How China shapes U.S.-India relations
Welcome to the Brookings Cafeteria the podcast about ideas and the experts who have them. I'm Fred dues in the book. Fateful Triangle how China shaped US India relations during the Cold War published this month by the Brookings Institution Press Author Thandi Madan shows how U. S. India relations have been shaped in the past and present by China on this episode. Madan a senior fellow in foreign policy and director of the India Project at Brookings is interviewed by Brookings Press Director. Bill Fining about her new book also on the program senior fellow. David Wessel offers his economic update with the focus on the strong U. S. economy and the risks facing the global economy. You can follow the Brookings podcast network on twitter at policy podcasts. To get information about and links to Oliver shows including dollar and cents the Brookings Trade podcast the current and our events. Podcast and now. Here's bill fining Mouton de Madan. Thanks Fred and welcome to Avi. Thanks for having me on the podcast bill. Glad to have you so China and India and United States your book bring these three countries together. That in the popular mind or usually diatoms not a triad or a triangle. Us China US India China and India. It also comes at an opportune time to trump administration appears to be making a very clear attempt to bring India into a relationship with the. Us That is more overt than in the past and with China's central reason early on in the book he note that Washington's China policy shaped it's India policy and Delis perception of China affected how dealt with the. Us is still true today. Absolutely the points that the book mixes we actually. It's almost GONNA as Jane Austen says it's a truth universally acknowledged today that China's shapes and influences US India relations that over the last few administration since the Bush administration really that for US policymakers. They've seen India as a potential balance geopolitical balance but also a democratic contrast to China and also an alternative market for American companies for example. So they've seen India from China Lenz. That was the case in the Obama administration as well. We've been seeing the trump administration though in some ways so different from the previous two administrations also follow that same strategic framework that India should be seen as an Asian large Asian country that can show as a democracy the democracy and development aunt mutually exclusive. And that because of its growing economic and military power it could be a geopolitical balance as people become more concern about China's not it's rise per se but it's behavior and the book makes the case that this is not a recent phenomena it's indeed how American and Indian policymakers so each other even as early as the late forty s when India became independent. Both American and Indian policymakers perception of China and their policies towards that country affected how U. S. India relations developed during that period. And they definitely do today as well. I want to go to what I think is the core of the book which is right does not argue that. China has not been the only factor that mattered in the US relationship but it demonstrates China's role in the US. India script was a leading actor not in the form of a cameo or guest appearance. Your book does that by examining a number of stages in that relationship the first from nineteen forty nine nine hundred eighty six shows that the United States and India had different perceptions of China. As you point out can you describe what the predominant perceptions of each were them? So I'll tell you that true a story to start with in nineteen forty nine promised giral. India's first prime minister just two years. After India become independent came to the United States and to he also visited Washington and he was the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the United States president. Truman went to the airport to receive him. He took long three cabinet members and a God given also the US. Congress hosted narrow for each joins a speech to the joint session of Congress. This will not kind of welcome that was given to some country that was considered peripheral as has been traditionally understood when we think about US India relations during the Cold War. It was because just a few days before narrowed arrived in the US the US felt that it had lost China to communism because the People's Republic of China had been established on October. I nine hundred forty nine and the wanted India just like the Bush Obama and trump administration. Stay THE TRUMAN. Administration also thought that since China had gone communist and was aligned with the Soviet Union. The two could find a new known. Asia. This time a democratic India that could play a role in their strategic framework in Asia and could serve contrast and account balance but what they found very quickly joined that visit as Prime Minister Nehru in President. Truman and secretary of State denaturing had these conversations about what they actually thought about China. They found that while Prime Minister Nehru had some concerns about China. India had and still has a long boundary with China that he had some concerns about what China might be doing the future but he argued that the best way to deal with China that had emerged Communist. China was not too isolated all kinds of essentially give it up to the Soviets between gauge it to encourage it to become part of the international