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Outside view: The US,
ia and China

A partnership with India, by whatever name, could
provide America a way to offset the surge in China's
geo-political and economic power, writes 

Buffalo, NY, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- The National Intelligence
Council (NIC), the think-tank of the Director of
Central Intelligence, recently came out with a study
titled "Mapping the Global Future." Among other
things, the report forecasts the rise of India and
China as potential global powers by the year 2020. Of
the two countries, only China, whose GDP is predicted
in the NIC document to overtake America's by the year
2042, is clearly the aggressive competitor of the
United States. 

When compared with America, most demographic
indicators favor China -- population size,
age-structure, the sheer size of workforce, and the
numbers of trained scientists and technologists
produced every year.

How can the United States compensate for its looming
demographic disadvantages? By partnering with the one
country that has all the advantages that China enjoys
and tops these with a democratic polity and a
non-threatening foreign policy vis--vis the United
States: India.

India's demographics compare well with China, with a
labor force of 600 million people and a good base of
top-notch scientific, technological and managerial
manpower that has the added advantage of
being able to "think" in English. This workforce is
set to overtake China's by 2025, and decisively so by
2050. India already is the second-highest source of
legal immigration into the United States after Mexico,
and this trend is likely to continue for the near to
medium term.

A partnership with India, by whatever name, could
provide America a way to offset the surge in China's
geo-political and economic power. But one should not
think of it as an alliance preparing for a future
military war against China: it should, instead, be
envisaged as a U.S.-India partnership to face the
coming economic and technological competition with

The economic dimension of the China-U.S and
India-China bilateral relationships militates against
any potential for war between the competitors. The
volume of U.S.-China trade, and of U.S. investments is
enormous - and growing more so with each passing year.
Simultaneously, the magnitude of Chinese support in
financing U.S. deficits completely rules out any
inimical posture on the part of the United States.

India-China trade is on an upward trajectory, and
poised to grow further. In other words, it is in the
economic self-interest of both these countries to
refrain from inimical moves against China.

Therefore, instead of being military-centric, a
U.S.-India partnership should seek to advance a
stable, democratic and prosperous world, which is in
everyone's interest.

A joint venture against terrorism and cooperation in
reducing the threats from weapons of mass destruction
is a partnership that would enable both the United
States and India to move forward in calibrated
fashion, leveraging complementary resource endowments
and carrying them to their logical ends. This strategy
would, over a period, help maintain a balance of power
in the world. It would add substantially to the
economic and technological prowess of both the United
States and India -- something they will not achieve if
they do not work together. And both countries can,
while working together, maintain strong economic ties
with China.

Will India and the United States actually move toward
such a partnership, given that it needs strong
commitment and vision? The answer is yes, but the
United States will have to take the lead in firming
this relationship. And the next four years of the Bush
administration will be crucial if America wants to
seriously embark on this journey.

First, both sides, but especially the United States,
must acquire "a deeply rooted appreciation of common
strategic interests" and understand that such
interests include not just security and defense but a
host of other concerns. Both nations will need to
manage, imaginatively and effectively, their
differences in regard to Pakistan, which, in terms of
the larger picture presented here, should be nothing
more than a minor irritant.

Second, both India and the United States must make a
determined bid to get rid of the remaining cobwebs of
the Cold War era. The recent growth in
military-to-military contacts and joint exercises has
provided both sides enough opportunities to assess
each other's capabilities and doctrines. The
post-tsunami U.S.-India naval cooperation, designed to
mount one of the biggest relief efforts in history,
was unprecedented. These contacts should allow either
side to go beyond "entrenched mindsets" in their
respective establishments.

Third, the United States will have to seek ways to
balance its nonproliferation commitments with the need
to explore full-fledged hi-tech cooperation with
India. As renowned non-proliferation expert George
Perkovich noted recently, while China, being a member
of most multilateral non-proliferation regimes, has
tended to exhibit a less than reliable behavior with
respect to proliferation, India has behaved
responsibly with sensitive technologies while
remaining outside many international agreements.

It is ironic, therefore, that U.S. technology
cooperation with China is in many ways broader and
deeper as compared to India. American policymakers
should therefore consider the idea that the cause of
nonproliferation is best served by co-opting India
rather than by marginalizing it. They should identify
ways of making limited exceptions while pursuing
cooperation with India.

In addition, a massive flow of American investment is
required, especially into India's infrastructure. For
this, India must prepare the ground. U.S. companies
will go where they find the greatest and easiest
opportunities to make money. India provides
opportunities for enhancement of U.S. competitiveness
through outsourcing and expansion of market. It is in
the vital interest of the United States to have
India's market expand, and for India to become an
alternative to China as a manufacturing hub.

Overriding all this, however, is an absolutely
essential precondition - the establishment of a
climate of growing trust between the policymakers of
the United States and India at all levels - not just
the top political leadership, but also at all levels
of the bureaucracy. It has to be a trust that can
survive the minor irritants that will crop up in the
bilateral relations, such as a seeming U.S. alliance
with Pakistan or an apparent Indian closeness with
Russia or Iran.

As the 21st century advances, China will mount a
serious challenge to the current U.S. position as the
world's economic and military superpower, and as the
leader in technology. If the United States does not
wish to end up playing second fiddle in this global
orchestra, it needs not just pro-active policies but
also partners that have complementary resources.
Partnering with India is one of the best and
inevitable options.

Ram Narayanan
Outside View Commentator
Washington Post

Published in What is India on 16 Feb '05  

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