Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chinese Defence White Paper: Highlights

This analysis on the Chinese defence White Paper first appeared on the ORF website.

China released its latest defence white paper titled, “China’s National Defense in 2008” on January 21, 2009. While categorical and specific about the threats and challenges that China faces today, it says that there are “long-term and complicated threats” that are more general. The long-term challenges cover all aspects: “existence security” and development security, traditional security threats and non-traditional security threats, and domestic security and international security which the report sees as interdependent in nature. The specific challenges that are highlighted include Taiwan, East Turkistan and Tibet, all issues of Chinese national integration. Ministry of Defense Spokesman Colonel Hu Changming, while releasing the report stated that the separatist moves by these three forces “form a major security threat to the unity of the nation and a challenge to our security organs,” and in the case of Taiwan, the issue is further complicated by US arms sales, which China opposes vehemently.

The white paper outlines that China is “pursuing an independent foreign policy of peace and a national defense policy solely aimed at protecting its territory and people, and endeavouring to build, together with other countries, a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity.” The report also makes the point that while major powers are increasing the level of cooperation and drawing on each other’s strengths, they continue “to compete with and hold each other in check.” Identifying the challenges and difficulties, it says that there is an intensification of struggle for strategic resources, strategic locations and strategic dominance, along with hegemonism and power politics continuing with new power blocs emerging.

China continues to reiterate that its defence policy is purely defensive in nature, although it contradicts itself to state that it implements a military strategy of active defense.[1] According to the report, China formulated a military strategic guideline of active defense keeping in tune with the changes in international security as well as the concepts of warfare. One China scholar, Andrew Scobell, describes the Chinese strategic culture as a result of the “interplay between Confucian and Realpolitik strands.”[2] He in fact has coined the term “Cult of Defense” in which the Chinese elites believe that their country is pacifist, non-expansionist and purely defensive, but simultaneously be able to justify any use of force, including offensive and pre-emptive strikes and consider them defensive in nature. The aspect of offensive operations is another evidence of the continued relevance of Sun Tzu’s in the Chinese military strategy.[3]

Some of the key aspects highlighted in the white paper are informationization, training and jointness.

According to the report, informationization of the Chinese defense and armed forces is a key goal for China, for which it actively promotes the RMA (Revolution in Military Affairs) with Chinese characteristics. Making national defense building an “organic part of its social and economic development,” China is making efforts to balance between social & economic development and the military needs and in fact making the military and civilian forces compatible with and beneficial to each other, particularly in peacetime. China also has strategized plans to “lay a solid foundation” in its endeavour towards “national defense and armed forces building,” complete mechanization process and make significant progress towards informationization by 2020, and achieve a scale of modernisation of their forces by the middle of the century.[4] As part of reforming the PLA, China believes that it is essential to accelerate the processes of mechanization and informationization, improve training under conditions of informationization, advance innovation in military theory, technology, organisation and management, continuously increase core military capability of winning local wars under conditions of informationization as well as strengthening the capability to conduct MOOTW (military operations other than war). MOOTW has been introduced as an important “form of applying national military forces”; this would particularly be important under the concept of local wars in an informationalized scenario.

Training has been given particular emphasis in augmenting the overall fighting capabilities of the forces. In this regard, China reiterates the need to intensify strategic- and operational-level command post training and training in conditions of informationization, night training, integrated exercises for logistical and equipment support, on-base training and simulated training, web-based training, training with opposing players and training complex electromagnetic environments. The training evaluation mechanism as well as the standards of training is reported to have been improved. Training for jointness and on informationized platforms is seen as the key.

Logistics reform is another area that has been highlighted in the white paper. Upgradation of the logistical support and deepening the logistics reform are important objectives in this regard. Carrying it to the next level, the Jinan (Military) Theater in April 2007 formally adopted the joint logistics system based on the integration of tri-service logistical support. The leadership clearly sees the crucial importance of this in achieving tri-service integration and jointness in their operations. Maintaining that integrated joint operations are the way of the future, the PLA has established an army equipment system with high mobility and three-dimensional assault, a naval equipment system with integrated sea-air capabilities for offshore defensive operations, an air force equipment system with integrated air-land capabilities for both offensive and defensive operations, a surface-to-surface missile equipment system for the Second Artillery Force with both nuclear and conventional missiles, and an electronic information equipment system featuring systems integration and joint development. The white paper states that progress has been achieved in the field of command and control systems for integrated joint operations, which has improved the capability of battlefield information support in a significant manner. Main battle weapon systems are believed to have been informationized to a great extent, with particular focus on rapid detection, target location, friend-or-foe identification and precision strikes.[5]

China has also focused on the upgradation of weapons and equipment systems, with emphasis on MOOTW. PLA has been building new types of submarines, destroyers, frigates and aircraft, forming a preliminary weaponry and equipment system with second-generation equipment as the core and the third generation as the backbone. According to the report, the submarine force has underwater anti-ship, anti-submarine and mine-laying capabilities, as well as some nuclear counterattack capabilities. The surface ship force has developed a surface striking force represented by new types of missile destroyers and frigates, and has maritime reconnaissance, anti-ship, anti-submarine, air-defense, mine-laying and other operational capabilities. The aviation wing has developed an air striking force represented by sea-attack aircraft, and possesses reconnaissance, anti-ship, anti-submarine and air-defense operational capabilities. The Marine Corps has developed an amphibious operational force represented by amphibious armoured vehicles, and possesses amphibious operational capabilities.[6] Lastly, the coastal defense force is represented by new types of shore-to-ship missiles and possesses high coastal defense operations capability. China has also been building new ship bases, berthing areas, supply points, docks and airfields. Recently, a new naval base was discovered in Sanya on Hainan Island, which could house a large fleet of surface warships, and also serve as an underground base for submarines. The location is indeed critical as it will let China extend a greater influence in the South China Sea area besides allowing it greater access to the critical Straits of Malacca, while enabling China to have a larger naval presence closer to important sea lanes.[7] This development has certainly upped the ante for several countries including Japan, South Korea, India and the US. Housing of nuclear and non-nuclear submarines in Sanya, so close to the ASEAN region will also go against the 1996 Nuclear-Free-Zone Treaty.

As a rising superpower, China can be expected eventually to seek sufficient capabilities for a sea control strategy, but clearly, China is decades away from such capabilities. The continued significance of an aircraft carrier[8] in the PLA’s strategic thinking comes out essentially from its objectives of sea control and sea denial as also the recognition that air superiority is essential in future combat, besides for power projection purposes, which was evident when PLA officials told visiting US Commanders that “there is no more prominent and visible signal of a nation’s resolve and might than an aircraft carrier coming into a port.”[9]

Similar has been the efforts made by the ground forces, moving from regional defense to trans-regional mobility, making its units small, modular and multi-functional and has stepped up the development of aviation, light mechanised and information countermeasure forces, prioritised the development of operational and tactical missile, ground-to-air missiles, in order to improve capabilities for air-ground integrated operations, long distance manoeuvres, rapid assaults and special operations. In a similar manner, the Air Force has been improving its equipment and weapon systems, with the development of new types of fighters, air and anti-missile defense weapons, and command automation systems, which will increase the air forces’s capability to undertake both offensive and defensive operations. Lastly, the most important arm of the PLA, the Second Artillery Force too has kept up with upgradation, logistical reforms and innovations, suited to informationized warfare.