community and to be responsible stakeholder. The Truman administration disagreed. Now this could have been an academic difference that the two sides just didn't have the same view of China. Why did it actually matter for us? India relations it's because these two countries actually engage with each other quite a bit on the subject of China and so for example the US actively tried to discourage or at least delay in the in recognition of the People's Republic of China but India did recognize communist China fairly quickly the US and India also had differences on the question of the Chinese takeover of Tibet. And how much to do too I prevent it and then subsequently how to respond to it the. Us wanted India to take a more active stance to resist that day. Korver India could not afford to do so in narrows opinion and then finally what you really saw the differences play out between the US and India on China that caused real problems for the US. India relationship was during the Korean War when India acted as a mediator between the US and China and even in fact one the US the general. Arthur shouldn't cross the blue because the messages they were getting from the Chinese was that they would then into the war the US did not listen but India didn't win any friends. From that case telling the truth it actually caused more problems and specially advocates China Lobby on Capitol Hill which favoured Shanghai shake and a stronger opposition by the trump administration communist China. The in fact advocated against aid to India on the basis that it was had been two pro-chinese during the Korean War so as I said these differences watch US academic had a very real impact on the US relationship as well one thing that jumped out at me reading those. Because I hadn't seen it before as the United States seem to be concerned that India would be a domino that would topple to after China. Become Communist. Very large domino. How valid the concerns of some Americans that China fell to Communism India? Would too well. It's interesting because you're right. The domino theory is usually thought to be about Vietnam. But you always if you actually read and you see this in the documents that I've gone through in various archives and various administrations you see presidents and their officials when they're laying out the domino theory. Always the way it goes is China fell then Southeast Asia would fall and then the big one India would fall. Now it's hard to judge in hindsight about whether counterfactual in terms of would this have actually happened. I can tell you. The one thing I found for the Indian archives which have only recently opened up in the last decade or so is an Indian officials. Too worried about the potential spread of communism sometimes people think of narrow as a communist sympathizer but actually especially in terms of domestic communist groups narrow and I his deputy prime minister but then our patil but then others as well. They were actually very anticommunist. In fact went off to communist groups in India and communist sympathizers but never wasn't just concerned about communism in terms of a homegrown problem. He was very concerned that the Soviet Union was actively encouraging these groups but he was also concerned that if communist China which had just been established in Nineteen forty-nine could grow foster could deliver the goods as he put it to its people faster than democratic India which had also been established around the same time if democratic India could not keep up with Chinese economic rule could not deliver the goods. Then Indians would question whether Communism was actually a better way of life so this idea that only the US was concerned about communism which sometimes it's people in India so it was something that concerned Indian officials to and again the concern about the race with China as it got called. The Economist Bob reward came up with the term the fateful race between China and India. It wasn't just the. Us The thought it was important for to win that race. But the Nehru Government as well. I want to ask about the relationship with the Soviet Union does time to to in India. You know that Stalin believed that he was a stooge of the US in Great Britain. We're that view. Come from the Soviet view the Soviet initial view and it starts changing during the Korean War but initially there really was this view on the part of the Soviet Union that these leaders will usually leaders who were just going to do what London and Washington would say. Bought of the reason was that India was very close to Britain even though it had this very charged colonial experience with it but I think there was this impression in Moscow that particularly would Stalin that India was just do the US UK bidding. Some of this I think was because he saw smaller countries. Not Having too much what we call agency. They couldn't make their own decisions. Some of it was because Indian leaders. It is true did go off to communist groups and I think some of it was just a lack of knowledge about India per se. They hadn't been that much interaction with the kind of leaders and policymakers of independent India. So there was this kind of view but it starts to change when Soviet officials start to see that India's willing to play an independent role during the Korean War and even after that when India was in charge of the neutral nations repatriation committee in charge of repatriating thousands of prisoners of war that both sides held the Soviet Union thought that India