Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

China’s Take on the US-India Nuclear Deal

Posted by K.E. White on August 29, 2007

Below are two takes on China feelings toward the troubled US-India nuclear deal. Both articles reveal the complicated relations between both India and the United States, and India and China.

Why would China be bothered by the US-India nuclear deal? If India takes an American tilt owing to America’s ad hoc sanctioning of their nuclear arsenal, China could feel entrapped. To the east China will face remilitarizing Japan, and now an emerging regional power to its west.

But in a post-Cold War world, dividing the world in pro-US and pro-China camps doesn’t get you very far. Perhaps a more appropriate view would be a four-layered approach: looking at the tensions between India and Pakistan, and then how those tensions interact with those nations’ relationships with China and America.

Reuters reports on Chinese approval of the US-India nuclear deal, in order not to alienate India:

However, experts said China was unlikely to stymie the nuclear deal and risk pushing Delhi closer to Washington — just when Beijing is seeking to avoid a destabilizing confrontation with its rising Asian neighbor and longtime rival.

“The United States has decided that using India to check and balance China is of more importance than non-proliferation, and that worries China,” said Shen Dingli, a nuclear security expert at Fudan University in Shanghai.

“But China does not want to push India towards the United States. I don’t think China will stand out to oppose the agreement; it doesn’t want to offend the United States or India.”

“But out of its own strategic interests, India is most unlikely to form an alliance with the U.S. to contain China.”

As it seeks to sway New Delhi, Beijing is instead likely to promote its own civilian nuclear technology. When President Hu Jintao visited India in November last year, he pitched for such cooperation.

But China is also likely to seek expanded nuclear cooperation with India’s rival, Pakistan, where Beijing has already helped build an atomic reactor — and it will be able to point to the U.S.-India deal to counter any criticism, said Shen.

From the Times of India is this take by K Subrahmanyam:

China’s strategy does not appear to be one of direct confrontation with India. By arming Pakistan with nuclear weapons, China is using Islamabad to counter India. This was noted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his address to the Combined Commanders Conference on October 20, 2005 when he said: “We cannot also ignore the strategic cooperation that Pakistan secured from China in many ways. We cannot rule out the desire of some countries to keep us engaged in low-intensity conflict with some of our neighbours as a means of getting India bogged down in a low equilibrium”.

The Chinese strategy of dominating Asia, which all other major powers view with concern, needs India to be kept tied down perpetually by a nuclear-armed Pakistan. The reason why liberating India from technology apartheid sponsored by the US is popular with Russia, France, UK, France and Japan is their desire to see a balance of power in Asia. In the 21st century it is not envisaged there will be wars among major powers. But there would be a constant balancing of power. China when fully developed can only be balanced by a billion-strong India if it develops itself. The other major powers of the world have a vital interest in this. Hence, the US nuclear agreement, India-specific IAEA safeguards and NSG waiver.

Will India accept this opportunity and help the world to balance China — a neighbour posing a surrogate nuclear threat to this country — or continue to talk only of US imperialism? India can stand up to US dominance, but it cannot wish away the India-specific nuclear threat emanating from a Chinese-armed Pakistan.

These two views on China show how many variables must be weighed by these four nations’ leaders when juggling diplomatic relations. Is Pakistan a Chinese-backed threat to India, or an emerging moderate stated owing to American pressure? Or both?

What does seem clear is that Pakistan is the most volatile part of the equation. If America can successfully bring on a moderating, democratic and peaceful (or just those tail-ends) Pakistan, the security calculus in the region dramatically changes.

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