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India can focus more on China if it calms Pakistan ties: Foreign policy expert Richard Haass

Speaking to ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta at Off The Cuff, Richard N. Haass also said: ‘If I were India, I would be much wiser in my approach to Indian Muslims.'

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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. 

Also read: How Indian troops chased the Chinese for a kilometre over LAC in Galwan on 15 June night

‘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.

Also read: Galwan clash is a turning point as Indian soldiers give Chinese a bloody nose

‘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.

Also read: India shifts China diplomacy strategy to high gear after Galwan clash, military-level talks on


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  1. India has become way too hateful and Hindu supremacist to continue as one nation. Let Kashmir go to Pakistan, let Khalistani Sikhs have a homeland. Carve the rest of India into a secular state with Muslims, Christians, leftists, Dalits. Create a separate Hindutva state for the crazies.

    Why no one is willing to admit that India will be destroyed if it continues fighting with Muslims and leftists at home, Pakistan, Nepal, China etc is beyond me?

    • It is beyond your understanding because it’s in your imagination. If you don’t think it’s external elements which is creating the perception of hatred then you are the part of the problem.

      It’s a good old divide and conquer strategy that India has expertise in, don’t worry, neither Pakistan is getting Kashmir, neither Sikhs want to help Khalistanis and neither we have any problem in dealing with leftists from Nepal. They are all minor problems.

      Richard gets his funding from China and George Soros, so it’s not a surprise that he will bring up Muslims as a concern. If anything, everyone knows that and now a days even media biases are out in the public.

  2. He is like a typical American….he lives in his own world without and understanding of reality!
    We have tried the policy of pacifying Pakistan for 70 years (including Modi when he did his show op in Lahore)…however every single time we have only been stabbed in the back by Pakistan! Pakistan is a failed state with nothing but hatred to offer to India……the earlier we understand and amend our policy the better!

  3. The Headline says it all. Does Haas thinks India can find peace without handling China? China is exacerbating every issue in our neighborhood. They are instigating our neighbors to create issues in return for payments. Has Haas gone cuckoo?

  4. Good advice to rulers. They have to go along with minorities and also with opposition parties. Both difficult to practice by duo.

  5. Pakistan is a small dust for India to clean at any time. When China itself is fearing our military might why to worry about the dust. All Dusts will be wiped out if it thinks they have the crooks support for mob ling. We r not stooge to anyone like Pak. Let both the dusts and crooks understand this truth.

  6. More and more thoughtful people are pointing out the foreign policy costs of hard Hindutva. [ Quite apart from its contribution to giving us the Hindutva rate of economic growth ]. This is one issue on which the diplomatic corps ought to have tried much harder to prevail over the political executive. 2. As far as Pakistan is concerned, it is not easy to deal with triangulation. Its friendship with China is too rooted in shared interests for India to drive a wedge. While better relations with Pakistan are in India’s interest, progress would be required on both fronts, as part of a composite policy. 3. Recent events would lead to a rerating of India, across the spectrum, by the US all the way to Nepal and Sri Lanka. A brutal, unforgiving reality check.

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