Before participating in the ASEAN Regional Forum, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited India, one of the big South Asian countries. During her visit, the sides concluded two belated accords. One is the End-User Monitoring Agreement (EUMA), regarding sensitive defense equipment and technologies; and the other is to identify specific sites in India where American firms can build nuclear reactors and power plants. Moreover, India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had also been invited to visit America on November 24, 2009, which is the first state visit invitation since President Obama has been sworn in. Obviously, the Obama administration is speeding up to solidify U.S.-India ties. By gaining ground in India, the U.S. could find an Asian counter-balance to China.
At a press conference before the visit, Ian Kelly, U.S. State Department spokesman, had been asked about a report stating the possibility that China could attack India or take some other actions. Although Mr. Kelly replied that he had “never heard that” and “we hope this would not happen,” the question itself subtly shows that the India visit has something to do with China.
China and India, both BRIC nations, usually have the same stance as those developed countries in terms of international affairs. However, India has often been considered a big country, yet relatively weaker than China. Even if they managed to cooperate, the mutual trust is still scarce. As the border issue between the two sides remains in dispute, India has regarded China as its biggest rival, who would seek cooperation with Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, to marginalize India. That is also the reason why India is so eager to acquire advanced weapons from the U.S. to counter the possible military threat from China.
With this visit, the U.S. is able to sell nuclear technologies and advanced weapon to India. Nevertheless, what the U.S. expects is for India to use its big country power in South Asia, undertaking the responsibility to counter terrorism; maybe also as leverage against China. With eyes-only focus on the threat of Pakistan and China, India is not yet ready to behave as a big country with broad sight, and that would not be helpful in gaining any vantage point against China.
[Editor’s note: some quotes may be worded based on translated material].