While China reiterates that it is separatism – Taiwan, East Turkistan and Tibet -- that is the major challenge, its concepts of warfare and capability upgradation go well beyond meeting these challenges. The report once again highlights the Chinese intention to become a global power by the middle of the century.
[1] Mao’s People War and Deng Xiaoping’s local war concepts continue to be guiding factors in China’s military strategy even as it modernizes its forces. The white paper states, “China is striving to make innovations in the content and forms of people’s war, exploring new approaches of the people in participating in warfare and support for the front, and developing new strategies and tactics for people’s war in conditions of informationization.” Themes like active defense and local wars also have been modified keeping in tune with the changes in modern warfare. Even while modernizing its warfare concepts, China continues to emphasize the “people” aspect, saying that “China always relies on the people to build national defense and the armed forces, combines a lean standing force with a powerful reserve force.” Significant changes were brought in the Chinese military strategy after the 1991 Gulf War where the PLA recognised the importance of fighting a ‘modern war under high technology conditions.’ See, Y. Ji, “The Revolution in Military Affairs and the Evolution of China’s Strategic Thinking,” Contemporary Southeast Asia, vol. 21, no. 3, December 1999, p. 353, cited in Dennis Woodward, “The People’s Liberation Army: a Threat to India?,” Contemporary South Asia, vol. 12, no. 2, June 2003, p. 231.
[2] Andrew Scobell, “China and Strategic Culture” (Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College: Carlisle, PA, May 2002), available at
[3] Sun Tzu in his Art of War stated, “Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive.” See, Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Foreword by James Clavell (London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, 1981), p. 23.
[4] Chinese military is the world’s largest military force, with the largest standing army (approx. 2.25 million strong), with well-established five wings – PLA Army, PLA Navy, PLA Air Force, Second Artillery Corps and PLA Reserved Force. Chinese defence expenditure for 2008 stood at 417.77 billion yuan, which is a rise of 62.379 billion yuan from the previous year’s actual spending, a 17.6 per cent increase. China is the world’s fourth largest military spender after the US, UK, and France, but in PPP terms (which is more relevant), China stands second at $188.2 bn after the US which spends $528.7 bn. Consistent with global changes taking place in defence science & technology and weaponry, Chinese military has maintained the pace in its modernisation too. Yet, China believes that it will be able to lay a strong foundation only by 2010.
[5] These have become of particular focus to the Chinese since the first Gulf War. Some of their tanks, artillery pieces, ships and aircraft are believed to be informationized, new types of informationized platforms are being developed and the ratio and number of precision-guided munitions are also on the rise. China, since 1991, has been in the process of development/procurement of precision-guided weapons, improvement of command and control structures as well as the non-conventional methods of warfare like electronic warfare, use of ultra-sonic weapons, laser weapons, stealth weapons, ultrahigh frequency weapons, and electromagnetic guns. The PLA is also believed to be designing a three-tier (land, sea and air) defence system for “outer detection and implicit warning, intermediate interception, and inner denial, including the lethal use of force against intruders.” See, Kenneth Lieberthal, “How Domestic Forces Shape the PRC’s Grand Strategy and International Impact,” Ashley J. Tellis and Michael Wills (Eds.), Strategic Asia 2007-08 (Washington D.C.: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2007), p.61.
[6] China has improved its amphibious capabilities in the recent years, with Beijing conducting more than a dozen such exercises in the last decade or so, with several exercises focusing on a Taiwan scenario. Given the logistics-intensive nature of these operations, and the need to have air and sea superiority, the probability of the Chinese venturing into amphibious operations against the Taiwanese is unlikely. However, the fact remains that China has significantly beefed up its capabilities in this regard.
[7] The new satellite images that are available now reveal cave openings around the Sanya base that can house up to at least eight submarines. It is also believed that there is space for a supported underground structure that could have more than 20 submarines. See, Richard Fisher, Jr., “China’s Naval Secrets,” Asian Wall Street Journal, May 05, 2008, available at See also, “Japan urges greater Chinese transparency on military plans,” AFP, May 31, 2008, available at
[8] There were media reports towards the middle of 2007 that China had given contracts to few Chinese companies for the development of systems and components for the aircraft carrier. Further, towards the end of the year, there was another media report, citing Xu Guangyu, an analyst and director of the government-backed China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, saying that it has almost been decided that the Chinese navy will build aircraft carriers. See, “China: Construction of An Aircraft Carrier,” ABC Radio Australia, July 11, 2007, available at and Earlier, in 1997, Hong Kong media had reported Chinese plans to acquire a smaller aircraft carrier, rather than a large carrier. Later in 1999, the media reported that the Chinese leadership had essentially sanctioned Y 250 million for two carrier, estimated to be completed by 2009, with a displacement of 48,000 tons and could carry 24 Su-27Ks. However, it appears that these were speculations made on the basis of the arrival of a partially finished ex-Soviet carrier, the ‘Varyag’ at a Dalian shipyard. See, Sibapada Rath, “China’s Tryst with Aircraft Carrier,” Naval Despatch, December 2005, p. 37.
[9] Tim Johnson, “Aircraft Carriers on Horizon for China?,” November 11, 2007, available at

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama and India

This analysis on Obama and India appeared first on the IPCS website.

Now that Barrack Hussein Obama has been sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America, what does it mean for India? Three factors are likely to determine how relations between the US and India will be under Obama.

