India´s military cooperations
Hand in Hand 2007, the joint military exercise between Chinese and Indian troops in December of last year, was declared a success by China after completion. And that wasn´t the only good news. China´s and India´s first such exercise ever, in Yunnan province, also did "not aim at any third party or pose threat to any other country", said the People´s Liberation Army´s deputy chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Ma Xiaotian.
Just as China´s well-established joint military drills with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member states, the purpose of the first Chinese-Indian exercise was to counter the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism. Unlike the much bigger SCO events however, whose members share a longer history of joint exercises already, China and India apparently had an additional goal in mind – building more mutual trust.
Probably, "countering Separatism" doesn´t mean too much in this context. China will keep Tibet, and India will keep the Dalai Lama.
In all likelihood, Malabar 2007, a naval exercise in September 2007 that included India, the US, Japan, Australia, and Singapore, was something that the Chinese leadership had watched with anything but trust. Lines like the one spoken by Ma Xiaotian, about "not aiming at any third party" are the usual prelude or aftermath of many joint exercises. According to India´s defence minister A.K. Antony, Malabar 2007 was "no military alignment" either. "It´s only an exercise".
So, apart from all possible practical use, the first-ever Sino-Indian exercise was probably meant to be an offset for Malabar.
That´s not only good for building some trust between Asia´s two emerging giants, both of whom call a nice set of "machiavellistic" literature their own (see Realpolitik writings links, right column), who have a not-too-distant history of wars against each other, and still disputed common borders. India´s government itself probably deems some equidistance between itself, China, and the West useful, too. As Jin Linbo of the China Institute of International Studies puts it, according to the Voice of America, India is not the kind of country to become a card in America´s hands, or China´s piece of chess.
India has plans that do not always suit the West. Its relations with Iraq were quite friendly even in 2002, and the American invasion only one year later, for sure, messed up Indian economic ambitions there. The American and European way to deal with Iran, with which India´s state-run oil corporation IOC started a joint project in 2004, is conflicting with Indian interest, too. That said, not-too-hegemony-minded Westerners may come to terms with this new, multi-polar world. India´s concept of democracy seems to be much closer to Western ideas, than to China´s, and if the future global status doesn´t allow any of the great powers to go things alone any more, the need to make convincing cases will arise for each of these powers.
On December 25, too, All India Radio´s Overseas Service made it pretty clear that India´s ambitions are no smaller than those of other heavyweights. The news reported that the country´s deputy chief of staff had suggested another round of military exercises between China and India, on Indian territory next time. The daily commentary right afterwards was in strong contrast with the would-be India-Chinese honeymoon, as it referred to last week´s visit of India´s defence minister to Vietnam. As usual, the commentary seemed to be quite candid about how it viewed India´s policies:
"Given its rivalry with China, Vietnam can not become China´s strategic ally. In fact, Vietnam presents the biggest obstacle in China´s southward expansion. In the long term, it is a strategic move for India to develop strong ties with Vietnam."
All India Radio General Overseas Service (GOS), Dec 25, 2007, 18:10 UTC, Today´s Commentary
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