New Delhi: India can focus more on China if it is able to “calm” its relationship with Pakistan, said Richard N. Haass, president, Council on Foreign Relations.
“India faces this powerful neighbour called China… India has certain options,” Haass, who recently published his book ‘The World: A Brief Introduction’, said while speaking to ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta at Off The Cuff Tuesday.
He said, “One would be to appease or assuage China, some version of what we call ‘Finlandisation’, which is the option for weaker countries. The second option, and it’s not mutually exclusive, is for India to simplify, if it can, its strategic environment so you can focus more on China. And I would argue among other things, try to calm the relationship with Pakistan, if possible,” he said.
Haass said another option for New Delhi to face an increasingly “assertive” Beijing will be “to become stronger, more competitive with China”.
“A fourth approach will obviously be to associate yourself closer with others who bring strength to the table, including but not limited to the US, to also Japan, to Australia, Vietnam…,” he stressed.
Haass, who has also written the book, ‘The Reluctant Sheriff: The United States After the Cold War’, said he would prefer India to align itself with other powers by way of greater strategic cooperation.
“India has a set of strategic choices. I prefer the one where India associates or aligns itself with others. That’s the basis of the American alliance system in that part of the world. I am not saying India and the US become ‘allies’, I don’t care a lot about the packaging, I don’t care what we call it, I do care about the degree of strategic cooperation,” he added.
He also underlined the fact that India should “rethink” its strategic orientations.
Haass said India should come out of the two-front challenge emanating from China and Pakistan.
“Of the two, China is much more dangerous and threatening, much more scale. If I were India, I would, if not resolve, manage its relationship with Pakistan, so I could focus more on dealing with China. So I would be generous to Pakistan not as a favour to Pakistan, but as a favour to India,” he said.
Haass also said India should avoid creating internal problems. “If I were India, I would be much wiser in my approach to Indian Muslims. I think India cannot create instability at home,” he said.
‘China has become more assertive since Deng Xiaoping’
According to Haass, China has become “much more assertive” since the days of its former top leader Deng Xiaoping, who is often credited for transforming the country.
“China has become much more assertive. We see it in the South China Sea, its attack on Vietnamese fishing boat, we see its rhetoric against Taiwan, with increasing entry of aircraft in Taiwanese airspace, what happened obviously with India, we see the crackdown in Hong Kong,” he said.
Haass said countries, while chalking out their foreign policies, will have to decide to what extent it will “tolerate” China and not “stop” its rise.
“So this is a China that seems to care less for what the world thinks of it. It is more willing to be assertive… We have come a long way since Deng Xiaoping. This is no longer a China that is biding its time and holding back. This is a China that has entered a new era, and I don’t think anybody knows the full dimension,” he said.
Haass added there is a “pattern” to it and that the Chinese Communist Party may be substituting nationalism for economic growth as a “source of legitimacy” for the party.
“We have to decide for ourselves to what extent we will tolerate. And to me the goal of foreign policy should not be to stop China’s rise. China will decide to what extent it rises. To us, it should be how do we encourage certain kinds of behaviour with China and how do we discourage other kinds of behaviour. This is the classic challenge dealing with major power,” Haass added.
‘If Trump returns, it’ll be Trump plus one’
According to Haass, if US President Donald Trump comes back to power after the Presidential elections scheduled in November, there will be more unilateral sanctions and rise in tariffs.
“It will be a very different US if Donald Trump is re-elected than if Joe Biden is elected… Trump 2 will be Trump 1 plus. You’d see continued unilateralism, continued criticism, distancing of alliances, of multilateral agreements, protectionism, use of sanctions, use of tariffs… We would stay on steroids,” he said.
Haass also said when Trump became the US President, he believed trade has done more harm to America than good.
“When he (Trump) entered office, he strongly believed, and I think he is dead wrong, that trade has been bad for the US, in which we’ve lost more than we gained and that the cost of American leadership has been greater than the benefits,” he said.
Haass added if former US Vice-President Joe Biden, who is now Trump’s contender, wins the election, he will not be able to reverse some of the policy moves made by the Trump administration, but there will not be any “weaponisation of America’s international economic policy” by imposing unilateral sanctions and tariff hikes.
“If it’s Mr Biden, reversing it will be difficult in certain areas. Trade will be difficult because his own party (Democrat) is quite protectionist. Democrats were against Transpacific Partnership… But I don’t think you will see anything like use of unilateral tariffs and sanctions. I don’t think you’d see the same weaponisation of America’s international economic policy,” he said, adding that there will be an approach towards multilateralism.
‘Covid-19 may slow globalisation, not kill it’
Haass believed despite the novel coronavirus pandemic wrecking havoc across the world, countries will continue to connect with each other keeping globalisation alive.
“Globalisation cannot be killed. Globalisation is a reality. Climate change continues. Proliferation continues. Information continues to flow. Disease continues to spread. So globalisation continues.”
He added, “Countries may choose to push back certain forms of globalisation. And I think we will see pushing back against immigration that will continue. We will see pushing back against tourism. Selectively Covid will slow globalisation.”
As a result of the pandemic, Haass said, countries might become more self-sufficient with greater focus on domestic production and stockpiling of essential items.