Seeing India through the China Lens

Not long ago, Sam Roggeveen took me to task via email for saying, “. . . the Bushadministration viewed India predominantly through the lens of Chinapolicy.” I was contrasting that with the Obama administration’s rollout of a “regional approach” that seemed to view India more through the lens of Afghanistan-Pakistan policy. Sam’s two-word admonition?

Evidence, please!

I think this, via the Times of India, might count as evidence. According to DefenseNews, the P-8 is a long-range maritime recon aircraft, and the ones India just signed with Boeing for will be fitted with “sonar buoys, torpedoes and aerial depth-charge bombs.” That, of course, would come in pretty handy in the event a nearby rival developed a submarine capacity, or even just harbored longterm ambitions(say a 50-years view) as a naval power.

In all fairness, as Defense Industry Daily points out, BAE, EADS, Dassault and Rosoboronexport all took part in the bidding. So this could have very easily turned out to be a post about how Russia was keeping pace in the Indian arms market, or how the French were making more inroads.

But a U.S.-India memorandum of understanding on Ballistic Missile Defense, on the other hand, which the Times of India reports is in the works, qualifies as official policy. Apparently the Indians are seeking technical assistance for their homegrown BMD program, which is geared towards mid- to long-range missiles and ineffective against the cruise missiles that Pakistan has been testing of late. In other words, a launch signature that seems to originate in China.

It will be interesting to see where the Obama administration goes on this. As China-Taiwan relations warm and Japan seems to fade into irrelevance, those with a tendency to find hedges against China will, for obvious reasons, focus their attention on India. I’m just curious if Obama is one of them.