Παρασκευή, 23 Ιουνίου, 2023
"There is something about very large countries that makes the illusions created around them almost fatally irresistible"
In the American comic strip Peanuts, little Charlie takes turns kicking the ball, until his girlfriend Lucy grabs it and he "punches" the air and... falls. This seems likely to happen in US-India relations as well, according to Columbia American professor Howard French.
Many in the West and especially in the US believe that the new superpower of 1,425 people will act as a counterweight to the dangerous China.
There is a belief that the world's largest democracy, India will somehow reach common ground with the West and balance together against Chinese competition.
But even if India does not become a tacit ally of the West, some remain optimistic that its growing wealth and power will distract China enough to make the prospect of conflict with the US and its more obvious partners prohibitive. her security.
Besides, the recent US approval of Indian companies to build fighter jet engines, the purchase of US Predator jets and other equipment and Modi's statements of "unprecedented trust" between his government and the US fueled the above optimism.
You will press it like in the comic
However, former New York Times correspondent and Columbia University professor Howard French, with his analysis in Foreign Policy, speaks of "chimeras" and "naivety" on the part of Washington, regarding its high expectations from New Delhi .
He stresses that US concerns about China make it particularly difficult for US policymakers to think carefully before engaging with India.
"If they could step back and take a more sober view of things," says French, "they would realize that India is almost the equivalent of the scene from the Peanuts comic when Lucy grabs—repeatedly—the last moment the ball just before the unfortunate Charlie kicks it, without having learned his lesson.
How did the West deal with China?
The American recalls that the same thing happened with China, where for decades there was a widespread illusion in the West that it would derive unlimited wealth by selling one product – from shirts to cars – to every Chinese consumer, benefiting from the country's opening to the free market.
China may have been open to Western investment, benefiting foreign companies and foreign consumers, but Beijing has been operating on its own premises all along. "This meant blocking off many sectors of its economy from Western companies, as well as copying many of the West's most profitable businesses and letting them operate at high profits as China's own national champions, protected by high walls that kept out the unwanted outsider. competition". This can happen with developing India as well.
Many believed that after the end of the Cold War that India would somewhat abandon its non-aligned policy (Non-Aligned Movement). For example, as French reports, in the early 2000s Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was offered pioneering US cooperation in the construction of civilian nuclear power plants.
"The Americans were allowed to dream that India could join the US coalition, even gradually, in an alliance of great democracies," says French, but he notes that there are great and growing reasons for concern about India's health as a democracy.
"To set them aside or allow [democracy issues] not to be mentioned in a summit [with India] now would be a display of US cynicism," says the American academic.
But is this India you are talking about?
What still worries French is that India's growth is not what it seems. Its GDP is still only about 1/6 that of China, even though it was roughly equivalent in the early 1990s. In 2019, 10% of India's population lived below a poverty line with an income of 2.15 USD per day.
This means that India still has more desperately poor people than any African country, for example. Meanwhile, about 1/4 of the population remains illiterate and many more are only marginally literate.
Also, female labor force participation has fallen in recent years to just 23%, slightly more than 1/3 of the level seen in China and many Western countries. Industrialization in India, which many economists see as the surest way out of poverty, may have peaked in 2002.
The horrible reality of the powerful
“Why should a country with such a profile be the world's largest arms importer? India's leaders, present and future, should be called to account," says the American analyst.
Part of the answer may be China – something the West is after – but the other reason for boosting India's arsenal is neighboring Pakistan. This country's economic health and the well-being of its citizens are even more precarious than India's, and yet it also spends huge sums on its military.
India and Pakistan - two nuclear nations - have not enjoyed true and lasting peace with each other since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.
"But which major powers - the US, China, Russia, or the Europeans - will invest their diplomacy at the highest level to help settle definitively the differences that divide these South Asian rivals over Kashmir and other issues? "The fact that we can't point to anyone reveals the horrible reality of great power competition itself: It's rarely about the common good," concludes French.