Thursday, November 24, 2011

Asia Pacific's Muggy Cold War

The endless run of Asia Pacific conferences attended by the region’s powers has founded a deeply troubling new paradigm.  With the US insisting that China must be contained by the multitude of smaller states that surround her.

Sound familiar? A muggy cold war? Beijing the new Moscow?

India plays no small part in this US obsession with the meteoric rise of China, who in ten years will enjoy a GDP that will surpass America’s. The State Department sees India as a wonderfully heavy counter weight to the Red menace.

This has manifested itself with Gillard declaring, without consulting Rudd, her Foreign Minister, who vehemently opposes the policy, that Australia will indeed supply India with Uranium. This was hot on the heels of Gillard meeting with Obama, Australia’s Commander-in-Chief in Hawaii.

The State Department will not be devastated by India being armed to the teeth with Nuclear weapons, vaguely pointed at Shanghai, and of course even less concerned if Indian manufacturing is better fueled by nuclear plants.

Obama and Gillard’s announcement of the establishment of a new US marine base in Darwin has ramifications. It embitters an Australian, Chinese relationship that means so much more to Australia than it does to China.

The Australian mining sector has a steadily increasing trade with India but it is still a fraction of the coal and ore exports to the devouring dragon. This establishment of the Marine base is a celebrated snub to China.  Australia really is playing with fire and has not appreciated just how catastrophic a Chinese response would be for this country.

For Chinese wealth is matching her military power but her real immediate power is economic. They are offended by Australia having a foreign policy that is lazily xeroxed from the US State Department. If China decided to flex her tail and discourage Chinese importers of Australian minerals then the US would be in no position what so ever to help.  Regardless of how many garrisons dot the coast.

If China does exert economic pressure then Australia will back track shamelessly and will strongly reassess her role in the effeminate constraining of China. She cannot afford to do otherwise, when elections are at stake ANZUS be damned.

Can India afford to help tame the dragon? High on the agenda, in this long season of expensive talk shops, was the fact that China has laid claim to the better part of the South China Sea.

This area is sickly rich in oil.  India’s thirst for black gold is desperate. India is increasing her reach in exploration by scouting for new partners in the region. This Chinese claim of the Sea confidently challenges that. It will be strongly in India’s’ interests to side with the region’s powers against this stake.

The Chinese claim has also scared the living daylights out of the US. Her navies 7th Fleet have used the South China Sea as her own by perpetually patrolling the area for decades in enormous convoys.

Paul Keating, the former Prime Minister of Australia,  very recently made the observation that China had good grounds for this claim as the predicted US reaction to the equivalent, the Chinese Navy patrolling off the coast of Florida, would not be polite.

I am of the mind that it should not be a given that India side against China. In fact India should take a leaf out of Lee Kwan Yew’s, Singapore’s former dictator, wizened diplomacy. My Father asked him why he let the Russian fleet in after the Americans fleet had barely just set sail out of Singapore’s docks. “Oh David, you are so young.”

He was a Statesman who knew how to play each superpower off each other.  I believe India could benefit enormously from this.  One month Washington’s darling and the next up for anything with Beijing.  India must not be bullied into playing this counter weight role to China just because it fits the US’s motives so beautifully.

India should not get involved in this game that is the same manure in a different bucket. For all the buzz that this is a new Asia Pacific stand off; China and the US have a long and bloody relationship in our region.  Korea, Malaya and Vietnam were deathly conflicts that extinguished millions of civilian’s lives and Korea ploughed the ground for future global nuclear war. This is plainly evident in North and South Korea.

Comically, the US’s Asia Pacific policy during those conflicts was  strongly motivated by their determination for Communism to not threaten the capitalist way of life. Now their motivation is to stop China being so shamelessly capitalist and threatening the US’s entrenched policy of living beyond her means.  Which, co-incidentally, is only made possible by China being, by far, the largest buyer of US treasury bonds.

India has it’s own destiny to reclaim and cannot be distracted by signing up as the US’s wingman in this fast developing geopolitical nightmare.

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