was playing a non aligned role and so was willing to change. Its mind about India and of course that view changes very much. When Khrushchev in Begawan? Come into office and they actually go on what people call the Soviet economic offensive to try to win over not just India but other non-aligned countries as well there are two major events tornadoes. Early time period. That you've mentioned the war in Korea and China's annexation of Tibet and how India responded to those but there was also into China beginning of that during the Eisenhower Administration. And that by my reading of yearbook seem to sour relationship with India because of India's stance toward what happened earlier as the French abandoned. It was one more reason in that early period till about the mid fifties. It was another subject of difference between the US and India and again it involved. China India saw what was happening in Indochina from its own lens and ozone presume both colonial country and saw these hotel men in particular as basically nationalists who were conducting independence struggle for independence. Who would you mentioned? Indeed even cited the US example as an independent democratic country but the US obviously saw it through Cold War anticommunist lands and so saw it very much in the context of the spread of communism and the influence of the Soviets and the Chinese in that country and so this was a subject of difference where India actually said that Vietnam could take independent decisions and the US soy essentially as coming under very much and making decisions on the influence of the Soviet Union and China and so once again can of China which the US resisted Chinese participation in Geneva conference India actively encouraged it and again mediated to some extent or at least guards are involved in passing messages between the US China again. That did not win it any favors. At least in the mid fifty s China was going to basically the source of divergence. And that's where the First Section of the book is called divergence because it is these various instances from about nine hundred forty nine thousand nine hundred fifty six where you do see the US in India basically very much disagreeing on the subject of China. But they're still kind of felt that they needed each other enough to continue to engage but not exactly in a very positive or optimistic way. It's interesting to me that in two of the major land wars at US fought in Asia. India made the right call. I in Korea with Macarthur and then second seen Hokey men for what he really was at that time. At least as a nationalist leader and the US didn't want to listen at that time. I think that's definitely what the Indian policy makers would say in hindsight but I think one of the things. The book tries to do is not pass judgment on the decisions in either sides as because `specially doing archival work. It gives people like me who have not served in government a certain amount of insight into the constraints that policymakers are operating under so things. That seem obvious in hindsight policy options. That seem kind of no brainers today. Sometimes yes they got it wrong. They should have known better but at other times. It's something that it's easier to say. In hindsight it was at the time and even though there are times that you know I kind of look back and say wow. Why did they do that one of the things? I have become more humble about her seeing the I could have done it better. Had I been in their shoes but yes. I think the other thing that the book does show is there's been the traditional view that sometimes the US in India didn't get along because they didn't understand each other's views of say China. My book shows that sometimes very understood what the other side's hold about China. They just thought the other side was wrong. So we have divergence and then we moved to what in the late nineteen fifty s and early ninety six? Glad to what you call the convergence of us and Indian views. What happened during that time? So a key thing that happens during one thousand nine hundred ninety six thousand nine hundred fifty seven. My book makes the argument in the section called. Convergence this to chapter section. Call convergence that what happens to cause the change is that the US and Indian views of China as a challenge start converging and part of the Eisenhower Administration in its second term starts to see the Cold War as not just a geopolitical battle but also an economic battle an ideological battle and from this. Let's it was important that democratic India win the race the fateful racist they called it against Soviet ally China which was developing at the time and sued Eisenhower Administration started to see China. Not just at political tract as it had but also as an ideological one in Asia and on the inside you start to see narrow who had had some concerns about China but his administration his government had essentially said either. They had time to deal with those concerns. All that China would also be very busy growing and developing economically and wouldn't be concerned about external problems they find in the narrow government that in nineteen fifty-six around Nineteen fifty-six fifty-seven their view of China needed to be different and they start to take a more concerned view of China and start seeing it as more assertive. They start having concern about Chinese behavior and they start seeing it not just as an ideological challenge as they had in the early fifties but a geopolitical one. This