The Wall Street Journal
Faced with an increasingly assertive China, the United States is embracing India.
Like America, India is a democracy – an open, pluralistic society. Military planners in Washington don’t spend time fretting about war with India, the way they do about conflict with China. India’s economy, with its vibrant services sector, doesn’t pose nearly the same the challenge to the U.S. as China’s manufacturing juggernaut.
In short, to U.S. policy-makers worried about the long-term threat from China, India looks like a useful counterbalance.
Not so fast, says a newly published book by George Gilboy, a researcher at the MIT Center for International Studies, and Eric Heginbotham, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. “Chinese and Indian Strategic Behavior” argues that the benign view of India in Washington policy-making circles may be an illusion, rooted more in U.S. insecurity about China than a hard-nosed assessment of India. When you stop looking at India through the prism of China, the authors argue, the picture looks very different. On many issues of key concern to Washington, from trade and investment to Iran and arms proliferation, India’s view of the view of the world is strikingly similar to China’s.
One of the book’s big takeaways: Far from being a “balancer” to China, the rise of India could mean “double trouble” for Washington. The Wall Street Journal’s China editor Andrew Browne recently sat down with the authors. Edited excerpts below:
What motivated you to write this book?
Gilboy: The original objective is really to understand what rising Chinese and Indian power means for U.S. interests. There’s an impression out there that China is emerging as an inevitable challenger and potential enemy, and India is emerging as a natural ally. And that ought to be investigated, in part by just asking the same question of each power.
Heginbotham: When you just ask ‘How is China a challenger?’ and ‘How might India help?’ you’re not likely to get the reverse of the coin on either one of those countries. The real purpose here was to ask the same questions in a structured way and look at the empirical data on actual behavior.
So what’s the conclusion?
Heginbotham: The punchline here is that what we may be facing with the rise of these two powers is double-trouble. Both are going to present challenges to the United States. At the same time, we’ll be able to partner with both of them on various issues. It’s a much more mixed bag – a much more nuanced picture than we think is generally recognized.
The authors of "Chinese and Indian Strategic Behavior" say the rise of both China and India is not a good thing for the U.S. The WSJ's Deborah Kan speaks to China Editor Andrew Browne.
Gilboy: Both China and India are equally likely to pursue their territorial and maritime claims over disputed areas, they’re equally likely to use force in international disputes, and they spend roughly the same share of GDP on military power. Both of them have an outstanding territorial and political dispute that’s wrapped up not only in territorial questions but also questions of state legitimacy in both countries, and also of national identity: Taiwan for China; Kashmir for India. So they’re equally difficult to resolve. Partly as a result, both pursue a common agenda at the U.N. and other security bodies.a strict interpretation of state sovereignty and a protection of the principle of non-interference in the affairs of other states. This helps us understand why India is such a reluctant ally on questions all the way from Libya to Syria to Iran. India is just as committed to this idea of not having Western military interventions in these states.
Heginbotham: The strict interpretation of sovereignty isn’t an academic issue – it has real consequences. We looked at UN voting records and there’s a very high level of convergence between Indian and China on Iran, Sudan, Burma, WMD issues. On these issues of importance to the U.S., the Chinese and Indian positions are very close.
What about the argument that democracies make better partners?
Heginbotham: Obviously that depends on perspective, but the realist view on international relations is that states pursue their interests, and that’s irrespective of whether they’re democracies. During the Cold War democratic India often aligned with the Soviet Union while China sometimes cooperated with the U.S. in balancing the Soviets.
Gilboy: There is a very limited idea out there in the international relations literature about how democracies don’t fight wars with each other. But the problem is that some policymakers seem to extend that “democracies don’t fight each other” claim into another argument, which is that democracies are going to see the world in the same way even if they are very different democracies and in very different regional and strategic circumstances. That’s a question that ought to be asked. Is it true?
How do you compare Indian and Chinese military doctrine?
Gilboy: They both emphasize offense, like most modern militaries. But in China you have a single, strong centralized institution – the Central Military Commission – that governs military policy and imposes a great deal of strategic cohesion on Chinese military and strategic policies. In India there is much more diversity. There’s a very strong civilian control of the military, but the military services themselves pursue and develop their own military doctrines and their own modernization priorities.
Is there a risk of a blow-up between China and India?
Heginbotham: There is an active rivalry on the security side. It’s felt a lot more keenly in India although the sentiment is growing in China as well. Some people think China-India tensions could benefit the U.S. by constraining China, but rivalry can also have negative effects. In the nuclear and missile arena, we see India charging ahead, and now both countries are talking about developing MIRVS (multiple warheads). Both have at least some R&D on missile defense. The nuclear issue is becoming more important to both. The world has not seen a situation where you have multilateral nuclear dynamics and the need to address nuclear issues on a multilateral basis. Rivalry in that realm has the potential to severely complicate U.S. strategic arms control efforts.
Gilboy: China is a much more powerful military power; the Chinese economy is about four times the size of India. There is a border dispute that is difficult to resolve. They also have some divergence of ideas over maritime security, particularly in the Indian Ocean. But overall both China and India want good relations with each other and both of them, I think, are pretty clear that they have some important agenda items in common. These include gaining more influence in international bodies and institutions and common views on diluting what they see as the excesses of U.S. power.
What about trade and investment?
Gilboy: U.S. trade with China is ten times its trade with India, although India trade is growing rapidly. That is an indicator of much greater mutual interest. When we looked at the kinds of trade disputes these countries have, we found that at the WTO, even though China’s trade is four to five times larger than India’s trade, they face about the same number of trade complaints at the WTO and they are on the same kind of issues: market access, dumping cases. IPR losses in the two countries are roughly proportional to the size of their economies. On direct investment, both countries, if you look at surveys from the World Bank, have serious problems with contract enforcement, for instance.They both have very serious problems domestically with corruption. On enforcement of contracts and corruption, China is ranked slightly ahead of India. So, hang on a second, if we face similar challenges in both countries, as the U.S. relationship with India grows in size, perhaps the significance of those problems will grow as well. That leads you back to the double trouble thing.
We looked at outward investment and energy investment with rogue regimes. It turns out that in all of the so-called rogue regimes that you can identify – Iran, Sudan, Syria, Myanmar, Cuba – India companies are there with the Chinese. It’s a similar pattern of state-led investment where state-owned companies are doing the visits, backed by state diplomacy and ministerial visits, and backed directly or indirectly by state financing. So there’s no real divergence there.
Courtesy: The Wall Street Journal