[TODAY]The new order rising in AsiaA nuclear power with a population of 1.4 billion, land area 15 times the size of the Korean Peninsula, gross domestic product of $515 billion and an annual economic growth rate of more than 8 percent, India is definitely a major power in Asia, equipped with the qualifications of a superpower.
The country is a fateful rival with China, which became a superpower a step earlier with a population of 1.3 billion and gross domestic product of $1.1 trillion. If the Bush administration of the United States, which set a goal of checking China as one of its main Asia policies, does not embrace India as a strategic partner, it will amount to a neglect of duty.
The results of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Washington gave a big shock to the structure of international politics in the Asian region. Since India carried out nuclear tests in 1974, the United States and the 44-member Nuclear Suppliers Group have been banning exports of any nuclear fuel and parts for nuclear reactors to India. But the Bush administration lifted the ban on the occasion of Mr. Singh’s visit.
As President George W. Bush, who takes a hard line stance against the nuclear development of North Korea and Iran, acknowledged India’s nuclear armament as an established fact, India became a member of the “nuclear club” overnight even without signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Taking two kinds of measures to hold China in check, the United States did not try to hide its real intention when it promised to give India nuclear support. The U.S. Department of Defense submitted to Congress a report that China’s military reinforcement would be a threat to its neighboring Asian countries. And the U.S. government and business community are trying to hinder China’s state-run National Offshore Oil Corp. from taking over the American oil company Unocal for $18.5 billion.
The United States and China have already begun their competition over hegemony in Asia, and the United States has succeeded in making an ally of India which has tremendous potential. Since a huge market is opened to nuclear energy companies in the United States, it is like killing two birds with one stone for the Bush administration.
Mr. Bush’s nuclear support policy toward India is being criticized at home and abroad as being without principles and irresponsible. For Mr. Bush to keep his promise to India, he has to receive approval from Congress. There are opinions that Congress will oppose his policy on the grounds of lack of justification, but Congress is likely to approve the government’s measures if it judges that Mr. Bush’s double standard on nuclear weapons will bring benefits to the United States. The Bush administration is also confident in persuading the 44-member Nuclear Suppliers Group.
There are conflicting responses in India. In his report from Mumbai, India, Anand Giridharadas, a reporter at the International Herald Tribune, called India “superpower lite,” “a new type of superpower ― militarily potent, economically dynamic, regionally assertive, independently minded.” But a cynical response cannot be ignored either.
Bharat Karnad, a defense analyst at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, cynically wrote in “The Asian Age” that India is a country “of servility mixed with complacency, riding another state’s coattails” and “a big little country bobbing along like cork in water ― all buoyancy and drift, and no substance.”
Rather than the responses from the Indian people, we are more concerned about the repercussions for countries like South Korea of a power struggle that is staged in the Pacific and Indian oceans among three super-sized whales ― the United States, China and India. The United States’ decision to check China will be a burden to South Korea. The United States is our ally and China is our close neighbor that would be ill at ease with us, were it not for close cooperation.
For the resolution of the North Korean nuclear problem, cooperation between the United States and China is indispensable. In the short term, if the six-party talks go awry, the possibility cannot be ruled out that North Korea will find an excuse in the United States’ double-standard nuclear policy to arm itself with more nuclear weapons. South Korea should display a diplomatic ability close to the level of art between the United States and China in conflict, which is not an easy challenge.
Fortunately, there are two sides to the situation. The more the United States and China compete with each other, the more the two countries will need cooperation from South Korea. If Japan follows the path to isolation as it does now, the value of South Korea’s existence will rise.
The troublesome argument about a balancer role may have come in this context.
It may not be a coincidence that in the process of agreeing to resume a fourth round of the six-party talks, compared to the previous three rounds, China’s role was reduced and South Korea and the United States’ role was relatively increased.
The newly forming triangular relations of the United States, China and India are likely to bring changes in the existing order of Asia.
South Korea should establish its position in Northeast Asia against the backdrop of the big framework of this new order.
*The writer is an adviser and senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie