Monday, May 19, 2014

Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi—and Xi Jinping

My response to a query:

“I was wondering if Modi presents the US with another Abe. A popular conservative with some views (Hindu nationalist in Modi’s case) that will make America squirm, even while it tries to deepen ties to counter China?”

In a very broad sense, yes. But there are two major differences. First, the problem that the United States has with Abe is "history." Literally. So when Abe goes to Yasukuni, the Obama administration is "disappointed" because of the geopolitical repercussions. But the problem with Modi is in the here and now, specifically, his role in the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, for which he is persona non grata in the United States. That's a real problem that Washington--the Obama administration and Congress--will have to resolve. Modi can't be treated like Castro.

Second, the contrast between the geopolitical implications of their conflicts with China could hardly be stronger. The standoff around the Senkaku Islands between the civil maritime services draws in a reluctant United States, the global hegemon and the region's greatest military power by far, by way of the bilateral treaty,, even as it excites the Chinese public no end (in contrast to the relatively small space that the issue occupies in the Japanese body politic). The India-China dispute is a far more serious one for the parties directly involved, given its military nature--it has spawned a land war, with sporadic clashes since--but it is a strictly bilateral dispute, with minimal geopolitical repercussions beyond the two parties involved. The BRICs Summits--a plurilateral framework spawned by a Goldman-Sachs sales pitch!; talk of life imitating art--also provide a convenient venue by which they can keep any animosity real or potential down to a manageable level.

That said, the relationship between the Chinese and Indian leadership has been relatively cordial of late (although there have been, will be, bumps along the road)and I am betting that Modi will do his best to keep it that way--BTW I also think that there will be a huge outreach to the Islamic community in his inaugural speech--while Xi Jinping would be hard put to distance himself further from Shintaro Abe than he now does. I'm sure that there are many Western liberals that blame this on his hardline stance against China. My response to that is: What hardline stance? The Abe administration is not the one setting preconditions on a bilateral summit. The Abe administration is not the one hurling invectives at its Chinese counterpart. The Abe administration is not the one moving its markers in the East (and South) China Sea.

No comments: