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Why India cannot be an Asian power like China

November 20, 2009 14:39 IST

Power and influence are not given. They are taken. China knows how to take it, India does not, says strategic expert B Raman.

A few observations on the eve of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh visit to the United States from November 23 to 26.

No thinking has been ever done in India as to what it expects out of a long-term strategic relationship with the US. It is always the US which decides what it will give to India and it is New Delhi which accepts.

It was so with the nuclear deal which was offered by then US President George W Bush in July 2005. Manmohan Singh was pleasantly surprised when Bush offered it and then we followed it up. India's expectations from the US in the past were limited to US pressure on Pakistan to stop using terrorism against India, removal of restrictions on the supply of modern dual-use technology to India and US support for India's permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council.

They remain the same. Any strategic relationship has to be a quid pro quo relationship. Since the US has hardly any dependence on India in any matter, there is no scope for any quid pro quo.

India visualises itself as an Asian power on par with China. Beijing does not see it this way. China views India as a sub-regional Asian power and wants to keep its influence restricted to its immediate neighbourhood. US president Barack Obama's visit to China has uncomfortably brought out to India that there is a convergence of perceptions between China and the Obama Administration on the limited regional role of India.

China's pre-eminence has been recognised by Obama. Obama has re-hyphenated India-Pakistan relations and quietly relegated India to the role of a sub-regional power whose aspirations of having a status on par with China are unrealistic.

In geopolitical matters, there is no futuristic thinking in India. The quality of Indian thinking and analysis -- strategic and tactical -- is poor. What passes for analysis in India is just wishful-thinking.

Nobody in India has realised and brought out that for the first time the US, Japan and Australia have a leadership which does not rate highly India's potential as an emerging power.  There is less and less talk of Chindia. Even today, many in India are not aware that the new Japanese government is not as enthusiastic about India as the previous government was. There has been no exercise in India to analyse future scenarios in US-Japan relationship.

Someone once said that power and influence are not given. They are taken. China has shown how to take it. India does not have the political will and courage to fight for it and take it. It is hoping that the US will give it. Bush and Condoleezza Rice seemed inclined to bestow on India the status of an Asian power on par with China. The Obama Administration does not seem to be so inclined.

B Raman