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Fallout of Obama's visit to India

China Daily | Updated: 2015-01-28 07:39

Editor's Note: How will the US and India's cooperation ranging from nuclear to climate change impact China? Below are comments from Chinese and Indian experts:

Sino-Indian ties focus on peace

US President Barack Obama's visit to India starting on Sunday has given rise to fresh speculations over his "pivot to Asia" policy, with a principal question being: Will the improving US-India ties be used to contain China?

The answer is "yes" and "no".

New Delhi does play a vital role in Washington's "pivot to Asia" policy given its strategic significance in South Asia and accelerating economic growth. And the agreements signed by Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the past days do cover a wide area, including defense procurement and investment, civilian nuclear power, counterterrorism and climate change. But such cooperation is in the interest of both sides and is likely to further boost Washington-New Delhi relations and regional stability.

The fear of a rising China challenging its global dominance and breaking its alliances in the Asia-Pacific region prompted the Obama administration to launch the "pivot to Asia" policy in 2011. Seeking India's support could indeed serve the change in the US' strategy. But containing China is unlikely to be the goal Obama and Modi want to jointly pursue.

The trade between China and India may have been imbalanced and some border disputes may have occurred between them over the past few years, but the leaders of the two countries have carefully dealt with these problems.

With both parties pledging to control border disputes and pushing for the signing of 12 bilateral agreements worth $20 billion, President Xi Jinping, during his trip to India in September 2014, made it clear that China was determined to build a healthy and progressive relationship with India. The Indian leadership echoed the same determination, because it expected to increase Chinese investment in the country to improve its infrastructure and narrow the trade deficit with China.

In one word, cooperation rather than conflict remains the driving force of future China-India relationship.

Sun Shihai is director of Chinese Association for South Asian Studies. The article is an excerpt from his interview with China Daily's Cui Shoufeng.

Defense pact targets terrorism

Since Sept 11, 2001, security has trumped commerce in US policy. But its failure in Iraq and Afghanistan to defeat non-conventional enemy forces and the spread of Islamic State cells in the United States and the European Union has led Washington to look toward India as an essential military partner.

During US President Barack Obama's visit to India from Jan 25 to 27, the two sides extended the 10-year Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in 2005 by another decade, and made the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative the vehicle for future bilateral collaboration to develop high-tech weapons and systems.

Along with production, intelligence cooperation between the two sides will also increase, perhaps to the same level that the US has with the United Kingdom. The national security advisors of the two countries will have their own hotline so that they can communicate regularly.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Obama understand that India and the US face the same threats, and have to jointly, rather than separately, deal with them. The enhanced US-India security partnership that has resulted from Obama's second visit to India is not directed against China, a country that is economically important to the US and India both.

Instead, the US-India partnership will focus on fighting terrorism and ensuring the smooth flow of trade through air, land and sea, which would benefit all countries that focus on economic development.

Modi has made improved economic relations with China a priority next only to a security partnership with the US, which is good news for Chinese companies, for they will invest up to $20 billion in India in the next five years.

But in all this, India has not forgotten old friends such as Russia. It has stayed away from countries that have been critical of Moscow because of the Ukraine crisis.

What Modi seeks is not the zero-sum game of "either the US or China" but the win-win outcome of establishing transformational relationships with the US and China both.

M.D. Nalapat is vice-chair of the Manipal Advanced Research Group and UNESCO peace chair, and professor of geopolitics at Manipal University, India.

Nuclear deal raises concerns

The announcement of a "breakthrough understanding" on the stalled Indo-US civilian nuclear deal shows substance coming out of US President Barack Obama's visit to India.

The understanding is a critical step that moves the two countries closer to operating the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement of 2006, under which, India agreed to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and to place all its civil nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards and the US agreed to full civil nuclear cooperation with India.

It addresses one of the two issues that had stalled the agreement's operation, the issue of liability in the event of a nuclear accident, with the setting up of a large insurance pool without the need to change India's existing legislation.

The other is the US' demand for tracking of nuclear materials transferred from the US and other countries, which has seemingly been withdrawn.

Nonproliferation specialists have challenged the legitimacy and consequences of withdrawing a requirement to track nuclear materials transferred to India. They argue that India has nuclear weapons, is not party to any nonproliferation treaty, and its nuclear weapons program is outside of IAEA safeguards, so any sales and transfers of civilian nuclear materials, technology and plants without additional safeguard arrangements may directly or indirectly assist India's nuclear weapons program.

If so, it would be a big blow to the international nonproliferation regime. Waiving the materials tracking provision may also upset other nuclear capable countries such as Japan whose nuclear programs are under full IAEA safeguards.

The deal means it is now up to US companies to decide whether to do business in India, and, of course, the companies with their eyes on India have welcomed the efforts of the US and Indian governments.

To date, media coverage on the nuclear "understanding" has largely focused on its implications for US-Indian relations and nuclear industries. However, the new Indo-US understanding may also have impact on Pakistan's nuclear development.

This serves as a reminder that any nuclear deal has its nonproliferation and geopolitical implications. Policies and policymakers have to take these implications into consideration when engaging in nuclear cooperation.

Having said this, it should be noted that nuclear civilian cooperation per se is market oriented as long as the cooperation is in compliance with international nonproliferation norms and regulations.

China is a growing exporter of civilian nuclear energy and is assessing more overseas markets, including India's. During President Xi's visit to India last year, India and China issued a joint statement announcing their civilian nuclear cooperation.

Chinese leaders have also pledged to continue nuclear energy cooperation with Pakistan, an energy thirsty country. The West should no longer make a fuss over China-Pakistan's civilian nuclear cooperation.

Han Hua is an associate professor at School of International Studies, Peking University.

Wider participation in climate deal

If you thought India signed the climate deal with the United States during US President Barack Obama's just concluded visit to New Delhi because it was under pressure to do so following the US-China climate deal in November, you would be wrong for two reasons. There is nothing binding in the India-US climate deal. And none of the points in the 10-point fact sheet issued by the White House on the deal talks about emission cuts or eco-friendly measures to be taken by India.

Perhaps India cannot be expected to accept any binding measure in a climate deal at this stage of its economic development and the level of poverty in the country. Obama and Modi announced on Jan 25 that the two countries would only work together to fight global climate change, and hope to "expand policy dialogues and technical work on clean energy and low greenhouse gas emissions technologies".

The India-US climate deal is different from the China-US pact primarily because the latter talks about specifics: the US will cut emissions by 26-28 percent from the 2005 levels by 2025, and China will ensure that its emissions peak by 2030 and non-fossil energy accounts for at least 20 percent of its energy mix.

The media hype over the India-US climate deal is possibly because they want to portray Obama as the man who made the two largest developing countries sign climate deals (binding or not) and paved the way for a possible global climate pact in Paris at the end of this year.

But irrespective of what Obama's or Modi's intentions are for signing the deal, the point is that the fight against climate change is not for personal glory or the benefit of just one country. More importantly, it is the responsibility of all countries, especially the developed ones, to prevent the climate from running wild and pushing the planet toward doom.

OP Rana is a senior writer with China Daily.

Fallout of Obama's visit to India


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