ISSN 2330-717X

Need For Closer US, China And India Engagement – Analysis


The need for closer United States, China and India engagement to solve the serious regional and global issues are not going to be easy an easy one but have global security significance. This is because there are important matters on which they all disagree, one with the other, but on the other side they have significant areas of common interest. The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call for three-way cooperation among Washington, New Delhi and Beijing has the potential to solve major regional issues such as fighting terrorism to ensuring instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This proposal seeks to clear the mind of those who for the last many years have been claiming that the evolving strategic partnership between India and the United States is aimed at containing China.


Although India and the U.S. have the same concerns over the growing Chinese power and its expanding influence, still they have differences over other issues involving China that would seriously undermine India’s strategic security. The growing relationship between India and the United States should not become the sole ground for the containment of China which will bring harm to the international peace and security.

India expressed concern over the Chinese equipping Pakistan with nuclear and missile technology and other weapons needs. India perceives this as helping to maintain strategic balance between the two South Asian giants, thereby worsening the security situation in South Asia. However, the United States remains non-committed to the growing military ties between China and Pakistan that would seriously threaten India’s security. The reason may be due to the fact that Pakistan has really benefited from the American arms and equipment supply in the past and also at present.i

Mr. Ashley J. Tellis was quite right when he said during his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that, “a strengthened bilateral relationship does not imply that India will become a treaty bound ally of the United States at some time in the future. It also does not imply that India will become a meek, complaint and uncritical collaborator of the U.S. in all its global endeavors. Rather India’s large size, its proud history, and its great ambitions, ensure that it will always pursue its own interests- just like any other great powers.”ii

Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Mr. Robert Zoellick in his speech in China on 21st September 2005 said that ‘Washington recognizes the growth of China as a world power is non-stoppable and that China’s cooperation is necessary for addressing regional and global concerns’. The Deputy Secretary of State’s views reflect what should be the U.S. position toward China and the role China would play in future given the regional and global insecurity.iii

From the table, one could argue that Containment of China is less likely to happen given the kind of convergence that China enjoys with both India and the United States. China enjoys some points of convergence with India that is against the wishes of the United States such as the creation of the multipolar world and human rights. At the same time, the United States also shares areas of convergence that goes against India’s interests –  like the U.S. and China stance towards India’s long time enemy Pakistan and South Asian stability (there is always a possibility of the U.S. and China coming together to pressure India to resolving the Kashmir dispute). As Chinese Foreign Minister Mr. Tang Jiaxuan has said, “the international community should encourage direct dialogue between India and Pakistan in a more balanced and fair manner, which is the most effective way to lead South Asia toward peace and stability.” The United States and China seeks to maintain a balance between India and Pakistan so that the Line of Control is not changed unilaterally and also by violence.iv


Seeing the changing world scenario, the international community is demanding close cooperation between the U.S, China and India rather than confrontationalist relations for the betterment of international peace and security. U.S. would need China’s help in meeting the twenty-first century challenges. As Mr. William Overholt had commented that, “these two great civilizations must now engage each other-for better or for worse-to a degree that has never before occurred’, since ‘much of the future of humanity will hinge on whether both sides can approach this engagements with appropriate gravity and earnest efforts to understand one another’s real motives’.

Former U.S. Secretary of Defence, Mr. William Perry concisely summed up China’s growing presence as one where ‘China is fast becoming the world’s largest economic power and that combined with its UN permanent five states, its political clout, its nuclear weapons and a modernizing military, make China a player with which the U.S. must work together’. This is followed by the statement of former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defence, Mr. Nye’s who had argued for ‘deep engagement’ with China where ‘it is wrong to portray China as an enemy. Nor is there reason to believe that China must be an enemy in the future….enmity would become self-fulfilling prophecy’. This view was again supported by Chief, Secretary of Defence Mr. William Perry when he said that containment was the wrong option, alienating China and damaging America’s own security interests. Instead, the U.S. should engage China, not contain it…..we believe that engagement is the best strategy to ensure that as China increases its power, it does so as a responsible member of the international community’.

