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Commentary: US cashes in on Asian conflict
( 2003-07-16 07:19) (China Daily)

The United States is trying to strike a subtle balance between its ties with India and Pakistan, said an article in the June 30 issue of the Beijing-based magazine Outlook Weekly.

The article -- "Uncle Sam's art of achieving balance in South Asia'' by Han Xudong and Lu Hengyuan -- said that, during Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's visit to the United States last month, the White House declared that the United States would greatly increase its military and economic aid to Pakistan.

This was interpreted by world opinion as another important step by Washington to maintain some balance in its relations with India and Pakistan against the background of improved US-Indian ties since September 11, 2001.

Uncle Sam is playing this game of balance in South Asia out of its own strategic considerations, said Han and Lu.

The United States needs to maintain balance between the major strategic forces in South Asia to realize its global strategy.

First, this strategy of balance is conducive to resolving what Washington regards as its current "key'' problems.

Uncle Sam has been busy recently at reaching a "good conclusion'' of the Afghan war, achieving a "decent'' end to its war against Iraq, solving the nuclear issue of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in a way that suits Washington, and meeting the challenges from Europe.

Washington is also troubled by the nuclear issue in Iran.

If any "issue'' arises in South Asia at the moment, Washington would probably be unable to handle it on top of everything else.

To cope with the major problems it is facing, the United States will do as much as it can to prevent problems resurfacing in South Asia, which would affect the implementation of its hegemonic global strategy.

Among the South Asian countries, India and Pakistan are the leading forces with the most influence on the regional situation.

The United States hence wants to maintain a kind of balance with both India and Pakistan -- namely, to maintain contact with them to control the situation in South Asia, as well as a dynamic equilibrium between India and Pakistan to prevent this region from being bogged down in disturbances. This is the ideal situation envisaged by Washington in the promotion of its global strategy.

Second, the US strategy for South Asia helps Washington interfere in the regional affairs of South Asia.

There are contradictions between India and Pakistan -- such as over Kashmir, missiles and the nuclear issue. These issues have remained stagnant and the two countries have reached no compromise on them.

Under these circumstances, both sides need to seek external mediation if they want to make a breakthrough on these issues. Maintaining good relations with both India and Pakistan at the same time, the United States unsurprisingly becomes their primary option to help solve these contradictions.

Undoubtedly, this is favourable to the United States as it seeks to bring the situation in South Asia under its control, Han and Lu said.

Washington's current game of balance is merely a foreshadow of later intervention in South Asian regional affairs .

Third, Washington's strategy is conducive to sales of United States-made weapons.

In fact, arms sales are the main factor in Washington's growth into the world's most powerful country. To some extent, arms enterprises can be described as the "locomotive'' of the US economy. Washington has sold more weapons than any other country for many years. But recent years have witnessed a decrease in US arms exports, which is unfavourable to the development of the US economy.

The United States can export arms to both India and Pakistan by maintaining the face-off between them. After September 11, 2001, the United States lifted its trade embargo against India and began to cultivate India's arms market.

In April 2002, Washington signed a US$146 million arms contract with New Delhi. The White House also approved the export of 20 kinds of military equipment to India, including P-3 maritime reconnaissance planes and C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.

Pakistan has also obtained a large amount of military aid from Washington.

To maintain the balance between India and Pakistan can contribute to the weakening of India.

Promoting a hegemonic global strategy, Washington will never allow the rise of any power that can challenge its position as superpower, Han and Lu said.

However, India is unwilling to play a secondary role in the world and has formed a national strategy aimed at restoring its previous prosperity and power, becoming the centre and leader of Asia and rising to a first-class country in the world.

During the half-century since its independence, India's comprehensive national strength has risen noticeably and it has already become a secondary-level nation. In particular, in terms of military strength, India has reached the world's top military powers.

This is not what the United States wants to see.

Therefore, the United States attempts to weaken India by taking advantage of contradictions between Pakistan and India.

Pakistan is an ally of the United States and has received a lot of US military aid. This is perceived by New Delhi as not being conducive to its national security and to the improvement of its national strength. The conflict between India and Pakistan in Kashmir has seriously affected India's strength.

For its so-called fight against terrorism, Washington needs to improve its relations with India and Pakistan as well as maintain a balance between them.

The United States is now promoting its counter-terrorism strategy to maintain its hegemony in the world. The US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are far from over. Pakistan's attitude towards the US counter-terrorism struggle is relevant to whether the United States can make great "achievements'' in its wars in Central Asia and the Middle East. The United States needs Pakistan's support. Hence, Washington attaches great importance to Pakistan. High-level officials of the two countries have met each other frequently. The United States has provided enormous military and economic aid to Pakistan.

Nevertheless, if India is not paid such a high level of attention, Uncle Sam's counter-terrorism strategy will also be affected, Han and Lu noted.

For example, at the beginning of the Afghan War, the United States gave Pakistan a lot of aid to gain its support. India viewed this situation as a threat to its security. The conflict in Kashmir then began to escalate.

Pakistan had to devote a lot of attention and resources to the Kashmir issue, which seriously affected its support for Washington's so-called fight against terrorism. Consequently, Washington began to woo New Delhi to seek a balance between India and Pakistan.

It is not hard to understand that Washington's main purpose in keeping a balance between the two South Asian powers is to serve its own counter-terrorism struggle.

Washington plays this game of balance largely because both India and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons.

By conducting nuclear tests, India and Pakistan became de facto members of the club of nuclear powers. This is a fact that the United States has to face.

Maintaining friendly relations with India and Pakistan helps the United States monitor the nuclear situation in the two countries and can hold them back from passing on their nuclear technology to others.

Keeping the balance between India and Pakistan can also prevent the nuclear situation in South Asia from becoming unbalanced.

The crux and focus of the contradictions between India and Pakistan is the Kashmir issue. India is now actively working to ease the tension over the Kashmir issue. Once the tension is eased, Indian-Pakistani relations will improve rapidly.

As a result, Pakistan's need to confront India via other powers will greatly decrease, said Han and Lu.

Washington's balanced relations with India and Pakistan will further enhance US influence in South Asia, Han and Lu added.

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