Generally, Democrats have tended to be more interventionist than the Republicans, as they believe that the US should play a role in regional conflicts to both resolve such conflicts and to protect human rights during these conflicts. During the Clinton Presidency, the US militarily intervened in a number of regional conflicts including in Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Congo, Liberia, Albania, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. Obama appears to want to continue with that trend. Susan Rice, a key Obama advisor and Obama's nominee as UN Ambassador, stated in her confirmation hearing that the Obama Administration will continue to see the promotion of democracy and human rights around the world as an important goal.
The pro-interventionist stance of the Democrats has tended to be a problem in Indo-US relations. In the India context, this would involve the Obama Administration wanting to intervene and seek to solve the Kashmir problem. Obama's recent comments in interviews to Time magazine in October and December 2008 and the reported consideration of former President Bill Clinton as a special envoy on Kashmir are indicative of this pro-interventionist stance that India will witness increasingly in the coming years. Obama had said that the US "should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they (Pakistan) can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants." Some analysts have tended to believe that a Kashmir-specific pro-active policy need not necessarily be bad, given Obama's pro-India statements. It should be remembered that his pro-India stance in the recent past had more to do with seeking the support of the Indian-American community. The concern however is that Obama believes that finding a solution to the Kashmir issue is almost a pre-requisite for getting Pakistan's support for the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), particularly in Afghanistan. New Delhi needs to be cautious of the US tendency of linking up Afghanistan's security with terrorism in Kashmir.
Obama's tough line against Pakistan might be heartening to Indian policy makers. The US has pledged huge military/financial aid to Pakistan, though this is conditional on Pakistan's cooperation on the war against terror. The Obama Administration, in its new foreign policy agenda document has made it clear that while the new administration "will increase nonmilitary aid to Pakistan," Pakistan will be held "accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan." Earlier, Joe Biden, in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had introduced a legislation proposing to triple non-military aid to Pakistan in the next five years. The legislation authorised US$7.5 billion over next five years, mainly for building schools, roads and clinics. The bill, however, called for greater accountability and effective cooperation from Pakistan in fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The second issue which could act as "spoiler" is nuclear non-proliferation. While the Democrats and Republicans have both adopted strong non-proliferation measures, the Democrats have tended to be much more rigid "non-proliferation ayatollahs." The policies during the Clinton Presidency are a pointer of this. India's Pokhran tests in 1998 proved to be a major issue for the Clinton Administration and it invoked a series of technological and economic sanctions on India. India not being a member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) continues to be a major issue for the Democrats. Despite being a member of NPT, China has consistently violated the treaty and engaged in proliferation activities, especially with Pakistan, but the US appeared willing to overlook the issue because China is an NPT-member state.
The new foreign policy agenda document of the Obama Administration stated that it "will crackdown on nuclear proliferation by strengthening the NPT," while working simultaneously on nuclear disarmament. What is more important is how the US deals with states that are members of certain security architectures, yet engage in proliferation.
Thirdly, Indo-US relations will to a great extent depend upon how the US engages with China. Democrats have tended to have a more than favorable approach towards China, with Clinton's presidency being a case in point. A close Sino-US partnership, with South Asia being jointly 'managed' by the US and China, remains an unappealing thought, a US-China clash will have wider security consequences throughout Asia and will affect India also. We need neither. Lastly, how Russia is viewed by the Obama Administration will have serious consequences. Russia remains an important power in the emerging Asian strategic framework and it is important that both India and the US recognize this reality and adjust their policies accordingly.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Nuclear Deal: Implications for India and Global Nuclear Regime

This essay on India-US Nuclear Deal appeared first on the IPCS website.

It should be abundantly clear that the Indo-US nuclear deal is more than just about nuclear energy for India. The agreement has several strategic connotations, including with regard to China.

The Deal Itself
US President George W. Bush signed the legislation on the Indo-US nuclear deal into law on October 8, 2008. The law, now titled, “United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-proliferation Enhancement Act,” is a product of the March 2006 agreement between India and the US on civil nuclear cooperation based on the joint statement between President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 18, 2005. The agreement was a direct consequence of the US’ recognition of India as a major pole of power in the coming century, as “an anchor of stability in Asia and an engine of global economic growth.”[1] More importantly, the agreement is a result of India’s strong non-proliferation record despite not being a party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).[2] The deal also undoubtedly recognises India’s “de-facto” status as a nuclear weapon state.[3]

The Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement was a broad framework agreement, and not one dealing with specifics. The current agreement is rather a facilitating agreement to engage in nuclear commerce, and therefore, after the operationalisation of the deal, both India and the US will have to sign more specific agreements. However, if the two countries have to engage in nuclear commerce, a few conditions had to met, including change in US domestic laws, an NSG waiver and an India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA. While the US-India nuclear agreement was not designed to put restrictions on India’s strategic programme, the US wanted to ensure that no technology or fuel transferred for India’s civilian programme could be used for its military programme. These elements had also to be inserted into an India-specific IAEA Safeguards Agreement. Only after these conditions were met would India be allowed to do business with the US or any other country in the nuclear arena. India also had to put in place a new export control mechanism before the two countries could proceed with the agreement. Accordingly, India harmonised its export control laws with that of the NSG and the MTCR Guidelines, although India is not a member of either of them. Similarly, India’s “Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005,” entered into force in June 2005 and brought about more stringent non-proliferations regulations and tighter export control measures and it also showed India’s commitment to non-proliferation.[4]

The path to the final agreement included many steps, each of which was controversial in India and/or the US, though usually for different reasons. Following the July 2005 statement to engage in civilian nuclear cooperation, President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement in March 2006, during Bush’s visit to New Delhi. Accordingly, in May 2006, a separation plan was announced by the Indian government, separating its military and civilian facilities.[5] The plan was immediately opposed: as per this separation plan, eight plants would be left outside international safeguards. In addition, the Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) located at Kalpakkam were not offered for safeguards, as the Fast Breeder Programme is at the R&D stage and the technology will take time before it matures. This came under sharp criticism from the non-proliferation activists in the US who argued that large number of facilities outside the safeguards will make available for India “significant additional nuclear weapons production capacity.”[6] Upon finalization of this separation plan, the US agreed to build into the bilateral 123 agreement fuel supply assurances, help negotiate with the IAEA an India-specific Safeguards Agreement, help develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to “guard against any disruption of supply,” and in case disruption occurs, the US and India would put in place alternatives, countries like France, Russia and UK who might be able to restore fuel supply to India.

After the separation plan was agreed upon, the Hyde Act was signed into law by President Bush in December 2006. The Hyde Act, considered the parent act of the 123 agreement, provides the legal basis for nuclear commerce between India and the US, since India is not party to the NPT. The Hyde Act came under sharp criticism because of certain clauses that said that India will work with the US in containing Iran’s nuclear programme and that India and the US will work together on a Fissile Materials Control Treaty. However, these are more by way of advisories than binding commitments. Nuclear testing has been another issue debated during the passage of the Hyde Act. The BJP, the main opposition party in the Indian parliament, focused on the right to test as a serious issue, arguing that the deal would prevent India from conducting future tests. This is a false claim: nothing in the deal says that India cannot test. There may be consequences if India tests, but even this has been minimised because under the conditions of the deal, the US will have to take into consideration whether India was forced to test because of circumstances such as nuclear tests by India’s neighbours. Moreover, if India conducts a test, it will have to face some international opposition irrespective of the signing the deal or not.

Whatever be the controversy surrounding the Hyde Act, the 123 agreement that was signed in August 2007 makes it abundantly clear that the Indo-US nuclear deal will not impact in any manner India’s strategic weapons programme. The agreement also makes no mention of India’s nuclear testing. The agreement also states clearly that the US will work with other countries in helping alter the NSG rules to facilitate nuclear trade with India. However, the agreement, for a period of 40 years and extendable by another 10 years, can be terminated by either party after giving a one-year notice. Upon termination of the agreement, the US retains the right to take back “any nuclear material, equipment, non-nuclear material or components transferred.” The understanding is that the “right of return” will impact on the bilateral relations significantly, and therefore a consultative mechanism has been put in place that will “give special consideration to the importance of uninterrupted operation of nuclear reactors of the party (country) concerned with respect to the availability of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes as a means of achieving energy security.”[7]

Once the 123 Agreement was finalised, the next processes involved an India-specific IAEA Safeguards Agreement, which was secured in July 2008 and a waiver of NSG rules that came about in September 2008. Thereafter, the agreement was sent to the US Congress for approval, where despite enjoying bipartisan support to strengthening US relations with India, the agreement faced a lot of opposition from the strong non-proliferation lobby. While supporters of the deal like Senators Richard Lugar and Christopher Dodd have stated that the deal is in the long-term interests of the United States, those opposing it cited the deal as seriously undermining the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Senator Dodd highlighted some of the “compelling geopolitical reasons” like India’s geographic proximity to China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as reasons to strengthen this relationship, while Senator Lugar emphasised the importance of strengthening US partnership with an India that shares democratic values and which could “exert increasing influence on the world stage.”[8]

