The meaning of Rice

The only difference between Powell and Rice may be in style

The Indian Express reports that India’s foreign policy establishment is mighty pleased over Condoleezza Rice’s appointment as Secretary of State in the second Bush administration. That, it suggests, not only because her predecessor was naturally chummy with Pakistan’s military rulers, but also due to Rice’s ‘unconventional’ perspective of relations with India.

Rice argued in an article published in Foreign Affairs that America ‘‘should pay closer attention to India’s role in the regional balance.’’

She went on: ‘‘There is a strong tendency conceptually (in America) to connect India with Pakistan and to think only of Kashmir or the nuclear competition between the two states. But India is an element in China’s calculation, and it should be in America’s, too. India is not a great power yet, but it has the potential to emerge as one.’’

It is Rice’s recognition of India’s prospect as a global power and her determination to discard the South Asian prism that helped shape the paradigm shift in US policy towards India under the Bush Administration.

In the controversial National Security Strategy document unveiled by the Bush Administration in September 2002, the White House, for the first time, put India in the section of global powers rather than in the traditional chapters reviewing US regional policy. [IE]

That last part is interesting, because one would assume that India was counted as an emerging global power in 2002 because it was beginning to look like one.

Many commentators are falling into the trap of attributing the improved US-India relations to individuals — the reality is that by the end of the Clinton years, American and Indian foreign policy interests were already gravitating towards each other. After 9/11, this became pretty obvious. Although the dance began between President Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee, the tangoists currently on the dance floor are their respective political adversaries.

Apart from style, Condoleezza Rice’s arrival is not about mark a substantial change in the Bush administration’s South Asia policy. If anything, Osama bin Laden’s capture will. And for that reason, Gen Musharraf is not about to deliver bin Laden to the Americans any time soon.

Related Links:In The Command Post, Richard writes that Rice, like Powell must pay attention to developing better relations with Pakistan because it is ‘a hostile and more complicated state’ (read, love thy enemies);

George F Will proposes that senators ask her if she is in favour of expanding the UN Security Council to include countries such as India, and consolidate the European Union’s representation into one seat (read, out with France);

The Asia Foundation’s latest report on America’s role in Asia recommends that the United States ‘must continue the general movement towards normalization and cooperation with India that began in the late 1990s, reflecting India’s emerging influence in Asia and the world’ (via FE).

6 thoughts on “The meaning of Rice”

  1. It would be really interesting if a debate to restrict EU to one seat comes up. The US would never agree to losing a vote in the council (read Britain will not be excluded), so they would want France out. Though logically speaking Britain has been more at discord with the general EU opinion than France. And since they are going to echo US opinion anyway… well I dont want to say it!

  2. Rice is an old Kremlinologist. She cut her teeth working on Cold War geopolitics. For that reason, I think she’s more likely than Powell – a life-long accomadationist – to view China as a strategic threat to the US, and to advocate some kind of long-term containment strategy. Any such strategy would naturally involve India, along with a remilitarized Japan. Thus, I wouldn’t be quick to dismiss the comments from her 2000 Foreign Affairs article.

    Regarding the UNSC seat: after the Iraq fiasco, I think the US is going to be hesitant to support giving veto power to additional members, regardless of who they are. Also, I doubt that a push to reduce the EU to one combined seat will get anywhere as long as the UK and France have foreign policies that clearly diverge on certain issues.

  3. Eric,

    Those ‘Cold War’ goggles worry me a lot — I’m not quite sure that the Cold War tricks will be appropriate or useful in the 21st century. China for one, is not an ideological bastion of an alternative economic-political-social model. India benefits less from a US-China confrontation than from a US-China engagement.

  4. Nitin,

    The US has been engaging China economically and culturally, and I don’t expect this to end – it’s in the interests of both parties. Just as it makes sense for India to continue to expand economic ties with China. But while China may not be “an ideological bastion”, as you put it, they still aspire to be the dominant power in Asia, something that the US and India have a common interest in preventing. China’s ongoing attempts to “contain” India, through its military alliances with Pakistan and Burma, and more recently, its overtures to Bangladesh and the Maldives, need to be taken into account. As do its ongoing threats over Taiwan, with their geopolitical implications for the South China Sea, and the ultra-nationalist propoganda with which they’ve brainwashed millions of Chinese.

    I’ve long believed that India’s ongoing tussle with Pakistan over Kashmir has been a major distraction for the country, keeping the country’s eyes away from its true long-term economic and military rival within Asia. The Chinese have long understood the importance of this rivalry, hence their attempts to contain India and use Pakistan as a distraction. A closer partnership with the US would be a very good way to turn the tables on China, and Powell’s replacement with Rice increases its likelihood.

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