Towards a U.S.-India-China Cooperative Triangle

It seems like all roads lead to China here on the blog, at least yesterday and today. But among the seven points raised by Karl Inderfurth in Congressional testimony on U.S.-India relations, this one really warrants emphasizing:

Sixth, promote a cooperative triangle.
Along with themuch-improved U.S. -India relationship has come questions about theunderlying motivations for this new direction in American foreignpolicy, specifically whether it represents a hedge by Washingtonagainst a rising China, India’s most consequential neighbor. Thesemanipulative temptations should be resisted. Strengthened U.S. tieswith India have their own strategic logic and imperatives and shouldnot be part of a China containment strategy, something Indian officialswould strongly oppose.

Instead, the task for all three is to manage ties as a cooperative —not a competitive — triangle. One way to further a closer, cooperativerelationship between the United States (and the leading industrializednations) and India and China would be to make these two global powersformal members of an expanded Group of Eight. Another would be topursue initiatives in three critical areas that the three countriesmust all address and play a major role: energy, climate change, andinternational health. Secretary Clinton’s recent visit to Beijingopened the door to this expanded agenda with the Chinese. It shouldalso be pursued in her first trip to New Delhi. (Emphasis in bold added.)

That sounds not only right, but essential. There’s no way to eliminate mistrust and mutual suspicion entirely, both between India and China, but also between the U.S. and both countries respectively. And even once mistrust and mutual suspicion are both dramatically reduced, interests will still sometimes collide. But the idea of collective stewardship on the environmental and economic levels means nothing without the same approach on the political level.

To a certain degree, that means accepting a relative decline in American influence. But if the result is mutually beneficial cooperation, the relative decline becomes a trade off, not a loss.