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HVK Archives: To Skirt China is to skirt the issue

To Skirt China is to skirt the issue - The Times of India

K Subrahmanyam ()
July 6, 1998

Title: To Skirt China is to skirt the issue
Author: K Subrahmanyam
Publication: The Times of India
Date: July 6, 1998

Mr Jaswant Singh, the Indian Prime Minister's pointsman on
nuclear issue, is shortly to meet US deputy secretary of state
Strobe Talbott in Frankfurt. This is a follow-up to their earlier
meeting which was widely seen as a constructive beginning to
repair the damage done by the actions of the US government
following the 'Shakti' nuclear tests. In a recent interview to
The Hindu on the proposed dialogue with India, Mr Talbott came
across as being both realistic and wanting to reassure this
country. Yet, he appeared to avoid coming to terms with the
crucial issue - the Chinese proliferation and its impact on
future Asian security. On the other hand, there was a deliberate
resort to the usual diplomatic game of setting up a straw man and
demolishing it.

US on Wrong Side

No serious Indian has accused the US of playing the China card
against India. But Indians feel, and with perfect justification,
that the US is unwilling to focus on China's proliferation and
aid to Pakistan which hurts Indian security interests. In
covering up China's proliferation, the US is on the wrong side of
history. According to Mr Talbott, the US is using its influence
with China to impress upon its leaders the importance of
contributing to peace and stability in the region and instilling
a sense of security, including in India. ibis is, in fact, an
admission that till now China has not done so.

Mr Talbott also says that one way out for China is to conduct
itself in a responsible fashion when it comes to the transfer of
potentially dangerous technologies to other states in the region.
Appearing on China's central television, President Clinton said,
"China has agreed to work with the US to stop the transfer of
technologies to countries that might misuse it, to not assist
unsafeguarded nuclear facilities like Pakistan's, and to consider
joining the worldwide system that prevents the exportation of
dangerous technologies". These are expressions of hope that China
would change its behaviour pattern. Implicitly, these are also
admissions that India had justification to conduct its tests.

However, none of the statements, declarations and speeches of
both US and Chinese leaders, made during President Clinton's
visit to China, throws any light on the precise nature of Chinese
commitments on non-proliferation and their enforceability. The
Indian problem with the US is the absence of transparency on the
part of the US administration on an issue which is vital to
India's security. Two former State Department officials, Mr
Robert Manning and Mr James Przytup, writing in The Wall Street
Journal, quoted a prominent Chinese analyst as telling them that
Pakistan was their Israel and their transfer of technology and
materials was not negotiable. Other observers have linked Chinese
proliferation to Pakistan to US arms sales to Taiwan. Since the
US is not willing to commit itself against arms transfers to
Taiwan, China is not likely to commit itself to stop
proliferating to Pakistan.

During a question-answer session in Beijing University, a student
asked President Clinton - a question presumably planted by the
authorities - whether behind his smile he was pursuing a policy
of containment of China. President Clinton's categorical
assertion that it was not so, may or may not have persuaded the
Chinese. Behind their smiles, they may be drawing their own
conclusions. There are US security treaties with South Korea and
Japan. Russia to the north of China is a nuclear weapons power.
The US is considering proposals to bring the Central Asian
republics under the US Central Command and within the
jurisdiction of the US fifth fleet. In such circumstances, the
only direction in which China can project its power and hegemony
is to the south. Pakistan is useful as a link to the Islamic
world and to countervail India. Proliferation to Pakistan and
other Gulf countries may also make Israel a hostage.

Securities Treaties

Therefore, China's future strategic policies, its proliferation
activities and their underlying motivations, and alternative
scenarios of China's political and strategic evolution are
appropriate topics for a discussion between India and the US.
Indians are saddened and puzzled by the US being on the side of
the proliferator and putting undue pressure on the victim of
proliferation - India. Unfortunately, Indo-US dialogue on
developments in the subcontinent has not been focusing on the
problem which led to the tests. The Frankfurt discussion, one
hopes will lead to a joint Indo-US assessment of the motivations
that have persuaded the Chinese of the advantages of violating in
a sustained manner the nuclear and missile restraint regimes.
Surely it is not out of love for Pakistan that China proliferates
to that country.

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