However, even people like Strobe Talbott, former Deputy Secretary of State under President Clinton, who have worked hard for a closer partnership between India and the US maintained that the Bush Administration has given away too much and made “an India exception” to the NPT.[9] He worried that the “India exception” will be taken as a precedent by several other countries who may want to work out a similar deal for their allies/friends. A case in point is China wanting to do a similar deal for Pakistan. Robert Einhorn, former Assistant Secretary of State for Non-proliferation, and another critic of the deal also maintained that the Bush Administration gave away too much and that India has managed to get it all – “acquiring the ability to import uranium and nuclear reactor technology, obtaining recognition for India’s status as a nuclear power, and preserving all of India’s strategic options, particularly the ability to increase substantially its production of plutonium for nuclear weapons.”[10] Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association called the deal a “non-proliferation disaster.” As for the US administration’s claims about the utility of the deal, Kimball said that the deal does not bring India into the non-proliferation framework, as it has made a “country-specific exemption from core nonproliferation standards that the United States has spent decades to establish.”[11] Congressman Howard Berman, another vehement critic of the deal, wanted to introduce amendments to the deal stating in unambiguous terms that the US will terminate nuclear trade with India if India resumes nuclear testing; and that the President is required to review and implement applicable export control authorities for US nuclear exports to other nuclear supplier nations that continue nuclear trade with India.[12] However, this was withdrawn after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave an assurance that it is the “highest priority” for the US to get an assurance to ban the export of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technology to countries like India that are not party to the NPT at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting in November 2008. Several Senators also criticised the fact that there was hardly any debate on such an important issue as this and the hasty manner in which the deal was passed in the Congress. Another vehement critic, Senator Byron Dorgan stated that India was being rewarded for wrong behaviour.[13]

President Bush, however, using his overriding powers, killed thorny conditionalities and stated clearly that “The legislation does not change the terms of the 123 Agreement as I submitted it to the Congress.”[14] He went on to clarify that India’s right to reprocessing and fuel assurance commitments remain the same, as recorded in the 123 Agreement.[15] In the final steps towards operationalisation of the agreement, President Bush had to make two sets of certifications that (1) that conclusion and implementation of the agreement is consistent with US obligations under the NPT; and (2) that it is the policy of the US to work with members of the NSG to restrict transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology. These certifications have now been made through a Memorandum to the Secretary of State (October 21) and the two countries will shortly exchange diplomatic notes as per Article 16 (1) of the 123 Agreement that brings the agreement into force.

Implications for India
It should be abundantly clear that the agreement is more than just about nuclear energy for India. The agreement has several strategic connotations, including with regard to China.

Firstly, the agreement is an outcome of the US’ recognition that India is a major power in the 21st century and its role in the emerging Asian strategic framework. If this century is going to be an Asian century, as is widely predicted, the major powers would be US, China, Russia, Japan and India. Hence, it is strategically important for the US to have a strengthened and comprehensive relationship with India. It should also be noted that both the US and India have concerns with the rising China and more specifically its military modernisation which would have a bearing on the way China conducts business with the rest of the world.

Second, if the US wishes to take this relationship to higher plane, the continuing technology controls placed on India will be a major stumbling block. All said and done, it is the trade in strategic goods and technology and not perceived common interests alone that will make this relationship an enduring one.[16] This is the second imperative on which the nuclear agreement with the US is to be looked at. However, many Indian analysts have contested this saying that the agreement is a way of bringing India into the non-proliferation order.

Third, the Indo-US nuclear agreement is in India’s interest. It gets India out of the nuclear apartheid of the last three decades. The deal recognizes India as a nuclear power, which has been a great concern to the non-proliferation ayatollahs of Washington.

Four, impact of nuclear disarmament on Indo-US nuclear deal. Impact on the nuclear deal and civilian nuclear cooperation if the global community agrees to a time framework to rid the world of nuclear weapons, which remains highly impossible, will be minimal. The nuclear deal, dealing with civilian aspects of nuclear programme will not be hampered by a universal disarmament plan.

Analysts have been concerned of implications for the Iran-India gas pipeline. Firstly, the Iran- India pipeline remains independent of the Indo-US nuclear deal. Given India’s increasing demand for energy, India must look at every option of energy including nuclear energy. The US position vis a vis Iran has become controversial due to Iran’s alleged pursuance of a nuclear weapons programme. India also may not like to see a nuclear Iran in its neighbourhood.

Impact on India’s military programme. India’s opposition party, the BJP, while criticizing the deal on the issue of nuclear testing, also raised concern that the deal puts a cap on India’s strategic nuclear arsenal. The deal was perceived as curtailing on India’s sovereign decision to decide on the size of its nuclear arsenal. The fact is that India already has indigenous uranium reserves (reserves of 78,000 metric tons of uranium (MTU)) to pursue its strategic weapons programme; hence the Indo-US nuclear deal will not in any manner hamper its military programme.[17]

Lastly, the impact is more in terms of the emerging Asian security framework. If India has to rise above the South Asian cocoon and take its rightful place in the world stage, it is the US that can help India get there. Russia too is interested in seeing a stronger India sit at the high-table with other major players, but Russia has little capacity to help India in this regard. But, China has consistently played a less than supportive role, as was seen at the recent NSG meeting.[18] China has little interest in seeing another power emerging in Asia, and it does not want India to build closer ties with the United States or other Asian powers that could be detrimental to Beijing’s own regional and global role.[19] It appears deliberate that Beijing has not categorized India as a challenge or threat, though it does consider India as a “future strategic competitor” that might join any anti-China grouping. As a matter of fact, China had undertaken an internal study in 2005 and the recommendations are revealing. It recommended that China undertake measures to keep the current strategic leverage in terms of territory, P-5 membership, or the Nuclear Club; hold on to diplomatic advantages through its special relationship particularly with India’s neighbouring countries; as also maintain the economic lead over India.[20]

Fears were also raised about possible loss of autonomy in the India’s foreign policy arena. Is it a valid concern? The Left parties in India were of the view that India cannot afford to be subservient to any nation.[21] But India is not a puppet nation which can be dictated to according to the whims and fancies of other countries. India’s vote on Iran at the IAEA in September 2005 triggered much of the controversy surrounding India’s foreign policy autonomy debate.[22] But it must be noted that majority of the opposition to the deal has been political, be it the Left parties or the BJP. If BJP was in power, they are likely to have agreed to a similar deal with the US. As far as the Left parties are concerned, they will have a myopic view and will see any agreement with the US as against India’s interests.

