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HVK Archives: China-basing continues in U.S. newspapers

China-basing continues in U.S. newspapers - The Times of India

Bharati Sadasivam ()
June 15, 1998

Title: China-basing continues in U.S. newspapers
Author: Bharati Sadasivam
Publication: The Times of India
Date: June 15, 1998

A sampling of writings on the Indian nuclear tests in the news,
op-ed and letters columns in influential American papers shows
that China-bashing -and U.S.-bashing -are alive and well in the

It also offers a spirited and independent contrast to the
sonorous warnings and doomsday predictions made by the
establishment and most editorial writers -of new ogue state
India's imminent nuclear war against Pakistan, with Kashmir as
the flashpoint, and an unstoppable arms race in the region.

Consider these examples:

Fred C.Ikle in The Washington Post (May 25) says it is ironic
that the Clinton administration, which cut a deal with North
Korea to choke off its illicit nuclear-weapons activities, is
imposing economic sanctions on India for an act that did not
violate any treaty.

Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times (May 26) castigates U.S.
foreign policy for telling India that it is not entitled to
nuclear protection from China, while extending the NATO umbrella
to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic against a new, far less
menacing Russia.

Why punish India, indisputably a democracy, while befriending
China, "a Communist dictatorship, a routine violator of human
rights" and a vendor of nuclear technology to Pakistan, ask
several letter writers to The NYT.

The divergence from the official view is the greatest on the
question of economic sanctions and the role of China. The Post
article (May 25) contends that "being an enforcer of harsh
economic sanctions is not a comfortable perch for the U.S. to
occupy," especially at a time when Americans are enjoying the
fruits of economic globalisation and its promise of ever greater

"Politicians do not wish to spoil this golden vista, and if they
need a reminder, American companies anxious to export will make
the case." Moreover, the writer argues, sanctions will become a
political liability for President Clinton and a constant reminder
of failed policies.

A Times report (May 29) quotes an unnamed senior administration
official as saying, "It is not as if we can unexploded the nukes.
We have to work with the new situation we are faced with." The
sanctions are further complicated by the fact that they do not
end automatically at a future date, which means' that Congress
would have to vote to end the economic isolation, the report

This greatly hampers diplomatic efforts to work on a 'package
deal' with India and Pakistan under which both countries might
agree not to mount nuclear warheads, sign non-proliferation
treaties or allow inspections of their nuclear facilities.

"India is a democracy, and China is not. China has nuclear
missiles, India does not. Which qualifies you, in the long run,
for a strategic partnership with America?" Fred Hiatt, also
writing in the Post (May 25), asks rhetorically. The article
concludes with a comment from Wei Jingsheng, China exiled
dissident, that Western governments, with their "propensity to
make friends with their own enemies," do not make particularly
reliable friends. "If I were the Indian premier, I be thinking
along the same lines," Mr Wei is quoted as saying.

Mr Friedman in The Times notes that the "Indian nuclear test is
exactly like NATO expansion -a political gesture for domestic
politics but with long-term, negative strategic consequences not
readily apparent today." The lesson, according to him, is that
the nuclear tests, NATO expansion and the Israeli-Palestine
stalemate are all "manifestations of the same phenomenon -the
collapse of the cold war system and the creation of the illusion
that the world is now safe" for countries to allow short-term
domestic needs to drive their foreign policy.

For the most part, the media coverage has been balanced and shown
an understanding of the complexity of the issues involved, says
Fareed Zakaria, managing editor of Foreign Affairs. "It shows
that there is certainly a greater understanding at fairly senior
levels of the policy elites of India's security concerns
regarding China."

The fact that China is no longer the card it was in a bipolar
world, but exists on its own makes U.S. elites view the rise of
Chinese power much more apprehensively, he says.

Sumit Ganguly of the department of political science at Hunter
College at the City University of New York disagrees that the
media's reactions have been by and large balanced. "Much of the
coverage has been extraordinarily unfair to India and has not
taken notice of its security needs." Mr Ganguly adds that he
would blame Indian diplomacy for not doing enough to present
India's case in the U.S. and influence the American response,
which has been "cruelly hypocritical and condescending."

Abe Rosenthal of The New York Times would agree. Making one of
the most impassioned 'put- yourself-in-India's-shoes' arguments,
Mr Rosenthal, an old India hand, wrote on The Times op-ed page
(May 15) that Washington's response to the Indian nuclear tests
shows attitudes about India that are the "same Western mush of
arrogance, ignorance and condescension that they have been for
the half-century since independence.

"Listen to Mr Clinton talk of his priority - American democracy
and Chinese dictatorship knitting together in trade and security
strategy. What strategy? Was India consulted, even thought
about?" Rosenthal wrote in his piece, The Shout From India.

A fact that has gone strangely unreported in most parts of the
U.S. media is that Pakistan's Prime Minister and foreign minister
had reportedly intimated Washington on April 3 of an impending
nuclear detonation in India. The question is not "How come
Washington didn't know?" The question is "Why does Washington lie
so clumsily about having known," writes columnist Christopher
Hitchens in The Nation (June 8).

Some writers have also tied them elves into knots trying to cast
light on the pedigree of the bombs and missiles in South Asia.
Experts in New Delhi and Washington are not speaking of a Hindu
bomb as they speak of an Islamic bomb, comments the Christian
Science Monitor (June 4), musing on the Hindu imagery and
symbolism of India's weapons programme.

The Monitor and the Nation articles recall (for no apparent
reason than for effect) the invocation from the Bhavgad Gita, "I
am become Death, the destroyer of worlds," quoted by Robert
Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, when he saw the first
mushroom cloud above a New Mexico desert in 1945.

As for the origin of the names of the missiles in India and
Pakistan, writer Amitav Ghosh felt compelled to explain in a
letter to Times readers that contrary to reports, 'Prithvi' and
'Agni' and the progression of such names refer to the elements
and not to any historic rivalry between the two.

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