Obama, Clinton India visits aimed at counter balancing rising China: Experts

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Washington/New Delhi, Oct. 30 (ANI): US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will make trips to India and the South Asia region in the coming weeks, with an eye toward strengthening alliances to counter-balance China.

The US "hedge" tactic is straightforward-expand involvement in East Asia regional forums, military exercises, and agreements to include the US and India, thereby diluting Chinese opportunities for domination.

According to the Christian Science Monitor (CSM), the Obama administration has lately come around to seeing India as a key link in a regional safety net.

Senior US government officials say India has a role to play in East Asia, with one calling India an "East Asian power." They are quick to say they prefer close ties between China and India, and between China and the United States.

But as China grows more assertive in its neighborhood, the US is looking to deepen cooperation with and among China's neighbors.

"I think the Americans, probably, and the Indian government sees China as a not-necessarily-hostile state, but a state which could be hostile, whose rise could be threatening. So therefore a policy of reinsurance - diplomatic consultations, military-to-military cooperation - without provoking China is probably the correct policy," Stephen Cohen, a South Asia expert with the Brookings Institute, said at a talk in New Delhi.

Indian officials were clearly upset when Obama visited Beijing last year and seemingly turned the tables on Delhi by saying that China and the US would "work together to promote peace, stability, and development" in South Asia.

Since then, US and Indian views on China have converged.

That's because Obama got little in return from his visit to Beijing, and the Chinese have grown more assertive over territorial disputes in recent months - alarming both the Indians and the Americans.

"There is a congruence of interests and this happened after Obama got mugged in Beijing," says Sumit Ganguly, an American scholar of South Asia on sabbatical in Delhi.

"They (the US) are still in the hedging mode," says Brahma Chellaney, a security expert at the Center for Policy Research in Delhi.

He added: "There is an attempt to do what Bush was doing, which is to line up partners.... [But Bush policy] was driven by a larger geo-strategic blueprint that the Obama administration lacks."

The US has deepened military cooperation with India. US officials point out that the US has held more than 50 joint-military exercises with India over the past eight years - more than with any other country.

The Obama visit will coincide with major sales of military equipment to India, including C130J transport aircraft, improved missiles, and maritime surveillance aircraft.

Obama will be visiting India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea, in an effort to bring these countries together regionally.

"They are the four key democracies that you need to contain China," said Dr. Chellaney.

India has already reached out to these countries, recently signing free trade deals with Japan and South Korea.

"In many ways, this is happening without any kind of push or direction being given by anyone else, because India's interests are driving it in that direction.... India's trade with Southeast and East Asia has deepened," said former Indian foreign secretary Salman Haider. (ANI)

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