at the very be­gin­ning, but at crit­i­cal mo­ments, rel­e­vant par­ties will have to make a choice.

The strat­egy of the bal­ance of power is gen­er­ated from the diplo­macy of Western coun­tries. It re­flects Western coun­tries’ un­der­stand­ing of for­eign re­la­tions in the process of their ex­pan­sion in the past. In to­day’s glob­al­ized world, Asian coun­tries are supposed to have bet­ter choices. This is a test for not only for In­dia, but also China. Both need work to­gether to walk out of this strate­gic trap.

The au­thor is a se­nior edi­tor with Peo­ple’s Daily, and cur­rently a se­nior fel­low with the Chongyang In­sti­tute for Fi­nan­cial Stud­ies at Ren­min Univer­sity of China. ding­[email protected]­al­times.com.cn. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @ding­gangchina

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