Implications for Global Nuclear Regime
Finally, how does the Indo-US nuclear agreement affect the global nuclear regime? Firstly, it is claimed that the deal would undermine US efforts to dissuade countries like Iran and North Korea from pursuing nuclear weapons. Several fierce opponents of the deal, including Edward Markey and Barbara Lee have said that making an India-specific exemption is seen as “creating incentives for other countries to withdraw from the NPT.”[23] It was argued that the US is adopting double standards on the issue of non-proliferation. The issue was probably best posed by Robert Einhorn, in an interview, when he stated that the US has obviously double standards in “not treating India the same way we treat NPT cheaters like North Korea and Iran.”[24] He went on to state that in the Bush Administration’s view, it is not the weapons that is necessarily dangerous, but the regime that is in control of those weapons. Einhorn disagrees with such an approach which focuses on the nature of the regime. He argues that while the US does not perceive it as a threat when a “good country” acquires nuclear weapons, it should also be borne in mind that the good country could be surrounded by a “not so good country” that might follow suit, which could be threatening to the US. Hence, he argues that it is not good to make a differentiation between good and bad proliferation. Second, a so-called good country could become bad, threatening or unstable and irresponsible. Lastly, the threat of nuclear materials or technology leakage exists even in a so-called good country and today’s good country can become tomorrow’s bad country.

The second impact relates to the spiral effect that the Indo-US nuclear agreement could have on the global nuclear regime. Pakistan has been making noises about its increasing energy needs and thereby the necessity for a similar deal with the US. Although the US, especially President Bush has been categorical in rejecting these demands as early as in July 2005, Pakistan’s all-weather friend China might want to come to Pakistan’s rescue. China could push for a similar deal with Pakistan, arguing, as Strobe Talbott puts it, for “equal treatment” for Pakistan, negating the special considerations and exceptions made for India.[25] Will that be in the interest of the US and more importantly India?

The third impact relates to the future of the nuclear regime itself and how the Indo-US nuclear deal has strengthened or weakened the regime. Is a dying non-proliferation regime in India’s interest? Obviously not. On the other hand, critics in India argued that the deal was a way of getting India into global nuclear regime through back door. Clearly, both these extreme positions are wrong, and the truth lies somewhere in between these positions. The deal will neither hurt the non-proliferation regime nor was it designed to trick India into the NPT.

Another issue relates to how the deal is viewed in the Islamic world. Pakistan being the only Islamic country that has a bomb, there could be demand from Muslim countries that Pakistan be treated equal and be given such a deal.[26] Though the US might say no, China in its efforts to strengthen its friendship with Pakistan in addition to creating a favourable influence among the Islamic countries could opt for a similar deal for Pakistan.

Several analysts believe that the Indo-US nuclear agreement has also set a precedent for several other countries aspiring to develop nuclear technology. Most recently, Israel was seen citing the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement as a model for developing its nuclear power option. It said that the Indo-US agreement has set the precedent for Israel to seek changes in the NSG rules and help construct its first nuclear power plant in the Negev desert.[27]

Lastly, does Indo-US nuclear deal contribute to arms race in Asia? The argument made by some of the analysts have been that in light of the infusion of foreign fuel and technology into India for its civilian nuclear programme, materials and technology would be available for its military programme thereby leading to the expansion of India’s strategic weapons programme. China and Pakistan will look at this development with some concern. Both these countries could further expand their own weapon programmes in reaction to the Indian programme. If China is seen expanding its weapons programme, Russia and thereafter the US could expand their arsenals too.

The Indo-US nuclear deal has been the logical conclusion of a vision for US-India relations as framed by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It is an opportune moment for India to get out of the South Asia cocoon and sit at the high table as a major power shaping the emerging Asian security architecture. The US has helped India reach the high table, but how India makes use of that seat and shapes that architecture is up to New Delhi. India may also consider using this high-chair and influence US actions/ policies vis-a-via Russia. In fact, India and the US need to leverage the mutual suspicion between Russia and China. Although tactical in nature, Sino-Russian relationship does have the potential to emerge as a potent strategic force if the current trend in international politics continues for the foreseeable future. In fact, there are several commonalities between Russia, US and India – terrorism, WMD proliferation and a stable Asian security order. The US has to shed its biases about Russia and exploit the Russian wariness of China to its fullest in order to build a cooperative security framework in Asia. The high-chair may be of no use if India continues to be reactive in its foreign and security policies.

The spiral effect that the Indo-US nuclear deal could have on the global proliferation regime is yet to be validated. It should be noted that irrespective of the deal, China and Pakistan continue with the process expanding their military arsenal. The Indo-US nuclear deal will only help them in so far as they use it as justification.

