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US Recognizes India as Emerging Power in Asia

One of the highlights of talks earlier this month in Washington between the U.S. and India was the Obama administration's description of India as an emerging power not just in South Asia but thoughout Asia. A joint statement issued after the talks said Washington welcomes India's leadership role in helping to shape the rise of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia. Some analysts say this could sharpen the existing rivalry between India and China and determine Asia's future.

"India is a leader in Asia and around the world," said President Barack Obama. "It's a rising power and a responsible global power."

President Barack Obama at the India/US Strategic Dialogue. He said relations between the two countries will be a defining partnership in the 21st century.

This is the first time the U.S. has described India not just as a power in South Asia, but in all of Asia, says Teresita Schaffer, a senior South Asia analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies,or CSIS.

"I think it is a very important shift in perspective on the U.S. part," said Teresita Schaffer.

That brings up the question, she says, of how India-U.S. relations connect with their relations with China.

"We have an interesting new model developing where nobody is interested in picking a fight with China, but where India and the United States have a strong interest in seeing that as Asia develops - the whole, large region - it develops with a kind of equilibrium among the major players," she said.

Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake agrees and points to India's recent "look-east" policy and its increasing influence in Southeast Asia.

"And I think we've begun to really have a quite serious conversation about how the United States and India can work more together in Asia," said Robert Blake.

But India's increasing influence in Asia and, on top of that, its new strategic partnership with the United States may prove irksome for China, says Stephen Rosen of Harvard University. He says it might tempt China to force India to be deferential.

"Now that India is getting notions about economic growth, strategic partnership with the U.S., a somewhat more extended role globally, China might want to remind India that China really is India's daddy and any time China wants to beat up India it can," said Stephen Rosen.

But Jacqueline Newmyer of Long Term Strategy Group says China does not have to confront India directly. It is doing so indirectly, she says, by making significant inroads in the South Asia countries surrounding India.

"It has already been publicly revealed that the Chinese are contributing to the port infrastructure in Gwadar in Pakistan, and in Sri Lanka," said Jacqueline Newmyer. "And now the Indians are also facing a Chinese facility in a port in Bangladesh armed with Chinese supplied anti-ship missiles."

She says India is already concerned about China's close military relations with Pakistan.

"From India's point of view, China successfully has carried out a strategy of helping Pakistan - building up Pakistan's military, contributing to Pakistan's nuclear programs, contributing to Pakistan's infra-structure," she said.

And Stephen Rosen says China is also concerned about India's strategy in Tibet and its support to Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who so far has been able to convince his followers that violence is not the answer. But he says the situation might change after his death.

"The level of unrest in Tibet may go up and the Indian government may not simply walk away, saying whatever China does is acceptable to us," he said. "It might, but it might not."

Rosen says although India and China are trying to improve their economic and trade relations, both are vying for dominance in Asia.

Analysts agree that the newly-developed strategic partnership between India and the United States can go a long way in shaping Asia's future. They say the crucial factors in that would be the relations between India and China, and also their respective relations with the United States.