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A Chinese wall to scale

world Updated: Nov 09, 2010 23:15 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The US on Monday said it had reached out to its allies to explain President Barack Obama’s announcement endorsing India’s claim to a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. But not to China.

At least the US state department was not sure if China had been spoken to.

“We have reached out and explained the announcement that the President has made today,” said the spokesman within hours of Obama’s announcement, adding, “I just can’t say whether we’ve reached out to China at this point.”

China is going to be a problem, anticipate experts.

The New York Times saw Obama’s announcement as a step towards creating “a deeper partnership of the world’s two largest democracies that would expand commercial ties and check the influence of an increasingly assertive China”.

US officials have been at pains to clarify in their pre-visit briefings that by seeking closer ties with India, America was not trying to contain China. They seemed almost afraid to be seen doing that.

But the US’s increasing involvement in Asia — a stated objective of the Obama administration — through presence at the ASEAN and East Asia summits, is known to have irked China.

“The US membership (the East Asia Summit, from next year) is seen as part of its strategy to reinforce its influence in the region,” said the state-controlled Chinese wire service Xinhua in a report in People’s Daily last week.

China is known to be opposed to India’s admission to the exclusive club of five countries, which together form the permanent members of the Security Council, with veto power separating them from the rest.

India already has the support of the remaining SC permanent members — Britain, Russia and France. The US committed its support on Monday.

In fact, China is not comfortable supporting either of the two countries backed by the US — Japan and India. Both the Asian neighbours have a history of extremely serious problems with China.

News of Obama’s backing for India found confused — actually garbled — attention in China’s state-controlled media, which is often taken to speak for the ruling party and the authorities.

“India wants a seat on the US (sic), saying it would reflect the growing weight of the G20 nation as its trillion-dollar economy helps spur global growth and its government exerts influence over issues from Doha trade to climate change,” said Global Times, ruling Communist Party’s English mouthpiece.

On climate change, India and China found themselves on the same side of the table, sitting apart from the US. A fact pointed out by many sceptics and critics of growing closeness between India and the US. But China doesn’t really see India as a partner in much else.