- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2001

The 21st century will witness a dramatic change in the world's balance of power from Europe to Asia. There are two major aspiring powers India and Japan and one hegemonial power: China.

India and China comprise one-third of the world's population. Both are modernizing and will become central to the global economy as both (especially India) enter the information and technology age. India, in contradistinction to China, is the world's largest democracy. Its political stability is guaranteed even though there has been a recent change of government. The era of the one-party state, led by the Congress Party, is over. This is also true of other democracies like Israel and Mexico where hegemonial parties have disintegrated. But democracy survives mightily in all three despite their upheavals. Instability results from the collapse of democracy, which has not happened to these three thriving democracies.

It is hoped the Bush administration will bring an end to President Clinton's obsessive nonproliferation policy and arms control. To the Clintonians, arms control was foreign policy. They missed their opportunity with India only to awaken to its significance at the end of the administration, as represented by Mr. Clinton's five-day visit to India in 1999. Significantly, he spent only 24 hours in Pakistan. The end of the Cold War and the dramatic change of the Indian government from pro-Soviet and neutralist to a Western-oriented modernizing regime, should result in closer U.S.-Indian ties.

India's nuclear development was considered to be a most egregious obstacle to American-Indian relations in the era of Clinton a serious strategic error. To change the nature and structure of the U.S.-Indian relationship, the administration must do the following:

(1) End any sanctions against India in view of its nuclear power. The fact that nuclear power is in the hands of a democratic state should bring an end to the closed-door policy of the five-member nuclear club. Is India less reliable than Britain, France, Russia, China or the United States?

(2) Recognize India as a major Asiatic power and the need to establish an Indian-American special relationship and intimate strategic alliance and exchange. This will not only be important for relations between the United States and India, but we will be in a better position to influence Indian policy.

(3) Stay out of the Kashmir dispute. The Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan emerged from a U.N. partition at independence, similar to the Israel-Palestine conflict that emerged from the U.N. partition at the birth of Israel. Fifty years-plus clearly demonstrate that all parties are not ready for conflict resolution. Eight years of Clintonian micromanagement of the Israel-Palestine dispute ended with a bloody intifada and some 400 Israelis and Palestinians dead. A U.S. meddling into the Kashmir dispute, which is as irreconcilable as the Palestine issue, is not in the interest of the United States. The parties themselves must resolve the conflict, and the United States should not actively intervene until the parties are ready to seek U.S. mediation. One could argue that Mr. Clinton's obsessive activism in the Israel-Palestinian conflict has raised Utopian pipe dreams on the part of Palestinians who now could ignite be a regional war. An American effort to do the same in the Kashmir issue may result in the parties becoming more inflexible than they are now.

(4) Make good on the commitment to a war against terrorism. Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is anchored in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These terrorists have moved to the Middle East and are responsible for the attack on the US Cole. India could and should be a bastion of American anti-terrorist strategy. Essential to this is intimate U.S.-Indian intelligence cooperation.

Advocates of peaceful resolution in international conflict who argue that the greater the American role the better have been proven wrong historically. Two cases in point: The Sadat-Begin initiative and the Oslo Process took place when the United States was in the dark. The parties invited the United States to mediate at this point. Mr. Clinton's aggressive intervention in the last few weeks of his administration in an attempt to establish parameters for the parties on the most important issues Jerusalem, right of return, borders and security failed miserably. He moved from mediation to aggressive intervention with disastrous results and that could lead to a major war in the Middle East. Aggressive intervention in the Kashmir dispute, between two nuclear powers (India and Pakistan), is even more ominous. Aggressive intervention could cancel the hope for a U.S.-India strategic alliance, and could be detrimental to U.S.-Asian strategy.

There are four powers competing for a major role in the Pacific: the United States, China, India and Russia. The Russian and Chinese overtures to India are serious. Rather than have an Russian entente with India, the U.S. can forge a relationship with India as a serious potential deterrent to Chinese aggressiveness. The U.S. is a naval power, and the Pacific and Indian Oceans are fundamental to U.S. security. The Bush administration needs to seriously consider the geopolitical nature of its Pacific and Indian Ocean strategies.

Amos Perlmutter is a professor of political science and sociology at American University and editor of the Journal of Strategic Studies.

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