[1] Merle D. Kellerhals Jr., “Congress approves US-India Civil Nuclear Accord,” October 02, 2008, available at
[2] While the Indo-US nuclear deal has been in clear recognition of India’s non-proliferation record, those lawmakers in the US who were against the deal questioned India’s track record. Senator Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, for instance, was quick to cite the September 18 the Washington Post story that highlighted leakage of sensitive nuclear blueprints by the Indian Department of Atomic Energy. A report by Institute of Science and International Security (ISIS) authored by David Albright and Susan Basu questioned India’s illicit procurement activities with regard to its nuclear programmes. See, Aziz Haniffa, “Lawmakers Question India’s Non-proliferation Track Record,” Rediff News, September 19, 2008, available at; and David Albright and Susan Basu, “India’s Gas Centrifuge Program: Stopping Illicit Procurement and the Leakage of Technical Centrifuge Know-How,” Institute of Science and International Security (ISIS), March 10, 2006, available at Other opponents as well as some Indian analysts noted that although India may not have engaged in proliferating any nuclear material or technology, the fact that it conducted nuclear tests in 1974 (although declared as a Peaceful Nuclear Explosion, PNE) and in 1998 is in clear violation of global non-proliferation objectives. See, Kelly Motz and Gary Milhollin, “Seventeen Myths about the Nuclear Deal: An Analysis of Nuclear Cooperation with India,” Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, June 13, 2006, available at This report also talked about India smuggling heavy water from the USSR, China and Norway in the 1980s, allowing India to use its reactors to make plutonium for bombs. India’s largest nuclear capable missile, Agni, was also cited as stolen/ illicitly procured technology (the design of an American space launcher from NASA) for peaceful purposes and diverted to military purposes.
[3] There are critics who stress that the deal does not recognise India as a Nuclear Weapon State.
[4] This piece of legislation was also in recognition of the UN Security Council Resolution 1540 that called upon states to establish stringent export control measures on the transfer, shipment, re-transfer and trans-shipment of materials or technology that may be used in the development, manufacture, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. See, United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 1540,” April 28, 2004, available at Also see, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, “The Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005,” no. 21 of 2005, June 6, 2005, available at
[5] According to the separation plan, India has put 14 of the 22 thermal power reactors in operations under the civilian list. They include: TAPS 1, TAPS 2, RAPS 1, RAPS 2, KK 1, KK 2, RAPS 5, RAPS 6, RAPS 3, RAPS 4, KAPS 1, KAPS 2, NAPS 1 and NAPS 2. The facilities identified under the civilian category will be offered for the IAEA safeguards. However, the decision as to which facilities come under civilian or military category was solely an Indian one and based on Indian determination. In terms of future reactors, it is up to India to determine which category they belong to (except, of course, imported reactors, which will all be under safeguards). See, Ministry of External Affairs, “Implementation of the India-United States Joint Statement of July 18, 2005: India’s Separation Plan,” May 11, 2006, available at
[6] Arms Control Association, “The US-India Nuclear Deal: A Critical Assessment,” Arms Control Association Press Briefing, Prepared Remarks of Daryl G. Kimball, February 15, 2006, available at Also brought into issue was the fact that infusion of foreign fuel will free up India’s current stock for its weapons programme and thereby aid expansion of India’s nuclear weapons programme. This, according to Kimball, was in gross violation of Article I of the NPT, which stipulates that states shall “not in any way” assist the nuclear weapons programs of others.
[7] If the right to return is exercised at some stage, it is necessary under the agreement, to “compensate promptly that Party for the fair market value thereof and for the costs incurred as a consequence of such removal.” See, Text of the 123 Agreement titled, “Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of India and the Government of the United States of America Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy,” August 01, 2007, available at
[8] Foster Klug, “Senate debates US-India Nuclear Deal,” The Associated Press, October 01, 2008, available at
[9] “The Indo-US Nuclear Deal,” interview of Strobe Talbott and Robert Einhorn by Meenakshi Ahmed, Seminar, 2006, available at
[10] “The Indo-US Nuclear Deal,” interview of Strobe Talbott and Robert Einhorn by Meenakshi Ahmed, Seminar, 2006, available at
[11] Glenn Kessler, “Senate backs far-reaching nuclear trade deal with India,” The Washington Post, October 02, 2008, available at In another statement on the same issue, Kimball went on to say that even “India’s so-called separation plan is not credible from a nonproliferation perspective.” See, Arms Control Association, “Statement of Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association Executive Director, on the US-Indian Agreement for Nuclear Cooperation,” October 01, 2008, available at
[12] Arms Control Association, “Statement of Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association Executive Director, on the US-Indian Agreement for Nuclear Cooperation,” October 01, 2008, available at
[13] Foster Klug, “Senate debates US-India Nuclear Deal,” The Associated Press, October 01, 2008, available at Similarly, Ambassador Robert Grey, former Representative at the Conference on Disarmament stated that the US was doing a bad deal with India as far as non-proliferation issue was concerned. He added, “This is a bad deal that we are getting into here in terms of nonproliferation. We created the nonproliferation regime, we got it through the international community. We supported it consistently over successive administrations, both Republican and Democrat. Now we have reversed course. We are opening a hole with this agreement with India that you could drive a truck through.” See, Dan Robinson, “US-India Nuclear Deal Poised for Approval by House of Representatives, Senate,” VOA News, September 27, 2008, available at
[14] The White House, “Statement by the President on the Occasion of Signing H.R. 7081,” October 08, 2008, available at
[15] President Bush clarified these two issues by stating that “The Agreement grants India advance consent to reprocessing which will be brought into effect upon conclusion of arrangements and procedures for a dedicated reprocessing facility under IAEA safeguards. In addition, the legislation does not change the fuel assurance commitments that the US Government has made to the Government of India, as recorded in the 123 Agreement. See, The White House, “Statement by the President on the Occasion of Signing H.R. 7081,” October 08, 2008, available at
[16] Several analysts have brought out this fact that it is the trade in strategic goods that will take the bilateral relations to a higher level. For instance, Varun Sahni, in an essay states, “access to dual-use technology” will be the “litmus test” of this strategic relationship between India and the US. See, Varun Sahni, “Limited Cooperation Between Limited Allies,” in Sumit Ganguly, Brian Shoup and Andrew Scobell (eds.), US-Indian Strategic Cooperation into the 21st Century: More than Words (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), p. 178.
[17] Ashley Tellis, in his report, Atoms for War makes it abundantly clear that India’s quest for a large nuclear arsenal was never hindered due to shortage of uranium, rejecting the arguments of critics who had maintained that through Indo-US nuclear deal, India will be able to get additional uranium from outside that will free up the indigenous material for its military programme. See Ashley Tellis, Atoms for War: US-Indian Civilian Nuclear Cooperation and India’s Nuclear Arsenal, 2006, available at
[18] Some Indian analysts have tended to believe that the Chinese opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal is not so much India-centric. One of the China watchers in Delhi, Jabin Jacob notes that the opposition is rather US-centric, the US position on Taiwan conflict. See, Jabin T. Jacob, “Indo-US Nuclear Deal: The China Factor,” IPCS Special Report 14, March 2006, available at
[19] Mohan Malik, “India-China Competition Revealed in Ongoing Border Disputes,” PINR Report, October 09, 2007, available at
[20] Mohan Malik, “India-China Competition Revealed in Ongoing Border Disputes,” PINR Report, October 09, 2007, available at The study, undertaken on the behest of Chinese leadership’s “Foreign Affairs Cell,” had incorporated inputs from China’s South Asia specialists like Cheng Ruisheng, Ma Jiali, Sun Shihai, among others.
[21] According to them, the deal will have following major implications: a) it will seriously compromise India’s strategic autonomy; b) it will promote nuclear weaponisation and create a spiralling nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan; c) it will jeopardise India’s energy independence and security; and d) it will push India deeper into an unequal strategic partnership with the US with serious all-round implications for India’s foreign policy as well as internal policies. See, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, Editorial, “Indo-US Nuclear Deal: CPI(M) Joins Congress to Script a Spurious “Sense of the House,” September 2006, available at
[22] Matters became complicated with some of the comments from US Congressmen like Tom Lantos, who stated in the House International Relations Committee, that “India had to choose between the “ayatollahs” of terror and the United States.” See, Ninan Koshy, “India and the Iran Vote in the IAEA,” Foreign Policy in Focus, October 27, 2005, available at
[23] See, Lalit K. Jha, NDTV, “Debate on Indo-US Nuclear Deal in US House: Who Said What,” September 28, 2008, available at and Dan Robinson, “US-India Nuclear Deal Poised for Approval by House of Representatives, Senate,” VOA News, September 27, 2008, available at During the debate in the House, Edward Markey stated, “Flashing a green light to India sends a dangerous signal to all of those countries because these policies are interconnected. The Bush Administration argues that breaking the nuclear rules for India will not lead to broken rules for anyone else, but they are wrong. Like the financial crisis that is now gripping the globe, this disastrous nuclear deal will come back to haunt us because there is no bailout for a nuclear bomb.” See, Markey Decries House Approval of US-India Nuclear Deal,” September 27, 2008, available at
[24] “The Indo-US Nuclear Deal,” interview of Strobe Talbott and Robert Einhorn by Meenakshi Ahmed, Seminar, 2006, available at
[25] China may not push for a similar deal with Pakistan, as the US has done for India. During the visit of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to Beijing in October 2008, some senior Pakistan and Western officials commented that China in effect has agreed privately to follow a “step-by-step” approach in assisting Pakistan’s quest for nuclear energy, rather than a formal civil nuclear agreement on the lines of the Indo-US nuclear deal. China has already installed a 325-MW nuclear power reactor at Chashma, Punjab province, and additionally China plans to install a second power reactor of the same capacity there, expected to be completed by 2011. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stated that Chashma III and Chashma IV reactors would provide Pakistan with an additional 680 megawatts of generating capacity. Qureshi did not elaborate on the kind of assistance that Chin may provide in this regard, although it is assumed that China will introduce grandfather clause into its earlier agreements with Pakistan. Prior to joining NPT in 1992, China had signed an agreement with Pakistan (December 31, 1991) to build the Chasma nuclear power reactor in the Punjab province. See, Farhan Bokhari, “China Aiding Pakistan’s Nuclear Ambitions,” CBS News, October 16, 2008, available at; “China to Help Pakistan Build Two More Nuclear Power Plants,” CNN, October 18, 2008, available at; “Pakistan Gets Confirmation on Chinese Reactor,” Nuclear Engineering International, March 1992, p. 7; and Robert Shuey and Shirley A. Kan, “Chinese Missile and Nuclear Proliferation: Issues for Congress,” CRS Issue Brief, September 29, 1995, p. 9, cited in “China’s Nuclear Exports and Assistance to Pakistan,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, updated November 14, 2003, available at
[26] This idea was well-articulated by Strobe Talbott in an interview to Seminar. See, “The Indo-US Nuclear Deal,” interview of Strobe Talbott and Robert Einhorn by Meenakshi Ahmed, Seminar, 2006, available at Islamic countries are not one huge monolith, and one should keep in mind the Saudi-Iran rivalry in mind.
[27] Amit Baruah, “Now, Israel Wants NSG Rules Changed,” Hindustan Times, August 28, 2007, available at

