CLINTON IN ASIA: The first tour of the area by a US president in 22 years began yesterday and is expected to focus mainly on a new relationship with India
By Cao Chang-ching（曹长青）
SPECIAL TO THE TAIPEI TIMES, NEW YORK
The Taipei Times
Monday, March 20th, 2000
US president Bill Clinton began his five-day visit of India yesterday, making it the first US presidential visit of south Asia in 22 years. Although Clinton will stop briefly in Pakistan and Bangladesh, New Delhi is top of his agenda.
Despite the administration's claim that the purpose of this state visit is to mediate between India and Pakistan and to persuade both countries to sign a treaty banning nuclear tests, its main focus, however, is to seek a new strategic relationship with India and expend US political, economic and military influence in South Asia.
A partnership of the world's two largest democracies will make a significant difference in Asian politics and military strategies, and a military alliance of US, Japan, India, Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan will contain China's military expansion and influence in Asia.
Ever since its independence from British colonization in 1948, India had been hostile towards Western countries for the past several decades, and its economy closed until 1991. Both its politicians and intellectuals resisted the West. During the cold war, when Western countries allied against Communism, India took nonalignment policy but friendly to Soviet Union.
There are several reasons that caused the change of India's policy:
First, over the Keshmir conflicts between India and Pakistan, the US mediated between the two countries and clearly backed India, which won favorable impression from India government and the public as well. Second, the US embarked an economic sanction against India because it had carried out five nuclear tests in 1998. New Delhi wishes to use this opportunity of Clinton's visit to explain its necessity of developing nuclear weapons and to seek US's removal of its economic sanctions.
Third, India feels more and more military pressure from China. Hostility between India and China has never ceased not only because the 1962 border war, which India lost, but also because China's long time military support, including nuclear technologies, to Pakistan. On the other hand, India's giving asylum to The Dalai Lama and his 100,000 followers irritated China as well. China has also stationed massive military forces in the India border, which causes uneasiness of India. Therefore, In addition to strengthen is own military power, India now contemplates the idea of making allies with the West, especially the US, against China.
Fourth, India decided to develop its economy. Over the long period influence of Gandhi's socialist ideology and the 45 years of socialist practice of Nehru's Congress Party, India's state-owned sector weighted as heavy as those of communist countries.
The Nehru dynasty brought India several decades of stagnating economy, which was described as an elephant. As a result, three quarters of the 1 billion Indians were peasants, the daily living expense of 52 percent of the people was under US$1, and half of the adults were illiterate, according to the World Bank's 1998 report.
It was only in the beginning of the 1990s, especially after the Congress Party lost its power to the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1993, India started to develop its economy. It needs the US as its trading partner and investment resource.
From the US perspective, India poses as a huge emerging market. Over the past seven years, the average growth of the Indian economy was 7 percent, and it can reach 10 percent if their economic reform were implemented, said US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers.
In addition to its democratic nature, India is an English speaking country, which is advantageous for it to catch the train of the "new economy." India is the only country in the world whose computer software exports increase 50-60 percent every year.
There are about 300,000 Indian-Americans in California's Silicon Valley, who hold 40 percent of the high-tech jobs there and made US$60 billion collectively last year alone, which means an average of US$200,000 a year, according to the US press.
Among those high-tech skilled personnel who received America's H-1B working visa, Indians account for 46 percent, ranging number one in rank, Chinese account for 10 percent, number two, and with five percent, Taiwanese are number five.
These rich Indian-Americans, along with a total of 15 million overseas Indians, have already begun to pour money back to India.
With a rapid growing economy, India also speeded up its military expansion and has already become a big regional military power:
Its on ground force army is 1.6 million, the third largest after China and North Korea; its navy two fleets, a purchased aircraft carrier, and India is making its second aircraft carrier on its own. The ir force has 35 air force units with Russia Su-30 and France image 2000.
India also has nuclear power, and the Agni 2 missile, which can carry nuclear warheads and was tested last May, can reach Beijing and Shanghai.
Early this year, New Delhi announced a 28.2 percent increase in military spending, making it the largest single-year increase since its independence.
The US obviously begins to realize the increasing value of making India an alliance in terms of counterbalance the growing power of China in Asia.
The current ruling party, Bharatiya Janata, has always been tough on foreign policies. Its Defense Minister, George Fenandes, is well known for being a hawk, and an ardent supporter of The Dalai Lama.
When I interviewed Fenandes in 1997 asking what would be their China policy if his party won the general election, he said they would be very tough, and would keep supporting the Dalai Lama. As a government official, he personally went to the border to receive the Dalai Lama when he escaped from China to India in 1959.
A month after India's five nuclear tests, Fenandes declared publicly in a TV interview that China, not Pakistan, is India's "potential threat number 1."
The New York Times remarked that there is no other country's defense minister has such courage to challenge the Red China. Facing China's increasing threat over Taiwan, having India on the US side is important, and a trilateral strategic alliance of US, Japan and India will make a significant difference in order to contain China.