Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Nov 17, 2004
Bush second term The emerging world order
There is much that India and particularly our Communists can learn from their Chinese Comrades about pragmatism and realism in the conduct of foreign policy. The Chinese have also discarded many of the Marxist doctrines, while adopting pragmatic industrial and labour policies that accelerate economic growth and promote foreign investment. While we were adopting such unrealistic policies as reservations for small-scale industries in consumer goods, the Chinese developed mass production capabilities that enhanced employment and produced internationally competitive consumer products to flood world markets.
Given such unique pragmatism in the pursuit of their national interests by the Chinese, one was surprised to see how they reacted to the events leading to the re-election of Mr George W. Bush as the US President. After scrupulously avoiding any comment on the American Presidential race, the former Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr Qian Qichen, who still wields considerable influence in China, came out with a rather interesting statement just before the election day. It was a time when many political observers (and some Indian astrologers) felt that given the unpopularity of the of Mr Bush's military intervention in Iraq, Senator John Kerry was headed for victory. On November 1, Mr Qian criticised Mr Bush for what he said was the latter's "catastrophic" and "unilateralist" foreign policy. On the same day, the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily, accused Mr Bush of "arrogance" and "complete failure" in diplomacy. The Chinese criticism of Mr Bush for being "unilateralist" is somewhat amusing given the fact that China invaded fellow Communist Vietnam "unilaterally" (but with tacit American support) in 1979, merely to teach that neighbour a "lesson"!
Being supreme pragmatists, the Chinese promptly changed their tune when Mr Bush was re-elected. On November 5, the Chinese proclaimed: "We in China appreciate the Bush Administration's determination to build a constructive relationship with us. We look forward to the re-elected US Government and ours, working together to promote the development of constructive and cooperative relations between the two Asia-Pacific giants." What is significant is the cynical manner in which the Chinese assessment of Mr Bush changed within four days, merely because he did not lose the Presidential elections as anticipated! Even more cynical is the fact that despite the Chinese claiming that they are for a "multipolar" world order, they tell the US that the two countries should cooperate as the two "Asia-Pacific giants". In effect, despite all its talk of "Panchsheel" China is seeking a bipolar world that it dominates along with the US. As China feels that along with the US it is one of the two "giants" in the Asia-Pacific Region, it obviously envisages a lesser and subordinate role for powers such as Japan and Russia. The Middle Kingdom evidently still believes that the "barbarians" in its neighbourhood should kowtow to it.
Unlike China, both Japan and Russia have been consistent in their approach to the recent US Presidential elections. The Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Junichiro Koizumi, has found the Bush Administration's approach to trade and issues of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific reassuring. He made no secret of his preference for a Bush second term. Likewise, the Russian President, Mr Vladimir Putin, made his preference for Bush apparent well before the elections of November 2. Mr Putin realised that while Mr Bush was ready to cooperate in dealing with Chechen terrorists as a part of his overall "War on Terrorism," the Democrats were given to sermonising to him on "human rights" and "democracy". Responding to the victory, Mr Putin described Bush as a "predictable partner". He pointedly added that the Bush victory indicated that the American people have not given in to threats of international terrorism.
There have been mixed reactions to the Bush victory in Europe. The victory has obviously thrilled Mr Tony Blair who is looking at early elections in the UK. Leaders such as Italy's Sylvio Berlusconi feel vindicated. The French President, Mr Jacques Chirac, and the German Chancellor, Mr Gerhard Schroeder, have spoken of the need to put past differences behind, but are obviously uneasy. ASEAN members Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines have been pleased by the Bush re-election.
While there has generally been a mix of positive, cynical and negative responses for the Bush second term, his re-election has spread consternation in the Islamic world. Apart from Iran that indicated that it preferred a Bush second term to a Kerry Presidency, the Arab world, with perhaps the exception of a few Gulf Emirates such as Kuwait, has reacted with horror. Even within the US, its seven million Muslims openly campaigned against Mr Bush, though there were virtually no differences between Mr Bush and Mr Kerry on support for Israel. More recently, influential religious leaders in Saudi Arabia have voiced their opposition to the American military presence in Iraq, though the Saudi Royalty appears to be playing on both sides of the fence. But regimes within the Arab world depend on American sustenance and support for survival. And the Americans know this.
The Bush Administration's foreign policy priorities appear well defined. The highest priority would be to restore peace and hold elections in January 2005 in Iraq, while seeking to build Iraqi forces to take over security duties as the Americans begin a phased withdrawal. This is, however easier said than done, given the extent of anti-American sentiments across Iraq. Simultaneously there will be greater attention to the Palestinian issue in a post-Arafat era. Significant diplomatic effort is also going to be devoted to issues of nuclear non-proliferation in Iran and North Korea. One hopes that Americans realise the serious threats that will arise to global and regional security and stability if they seek military options in Iran.
Finally, no effort will be spared by Mr George Bush Jr. to "get" Osama bin Laden, irrespective of whether he is in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Carrots and sticks will be used to persuade the Pakistan President, Gen Pervez Musharraf, to cooperate. But how will New Delhi react if the "carrots" for Pakistan include nuclear capable F-16 strike aircraft? We will then be faced with a situation in which Pakistan has nuclear weapons carrying aircraft supplied by the US and nuclear tipped missiles supplied China and North Korea.
In these circumstances, it is evident that while there is scope for strategic cooperation with the Americans on such issues as stability and progress in the Indian Ocean Region, New Delhi will have to learn to manage its differences with Washington in a mature manner.
Similarly, while we should pursue our quest for peace and tranquillity along our borders with China and extensively engage our Northern neighbour on issues such as trade, investment, energy security and environment, we should be under no illusions about the realities of China's quest for world power. The Defence Minister,
Mr Pranab Mukherjee, has, for the first time, pointed out the dangers posed by nuclear and missile proliferation by China in the Annual Report of the Defence Ministry. This is a welcome acknowledgement of realities, devoid of the pious sentimentalities we often resort to.
(The author is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan.)
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