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Politics

Another Carrot

20 June 2005

Another Carrot

By Gwynne Dyer

Something curious happened in Tokyo last week. On 16 June, US
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns gave a speech
there saying that the United States backed a limited expansion of the
United Nations Security Council from fifteen to twenty members. Only “two
or so” of the five new seats should be permanent members with full veto
rights, however — and Japan should be one of them.

Now, here’s the funny thing. How did it happen that they mulled all
this over at the State Department, and decided there must be only two new
permanent members, and agreed that Japan should be one of them — and then
dropped the subject? Maybe it was just too nice out, and they all decided
to go golfing? Call me cynical, if you must, but I think they know who
they want the other permanent member to be. They just want something in
return before they say so.

Who could it be? Not Germany: there are already two members of the
European Union with permanent seats. Not Brazil, certainly — that
president of theirs, Lula, is far too left-wing. Not Mexico, either, which
is all too likely to elect a left-wing president next time around.

There’s obviously no percentage in making an African country a
permanent member: you’ll just annoy South Africa if you back Nigeria, and
vice versa. And heaven knows we can’t have a Muslim country with a veto on
the Security Council. No, it’s got to be India.

India should have had a permanent seat on the Security Council from
the start, but unfortunately the United Nations was set up in 1945 and
India didn’t get its independence from Britain until 1947. So for 58 years
the second most populous country on the planet has been frozen out of the
world’s highest council. Of course it must be India — but in that case,
why not say so? Is it possible that the Bush administration wants something
from India?

Yes, it does. It wants India to become the South Asian anchor of
its strategy for “containing” China militarily. The neo-conservatives who
control defence and foreign policy under President Bush were demanding a
huge rise in US military spending even before 9/11 “to cope with the rise
of China to great-power status.” They haven’t changed their minds, and
they want to encircle China with a ring of American allies in a reprise of
the US containment strategy against the Soviet Union in the 50s and 60s.

In this strategy India is the main prize, and the Bush
administration is trying to woo New Delhi into a close military and
strategic relationship. It is offering India first-line F-16 fighters now,
and access to the next generation of US combat aircraft when it becomes
available. It is offering Patriot and Arrow missiles, access to American
civil nuclear technology, and high-tech cooperation in the domain of
satellites and launch vehicles. Above all, it is offering India the leading
role in its emerging Asian alliance structure.

In a State Department briefing in Washington on 25 March that is
now famous in India, the spokesman said that President Bush and Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice had “developed the outline for a decisively
broader strategic relationship,” and when Rice travelled to New Delhi a few
days later she told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Washington wanted to
“help India become a major world power in the 21st century.”

Singh’s government is clearly nervous about this, but also
flattered: it’s nice to be courted. As his media spokesman Sanjaya Baru
put it, “India is an ancient civilisation and has a mind of its own, but
our views are moving in parallel with the US and Anglo-Saxon world.” And
although no date has yet been officially confirmed, President Bush has
several times said in public that he hopes to visit India before the end of
this year.

There are two main obstacles to this strategic match. One is the
fact (which even bothers members of Manohan Singh’s cabinet) that this sort
of alliance would be a betrayal of everything India has stood for since
independence, and that it might be preferable not to spend the first half
of the 21st century mired in a military confrontation with India’s giant
neighbour across the Himalayas if at all possible. The other is the Indian
Communists

The Communists hold almost 70 seats in the Lok Sabha (parliament),
and their votes are crucial to the survival of Singh’s minority coalition
government. They are dead set against what would amount to a military
alliance with the United States (though it would never be called that), and
so Singh’s government wavers, unsure which way to jump. Meanwhile, China
has started making counter-offers on free trade, the settlement of old
border disputes and the like.

So the United States has produced another carrot: a permanent seat
for India on the Security Council. Except that Washington will only throw
its weight behind the idea publicly if and when India signs up for the
containment strategy. It is a dangerous and needless strategy that will
alarm China and lead to prolonged military confrontation in Asia, and
Indians should not be seduced by it. China is not their enemy. For that
matter, it is not America’s enemy, either.
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To shorten to 725 words, omit paragraphs 3, 4 and . (“Who…India”; and
“In a state…century”)
Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles
are published in 45 countries.