Cautioning India about US President Barack Obama's strategy to "split" India's relations with both China and Russia, China's official media and experts on Tuesday warned that New Delhi's close ties with Washington may pose problems for Sino-India relations.
"Obama's strategy is quite clear. He wants to split the relations between China and India, as well as India and Russia, in an effort to fulfil his strategy of a 're-balance' in Asia," state-run Global Times, which is part of the ruling Communist Party of China group of publications, said.
The daily also featured Obama's presence at India's 66th Republic Day parade with Prime Minister Narendra Modi prominently on its front page.
India and the US have signalled a "new era" in their ties after Obama and Modi signed a number of new deals, the report said, quoting Zhou Fangyin, a professor at the Guangdong Research Institute for International Strategies as saying.
While some say the US intends to use India as a wedge to contain China, most experts agree that New Delhi will not take sides, it said. Zhao said the US is courting India to become an ally in South Asia to contain China by supporting economic and military development.
"Obama keeps pushing India to boost ties with US in coalition to counter the so-called 'China threat' as the US has already become frustrated with the slow pace of New Delhi's economic reforms and unwillingness to side with Washington in international affairs," Zhao said.
However, analysts agreed that India is unlikely to become an ally of the US as it follows its long-standing nonaligned diplomatic strategy, the daily said.
"Moreover, boosting the economy is Modi's top priority and he knows he needs China to boost the economy in terms of investment and technology," Zhao said. Zhao added that Modi is taking advantage of the differences between various global powers.
Fu Xiaoqiang, a research fellow from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, echoed Zhao. "India always wants to play a more important role in international affairs, for which it needs US support. But the government knows that a coalition with the US could be problematic for Sino-India relations," Fu said.
"Modi inked many economic cooperation deals with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who visited the country in September, so it is impractical to become US ally," Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow with the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
He said Modi, unlike former Indian leaders, often "unconsciously" sides with the US in international affairs because he is eager to demonstrate the "important role" of India as one of his achievements. "He might be somehow carried away by Obama's promise [of a UN seat]. But he should realise that Sino-Indian relations should be more important and the two countries have many chances to cooperate in the economy and maintaining regional stability," Hu said.
He said it is unlikely US-India relations will see a breakthrough any time soon, and Obama's visit is more symbolic than making any real impacts.
An article in Global Times said temporary interests are bringing Delhi and Washington closer for now.
After being invited as a guest of honour by Prime Minister Modi, Obama might feel quite special at New Delhi's Republic Day parade on Monday.
"Washington's canvassing of India does not point at petty interests. It serves a big vision. The US hopes that by building India into a constructive and reliable force in its 'pivot to Asia' strategy, it can cultivate a new ally in Asia. New Delhi's geopolitical influence and potential strength can give Washington much more leverage to gain the upper hand in the game with China," it said.
India's approach to the US is prompted by real benefits, including but not limited to more US investments in India's infrastructures, more competitive advantages in bilateral trade, more advanced military equipment and defence
technologies, and bigger support for India to get a permanent membership in the UN Security Council. Modi has many ambitions for his country, and the US is one of its best patrons, it said.
Although complementary in many aspects, the US and India have little in common at the level of fundamental interests. "Strategically speaking, the US does not want a powerful India that might pose a challenge to US dominance. The US needs a submissive one which could play the role as a supportive underling," it said.
"However, India has never positioned itself as someone's yes man. Its insistence on an independent foreign policy and ambition to be a major power will not reduce itself to a pawn to counter China's expanding influence and fulfil Washington's rebalancing plan," it said.
Although India, after Modi took office, has employed a more assertive "Look East" foreign policy, its focus is still mainly on expanding its own influence, the paper said.
"There are no clear signs that the policy is devised to compete with or even contain China. So far, prudence and tentativeness still prevail when India makes moves in the South China Sea," it said. "Therefore, if unable to transform India into a trustworthy ally, the US, which always asks for payback and never allows free riders, will probably not continue supplying what India requires. When their core interests are in conflict, they will stop hugging and cross their arms," it said.
"Besides, India is not the only country in South Asia that the US is trying to court. Washington still values its important connections with Pakistan over counter-terrorism, which has become one of India's biggest concerns," it said.
"As of now, the US cannot and will not serve as an impetus to India's rise, neither will India offer the help expected by Washington," it said.
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