Just Another BRIC in the Wall?

This analysis on BRIC appeared first on the ORF website.

The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) grouping has been touted as yet another grouping opposing unipolarity. However, the key question is whether the unipolar movement is over and what alternatives are available at this juncture or even in the future. Does BRIC have the potential and prospects for emerging as a strategic bloc? Is the unipolar movement over? Analysts note that the US hegemony has reached its peak and is on a downward spiral. The rise of the BRICs needs to be analysed in this context. The fact that the BRIC countries have been identified as some of the fastest growing economies in the world does not mean that they can alter the current US-dominated global order.

Is the Unipolar Movement Over?
Several analysts have pointed to the declining US share in the world economy. In 1939, the US share of global wealth was about 30%. By 1945, after the Second World War it rose to 45%; it is currently at about 20%. The post-WWII US share does not make a correct estimate of the US share because after the war, must of the other major economies were destroyed and therefore the US share was high. Therefore, one must look at the 1939 figures to get a correct picture. When compared with the 1939 share, the US share today is not that small, especially considering the rise of several other major powers in the meantime. .
Second, why do we say it is the decline of US-led unipolarity? The US has been a superpower in a bipolar world for 5 decades and a sole superpower in the last decade and more. But on what basis are we concluding that the US-led unipolarity is over? The Roman Empire lasted for centuries (14 to 476 AD). Brazil has been a great power of tomorrow for decades now. India and China are touted as great powers. Prospects for both India and China emerging as great powers come with certain amount of scepticism. The internal problems, mostly socio-economic in nature, in both the countries might pull these countries down.
How do we make these assumptions with certainty? The US power might not decline as one expects. The lead - in politico-economic, military and strategic spheres - that the US maintains cannot be challenged soon by any power or any group of powers in the near future. While this is true, it must also borne in mind that although the US has continued to maintain a lead, it is being increasingly faced with challenges from peer competitors like China, Russia and at a lower level, from India too. More significantly, China and Russia are moving into the Western hemisphere, US’ backyard in a significant manner, trying to reduce the traditional US influence in there.1
Does rise of BRICs give way to a multipolar world?
At the end of the Cold War, there were expectations of a multipolar world order (Japan, Germany, Europe), although these expectations have not been borne out. It was a clear unipolar order, led by the US. This has been furthered by the neoconservatives a decade later, who advocated and pronounced the ability to lead as well as the duty to lead. Analysts now note that US-led unipolar movement is over, although this time around, the spoilers are not the western European countries, but principally countries from Asia. It is predicted that the twenty-first century will witness power dispersed among several countries – China, Russia, Japan, India and the European Union. In the context of this debate, BRICs also have been identified, as potential future competitor to the US and other advanced industrial countries. Nevertheless, it should be noted that despite the relative decline in US power, the unipolarity is still a feature of the international system. Although countries like China, in an effort to counter such unilateral tendencies on the part of the US, started aligning with major powers such as Russia as well as strengthening bilateral and multilateral ties within the region, it has not been able to shift the balance in its favour or even form a wider coalition of nations to counter Washington.2
While the US acknowledges the difficulty in maintaining a unipolar world order, given that the rise of new power centres is a reality, the US wants to maintain its primacy in the international system as an important grand strategic objective through a range of tools, including political, economic and military.3 Scholars have argued that “continued American hegemony is important because it is seen as the prerequisite for systemic stability,”4 while acknowledging that maintaining a preponderant position may not be an easy thing for the US especially after a decade or so, given the relative decline in US power along with the rise of new powers and the gradual erosion of the its extended deterrence strategy.5 Various analyses claim that US’ “unipolar movement is over” and the power will be increasingly spread around major power centres like China, Japan, India, Russia, the US and Europe.6 Haass in fact terms the emerging scenario as nonpolarity meaning to say that the power will be dispersed among not just two or three powers, but several countries will exercise various dimensions of power. Does BRIC have relevance in this context?
If China and the BRICs concretise their power in the next decade or so, then the neoconservative school of thinkers have something to be concerned about – the demise of America’s unipolar moment. As several analysts have noted, there is fear among such thinkers of the rise of an anti-liberal values coalition. There is scepticism among these thinkers as to whether these powers once they become superpowers, will continue to value the current liberal framework of global governance or will they be more revisionist in nature in altering the global governance structures?7
Even among the four BRIC countries, the world has been less concerned about the emergence of India and Brazil, whereas rise of Russia and China assuming a superpower status has been of concern. Both China and Russia can pose a great military threat, with both being acknowledged nuclear states and large standing armies.8 However, the fear is not just of their rising military profiles, but more importantly due to the character of the political regime in both of these countries. These two countries also pose themselves as revisionist powers, wanting to possibly establish an alternate institutional architecture, articulating new ways to mange international politics and economics.
Thus, what the neocons fear is the rise of a powerful anti-Western and anti-liberals value coalition, led by China and possibly even Russia. The rise of an economically successful authoritarian capitalist power bloc is the threat that they want to address and that appears to be the appeal that the BRICs currently have.
What are the likely consequences of rising multipolarity, including the potential of the BRIC. Can it be the catalyst to induce serious alterations to the existing international system and its institutions?
The end of US-led unipolar moment may be the right opportune time for a China-centred politically authoritarian-economically capitalist bloc. Russia will be forced to see which is a bigger threat, China or the US and align with the West or China accordingly. Although there appears to be a tactical partnership between Russia and China on an anti-US platform, the US has followed policies towards Russia that have been particularly adversarial in nature, further strengthening this tactical relationship between Moscow and Beijing. If Washington continues with such policies, it has the potential for creating a Moscow-Beijing strategic alliance which could be detrimental for the US and all the major powers in Asia.9
The realist school of thinkers also fear and in fact suggest the emergence of a dangerous trend in international politics – danger of inter-state wars as one (super)power is declining and new powers are emerging. Rise of Russia and China have again raised concerns in this regard.