is when you start to see China raise questions about the Sino Indian boundary and said that it wasn't a settled question. You start to see China getting much more involved in India's neighborhood particularly in Nepal which causes deep concern in India and you see China harden its position on things like Tabet and finally you see Indian. Start to question whether some of the commitments China had made in some of the agreements that China and India outside whether China was really living up to. Its promises that it had made and there was a broader concern. That the Chinese were in fact taking more hostile view of global issues as well then even the Soviet Union and so you saw India now actually an Indian the US sports in China very much as a and economic and ideological challenge. And you also see them starting to agreed that what is needed to tackle. That challenge was a partnership with each other. And so that really officers convergence not just on threat perception. It causes convergence in terms of how to deal with the threat and for India. The benefit was bought of what a US thought was needed was for the US to aid India to help its rise and help its development and so that started to mean from the Second Eisenhower Administration through the Kennedy Administration billions of dollars of economic and food aid to India and you talk about thought the development aid food for peace program Peel for eighty which continued for a long time is still on the program itself did end in the are no longer is now food exporter and the US helped it in the sixties as part of this effort to build up a lot of scientific elaboration between Indian and American scientists. Even the strange American Indian program called grow met which I kept reading. His gromit in the archives grow met which was essentially a plan to help seed rain in India to ensure more consistent rainfall all this essentially to help agricultural production economic growth in India. And so you do see the Peo- forty program eventually wind down because India has a green revolution and that helps but you see one of the benefits of the PL of Roy D. program around the country here in the US to this day because one of the ways. India paid for that green that went to India from the. Us was through books and so these void libraries were established in many key universities in the country including where I did my phd at the University of Texas which became a depositry for a lot of South Asia books so it was a quid pro quo of a sword absolutely then. How important was the Sino Indian War of ninety? Sixty two to a deepened India. Us relationship many people still think in some ways at least during the Cold War period. It was the zenith of the relationship. What you had is the Kennedy Administration. Come to India's assistance with very quick delivery and mind you. These are two countries that do not have an alliance the US was not obliged to come to India's assistance but because it could not see. India fall to China and India was in desperate straits at that time because of shortages in military equipment and there was some real setbacks during the war itself which took place in October November. Nineteen sixty two. There was also a certain problem that neither the US India had expected the war even though they had been kind of border incidents between China and India so the US very speedily had to deliver large amounts of military equipment and they will also as the war continued. There was an Indian request by Prime Minister. Who quite controversial to stay for the US to even help it with ED defense and potentially even for the US to have its own pilots help defend India skies had the war continued. It didn't but what the sixty two war really did is. This is very clear. Example of the US without an alliance because of the Cold War framing coming to India's assistance in this war against Soviet ally China the other important part about the nine hundred sixty two war the US. India relationship is that all had been some discussion even before it about military equipment sales to India even military assistance to India. A but you really see after nineteen sixty two is when you see for the next few years in fact almost to the late sixties and even to the early seventies to some extent a military relationship and intelligence sharing relationship that we are only finding out about some aspects of it. Thanks to the newly released papers this included India allowing American. You choose to take off from its base or to fly over. India advocates was from Thailand. You saw the US supply equipment military equipment or India over the sixties and not as much as the Soviet Union but nonetheless. I did supply and in the very crucial agreement at least a largely forgotten. One air defense agreement that was signed in nine hundred sixty three where the US and India agreed that if China attacked India again the two countries would get into mutual consultations to talk about the US coming in to help defend India in the case of another. Sino Indian war now does not quite an alliance but as Kennedy put it. It has the substance of alignment even if not the reality of it. The Johnson and Nixon administration years in the US saw what you term the era disengagement the unraveling of us an Indian convergence on China. What were the central issues? That led to that unraveling in the Johnson Administration. You still see. He's a true believer in terms of this idea that you couldn't have India fall in the face of a communist