Stabilizing South Asia

Ambassador Shivshankar Menon's piece on India's Pakistan dilemma ("Hostile Relations," Fall 2009) explains the obstacles Pakistan poses to India's ascent. He describes India's ability to "solve" the issue of its multi-ethnic and multi-religion demography through elections and legal protections for minorities. The failure of extremist Islamist groups to radicalize India's Muslim population over the issue of Jammu-Kashmir attests to India's success as a democracy.

India peacefully seeks a benign international environment to continue its economic growth. While jealousy explains Pakistan's position, Menon is awfully generous to China, which does not want to see an influential power emerge on its western flank and has consequently been Pakistan's foremost patron.

Information continually emerges about China's support of Pakistan's nuclear program. After India's recognition as a nuclear power with the US-India nuclear accord in 2008, China pledged to increase the provision of civilian nuclear power to Pakistan. While the United States and India negotiated their nuclear deal, Pakistan started producing more plutonium for its nuclear arsenal. Given Pakistan's abysmal proliferation record and instability, continued Chinese support of Pakistan's nuclear program is the height of irresponsibility.

Given Pakistan's abysmal proliferation record and instability, continued Chinese support of Pakistan's nuclear program is the height of irresponsibility.

The United States has indicated that India is on its own to face China's power plays, as evidenced by the November 2009 announcement that the United States and China would "work together" to solve South Asia's problems. Ironically, Chinese policy over the years has hardly helped calm waters in the region. And, arguably, the Chinese government does not consider "peace, stability and development in that region," as the joint statement puts it, to be in China's interests.

The Obama administration has it exactly backward. It is India and the United States that share common values and common interests, such as a stable Pakistan; China prefers Pakistan the way it is. The US and Chinese governments will not work together for peace in South Asia; rather, India and the United States should cooperate to end China's regional troublemaking.

Dan Blumenthal is a resident fellow at AEI.

Photo Credit: iStockphoto/graham heywood

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