Wen Jiabao visits Delhi this week amidst much fawning and big talk.
This blog has long warned against breathless tango with the dictators of Beijing. They may be our geographical neighbours, but cannot be any more different that who we are.
Mr. Vajpayee once said, nations can choose friends, but not neighbours. True, BUT are we not living now in a world that's ever smaller (or, as Tom Friedman argues, flatter)? If so, shouldn't our definition of neighbourhood be widened beyond mere Asia?
Our maps are misleading. It may be that China is physically next door but, given the extent of our connectivity with the US, when we reach out and touch someone, they are more likely to be American than Chinese, or East Asians. This is not to say we shouldn't look to expand our trade relationships; this is simply to say East Asia should be viewed as a trade partner no different than, say, East Africa -- i.e., physical proximity shouldn't make East Asia any more interesting to us than distant lands.
Frankly, Indians have as much in common with East Asians as we do with Eskimos -- lets not, therefore, get carried away by woolly ideas of "Asian" solidarity; we should instead reserve our scorn for the political illiberalism and corruption that dominates Asia (ex-India and Japan). Lets not forget that East Asia has long regarded India with amusement and contempt -- they think our democracy is silly, broken, and naive. If suddenly, they are courting us, its not because they've changed their minds about our "lesser" status, its just that they want to prevent an Indo-US alignment in the heart of Asia.
There is too much discussion about Asia pooling its resources to check American influence in the region. Lesser Asian nations may, for fear of the dragon, accept this notion, India must not. These ideas are designed to project China as the regional hegemon -- neither Japan nor India can accept this; we need to leverage America to check this Chinese gambit.
So, while we welcome Mr. Wen, our warmth remains reserved for fellow democrats in the West and in Japan.
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