China that the US might not be able to build India India having lost the Sino Indian wall and also having had some economic setbacks because of some drought conditions in India the US had moved from trying to build India up to just ensuring that didn't fall in language with us today. India's too big to fail but you still saw Johnson as a true believer in this idea that he had to support in the it was able to support itself against China and not just militarily but economically as well but you do see him starting to become really frustrated about Indian performance so this is the period where yes India and the US agree. That China is a major threat but they start disagreeing on what is necessary to do to tackle that threat the US wants to see. India spend far more resources development its development needs not much defense saying the. Us can take care of that whereas India wanted to spend more on defense having been caught out by surprise in the nine hundred sixty two war the US wanted India to reach an agreement with Buxton to then together for Indian Buxton to tackle China. So they they saw Pakistan India China solution. India saw box donnas parts of China problem because there was a budding China Buxton relationship and alliance starting in the sixty s and finally the US and India disagreed on whether the Soviet Union what kind of role it could play against China the US talk that India should essentially ally largely with the US and its allies and partners. India actually thought it should have not an alliance but a diversified portfolio of partners that included the Soviet Union. And so you do see these real divergences come up. In this period of the Johnson administration the Nixon administration. There's a real kind of break. And you see this a real kind of change from that sixty two war period to nineteen seventy-one war which takes place after two years of the Nixon administration and it is between India and Pakistan at that point the US actually was range with box Tan and China. Against in your at least that was how it was seen in India. Which then signed an alignment or treaty with the Soviet Union? And so there's this odd wherein the one thousand nine hundred eighty two war the US had come to India's assistance in a war against China and had told boxed onto back off and not eight China as China was fighting India and now in nineteen seventy one the Indians having launched the defense agreement and other commitments the US had made to it would no longer valid. They found that the US was actually encouraging China to comment on behalf of Pakistan to help them fight. India I'm going to jump forward now to the end of the Cold War and to the current era. And how would you describe the triangle? Today in some ways the triangle is perhaps where it was in what I call that section convergence. We are in many ways in a period of convergence between the US and India that they bought share a view of China. Not It's rise but particularly its behavior as a cause for concern so they do see it as a challenge. I think maybe two different degrees. The trump administration's been far more vocal than the moldy governed. India has but both the Moldy government and the trump administration and frankly there predescessors for since about the mid-2000s have seen China as a challenge and they have seen that one way to deal with that challenge is for the US India strategic partnership to build up and that building up has taken place over the last fifteen or twenty years. An Indian former policymaker. Brookings Press also as well Shivshankar Menon former national. Security Advisor has called convergence in China the strategic glue in the US India relationship having said that The other part of the triangle is that both the US and India maintain relationship with China and India at least actually uses its partnership with the US to try to get some concessions or some stabilizing of the relationship with China and you do see China on. Its bought actually trying to shape the US in relationship often trying to create a wedge between the US and India and Indian spot becoming concerned anytime. There's a sign that they will be. Us China deal or partnership. What India thinks of as g two so the triangle is if anything more fateful today because these are going to be the three largest economies in the world three largest countries definitely in the future and what happens between them will not just have implications for these three countries but arguably all of Asia and globally as well. President trump is on his way to India. What does the book tell us about the relationship with China and India at this time as trump is on his way so I started this conversation with talking about one trip that involved? Usa Nita's that of prime minister narrow. Toby nine hundred forty nine to the United States to meet President Trump China was very much looming in the shadow there even though in public speeches. It wasn't often mentioned an arguably. This is the same thing that we're going to see. Would president trump's trip in India? This trip would not be taking place if the two countries did not share a view of China. And that the idea that that China challenge required. Us India strategic partnership after all their many differences in the US. India relationship many disappointments but it is still a strategic glue. That's keeping the US and India together in a very crucial where it's not the only reason the US in India have partnership but it is a fairly significant one and so while