Then comes the turn of former Secretary of State, Ms. Madeleine Albright who also spelt out the similar view when she said that ‘no nation will play larger role in shaping the course of twenty-first century Asia than China with its huge population and vast territory, China’s emergence as a modern, growing economic and military power is a major historical event’. And as such a containment policy for China would be a mistake, would, in fact, guarantee an outcome contrary to American interests. A policy of containment would divide our Asian allies and encourage China to withdraw into narrow nationalism and militarism’.v

From all of these statement and views, it becomes very clear that containment of China cannot be in the immediate interests of the United States owing to the need for China in meeting serious challenges in the twenty-first century.

The international community would benefit from the strategic cooperation between India, China and the United States on a wide range of regional and global issues. These include fighting terrorism, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, peace keeping operations, maritime security, security of the sea lanes of communication, climate change, energy security, economic stability, etc. If there are areas of divergences among these countries, there are also areas of convergences that are most likely to bring these countries together. Really, the changing international security environment requires cooperation between these three countries rather than confronting each other. The relationship among these countries holds the key to international peace and security.

Former U.S. President Mr. George W. Bush has expressed optimism about the prospects for the major powers avoiding conflict. This was indicated very clearly in the Administration 2002 National Security Strategy report that, “today the international community has the best chance since the rise of the nation-state in the seventeenth century to build a world where great powers compete in peace instead of continually prepare for war. Today the world’s great powers find ourselves on the same side- united by common dangers of terrorist violence and chaos.” This is followed by what former U.S. Ambassador Mr. Richard Haass, Director of Policy Planning in the State Department during the Bush tenure has said in 2002 that, ‘war between the great powers is almost unthinkable’. Moreover, U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld noted in June 2004 that ‘future dangers will less likely be from battle between great powers, and more likely from enemies that work in small cells, that are fluid and strike without warning anywhere, anytime- enemies that have access to increasingly formidable technology and weapons’. These views reflect the need for constant cooperation among the major powers that holds the key to international peace and security. They should stop projecting each other as a threat and instead come together to finding ways on how to tackle the challenges facing them and the

The United States, China and India – being three important countries in the world – their cooperation would bring significant dividends to the world at large. Closer cooperation of the United States, China and India could have a stronger impact on each other and the world rather than working alone. Therefore, as the time passes there will be a need for more and more cooperation among the major power countries on the global challenges facing the international community.

The U.S. relations with India and China are much better than ever before in the past and they have a broader interaction on regional and global issues. They should find a way  for a lasting strategic cooperation to deal with the serious challenges of the 21st century.

i. V R Raghavan, “Indo-US Strategic Partnership: China as a Factor”, U.S.I. Journal (New Delhi), vol. CXXXVII(570), October-December 2007, p. 502.

ii. Adil Sultan Muhammad, “Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: Implications on South Asian Security Environment”, The Henry L. Stimson Center, July 2006, p. 21.

iii. M.K. Bhadrakumar, “Russia-US relations: Impact on Asia’s Strategic Stability”, in Maharajakrishna Rasgotra, (ed.), The New Asian Power Dynamic (New Delhi, 2007), p. 262.

iv. Zhang Guihong, “U.S. Security Policy Toward South Asia and its Implications For China: A China Perspective”, The Henry L. Stimson Center, January 2003, p. 19.

v. David Scott, China Stands Up: The PRC and the International System (London and New York, 2007), pp. 112-123.

vi. Banning Garrett, “US-China Relations in the Era of Globalisation and Terror: a Framework for Analysis”, Journal of Contemporary China (United Kingdom), vol. 15(48), August 2006, pp. 389-93.

Dr. Mohammad Samir Hussain

Dr. Mohammad Samir Hussain is a Research Associate in the Yashwantrao Chavan National Centre of International Security and Defence Analysis, University of Pune, Pune. He can be reached at [email protected]

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