While there has been so much apprehension on the emergence of BRICs, the BRIC concept has also gained popularity and has great appeal. As Goldman Sachs propounded, the imminent rise of BRICs had to do with the significant investment opportunities that might be there in these countries because of their fast growth in the last few years. They predicted that their already large domestic markets will further lead to growth of the middle class, new consumers, resulting in demand growth in sectors like automobiles, electricity and local capital markets.10 Hence, the central principle guiding BRICs, as the West sees it, is not only its growth rate or opportunities for investors but its sheer economic size and thereby the markets.
China a superpower?
The lead that the US maintains cannot be challenged soon by any power and any group of powers in the near future. China is trying to dominate Asia the way the US dominates the Western hemisphere. China will want to ensure that it is so powerful that no state in Asia has the wherewithal to threaten it. China’s military superiority along with its expansionist tendencies will be of concern to the region.11 Beijing will ideally seek a militarily weak Japan, India and Russia as its neighbours, just as the US prefers a militarily weak Canada and Mexico on its borders. But how do the neighbours look to it? Can India, Russia and other neighbours live under a hegemonistic China? Will these countries join a US-led balancing coalition? If that be the case, does BRICs have a future?
Does BRIC Offer A Viable Option?
The very fact that Goldman Sachs identified BRIC due to the huge investment potential, size appears to be an important criterion. Economic size is an important factor; in fact Realist thinkers consider economic size as an essential indicator of their relative capabilities or rather the power of countries.
For the BRIC to emerge as a strategic bloc, it is essential to analyse the bilateral framework in this grouping. In fact, if one goes by the theory of economic liberalism, there is a huge potential in this grouping. The economic partnership among the four countries should be sufficiently strong to create a momentum in the grouping. Additionally, these countries also have to engage in certain strategic areas that might give them the necessary fillip. These areas could be sectors of nuclear, space and such high-tech areas.
Is strategic cooperation possible in this grouping given the mutual history of mistrust and suspicion? It might be pertinent to analyse the issue through a realist framework. Under a realist framework, every major power will try to be as powerful as possible, in relation to their potential rivals. The more powerful a state is, particularly in military-economic terms, the less likelihood of another state attacking it. Therefore, the powerful states in a region will try to establish regional hegemony while also ascertaining that no other state assumes greater power that might seek to alter the power equation.12 In this scenario, can India, China and Russia grow together and is there convergence of interests among these three countries? This is where one sees conflicting sets of approaches. For instance, China tends to adopt an exclusive approach as against India’s and even Russian and Japanese approaches of inclusiveness.
In conclusion, analysis of BRIC suggests that it does not offer itself as a viable option in the near future. In addition, factors like history and unsettled boundary and territorial issues will continue to hinder any prospect of this group emerging as a formidable bloc other than merely an economic bloc. The group, at best, will cooperate and take unified stance on softer issues like poverty and climate change.
• Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan is Senior Fellow at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. Her areas of research include US foreign and security policy, military strategies of major Asian powers including China, US, Japan and Russia. She can be reached at 1 Although Chinese policies in Asia and elsewhere in Africa that appear to be both more defensive and economic in nature are also meant to create a deeper foothold in these areas. Such policies in the long term could counter-balance the US interests in the region as also affect the US’ relative power and influence in the region. 2 Richard Haass writes that despite the rise in anti-American sentiments, no alternate power bloc has been able to challenge the United States in a significant manner, due to the huge gap that the US has managed to create between Washington and centres of power in almost all spheres. See, Richard N. Haass, “The Age of Nonpolarity: What Will Follow US Dominance,” Foreign Affairs, May/ June 2008, available at 3 Ashley J Tellis, “Assessing America’s War on Terror: Confronting Insurgency, Cementing Primacy,” NBR Analysis, National Bureau of Asian Research, Vol. 15, No. 4, December 2004, p. 9, available at 4 Christopher Layne, “From Preponderance to Offshore Balancing: America’s Future Grand Strategy,” International Security, vol. 22, no. 1, Summer 1997, p. 94. Other scholars like Zalmay Khalilzad have also maintained that American hegemony will likely lead to a period of international stability rather than bipolarity or multipolarity that instills instability, the assumption being balancing may not be effective. See, Christopher Layne, “From Preponderance to Offshore Balancing: America’s Future Grand Strategy,” International Security, vol. 22, no. 1, Summer 1997, p. 96. Also, see, Christopher Layne, “The Unipolar Illusion Revisited: The Coming End of the United States’ Unipolar Movement,” International Security, vol. 31, no. 2, Fall 2006, pp. 7-8. 5 There have been problems with the strategy of extended deterrence, right from the beginning. For instance, if China attacks Tokyo, by the logic of extended deterrence, the US should attack Beijing. The question has been whether the US will attack Beijing or not; whether Tokyo is worth the cost. The key task is for the US to convince its partners/allies that it will come to their aid if there is a problem. The strategy also works under the assumption the US’ extended strategy will “actually dissuade an adversary from attacking the target state.” See, Christopher Layne, “From Preponderance to Offshore Balancing: America’s Future Grand Strategy,” International Security, vol. 22, no. 1, Summer 1997, p. 104. The concept has become even more problematic with the relative decline of the US power and its capability to protect the interests of the allies and the nature of new threats. 6 Richard N. Haass, “The Age of Nonpolarity: What Will Follow US Dominance,” Foreign Affairs, May/ June 2008, available at 7 Leslie Elliott Armijo, “The BRICs Countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) As Analytical Category: Mirage or Insight?,” Asian Perspective,” vol. 31, no. no. 4, 2007, p. 33. 8 Leslie Elliott Armijo, “The BRICs Countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) As Analytical Category: Mirage or Insight?,” Asian Perspective,” vol. 31, no. no. 4, 2007, p. 27. 9 Given the Sino-Russian competition and rivalry in Central Asia and Africa, it is unlikely that any strategic partnership will emerge between Russia and China. 10 Leslie Elliott Armijo, “The BRICs Countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) As Analytical Category: Mirage or Insight?,” Asian Perspective,” vol. 31, no. no. 4, 2007, p. 11. 11 The expansionist tendencies of China are visible in its dealings with the neighbours, especially as it relates to the border problems. One case in point is that of Russia, where despite the settlement of the border and territorial problems, Beijing continued to show parts of Russia as part of China in the maps produced in China. Concerns to India arise from the Chinese assertion over Arunachal Pradesh. Its claims vis-à-vis South China Sea are other such instances. It should also be borne in mind that war is part and parcel of the Chinese strategic culture, and China does not hesitate to use of force for protection of its national interests (as it visualizes). Here is the relevance to understand the strategic culture and the military strategy, because a nation would typically read and interpret the signals of an adversary through one’s own understanding of the military doctrine. 12 Wei Liang, “China: Globalization and the Emergence of A New Statusquo Power?,” Asian Perspective, vol. 31, no. 4, 2007, pp. 128-9.