you might not see either side in speeches mentioned China. The perhaps president trump will since he doesn't usually follow the protocols of democracy but he might not mention it he might mention it but we will see us things like talk about a rules based in Asia or the Indo Pacific. It's been called these days. You will see highlighting. Defense Equipment Order. Offense deals that India has bought from the United States which is often either for its maritime concerns as China becomes more involved in the Indian Ocean or at its land boundary. And so you'll see. China can have lurking in the shadow of this trump trip to India very much. So but you wouldn't have seen as I said this trip without China shadow lurking in the background. Though we might even see it in the forefront today depending on how the trip goes Thandi. Thank you for coming by today to talk about your new book. People Triangle how China shaped you as India relations during the Cold War. Thank you bill. It was a pleasure. You can get fateful triangle how China's shaped US relations during the Cold War from our website or wherever he liked to get books. And now. Here's David Wessel. With another wessels economic. Update I'm David Wessel. And this is my economic update the US economy's doing pretty darn well. These days unemployment is at a fifty year. Low wages particularly at the bottom are finally climbing the sheriff Americans who are working part time but who'd prefer full-time jobs is lower than it was back in two thousand and seven before the Great Recession. The stock market is soaring to be sure. The fruits of these good times are not evenly shared. Plenty of places are left behind and lots of middle class. People are struggling but the widespread fears last year that the US might be sliding into a recession about now have dissipated the US is doing markedly better than much of the rest of the world which raises a big question to paraphrase. Something Alan Greenspan. The Fed Chairman's had twenty years ago can the US remain in a waste of prosperity if everyone else is doing poorly. There's plenty to worry about overseas. Europe is barely growing. The European Central Bank doesn't have much room to maneuver in. Germany remains reluctant increase. Spending and cut taxes. Britain is coping with Brexit. Several Latin American economies are in turmoil. Japan is sliding into a recession and trade tensions persist despite the phase one China. Us trade deal which still leaves the US with much higher tariffs in place than bt before trump and then there is the corona virus a human tragedy with significant economic implications is brought parts of the Chinese economy to a halt and disrupted economically important cross-border tourism and disrupted global supply chains. It's quite difficult to estimate economic effect of the virus. Because no one can be sure how soon it'll be contained but one thing we do know. China is a lot bigger factor in the global economy than it was back in two thousand and three at the time of the SARS outbreak back. Then China accounted for less than five percent of world. Gdp today accounts for more than sixteen percent. It's the world's second largest economy now. China's economy will obviously be hit pretty hard by the virus and so we'll surrounding economies that are closely linked to China Hong Kong Singapore Taiwan economists and financial markets though seemed to anticipate the most of the damage to global growth will occur in the first quarter and then things will start to get better. Keep your fingers. Crossed as the International Monetary Fund. Put it recently. Global growth appears to be bottoming out but the projected recovery is fragile and risks remain skewed to the down side in other words the IMF is saying. Look we're giving you our best guess for the world economy and it looks okay but if we're wrong. Things are far more likely to be worse than we are projecting than better even before the corona virus the world economy was suffering disappointingly slow growth in productivity widening inequality in erosion of public trust in institutions and populist fervor so the big question is whether the corona virus will spread in tip the global economy into a recession. And whether that will pull the US economy down with it the US is less vulnerable to other economies than many other countries. We still make most of what we consume and we consume most of what we produce but if the corona virus spreads significantly beyond China in if the disruptions to global commerce extend well beyond the middle of this year even the. Us economy is vulnerable. The Brookings Cafeteria podcast is the product of an amazing team of colleagues starting with audio engineer. Gas On radio and producer Chris Mckenna Bill Fining Director of the Brookings Institution Press. Does the book interviews. And the zette Baylor and Eric Blah and provide design and web support our intern this semester. Is Amelia Hames? Finally my thanks to Camillo Ramirez and Emily Horne for their guidance and support. The Brookings Cafeteria is brought to you by the Brookings podcast network which also produces dollar incense. The current Antar events podcasts. Email your questions and comments to me at B. C. P. at Brookings Dot. Edu If you have a question for a scholar include an audio file an. I'll play it in the answer on the air. Follow us on twitter at policy podcasts. You can listen to the Brookings Cafeteria and all the usual places visit US online at Brookings Dot. Edu until next time. I'm fred dues.