There’s been a lot of discussion (including in this column) about the growing rivalry between India and China, the reality of a budding arms race, and the possibility of future conflict. In some cases, this possibility is discussed with barely-suppressed giddy anticipation. “Hey, they got all this stuff and they’re aiming it at somebody else!”
What receives less consideration is what happens if China and India decide to do something really radical – get along. Last week the Netaji Research Bureau in Kolkata, India, organized a seminar to discuss exactly that subject. Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo expressed his opinion: rapprochement between the two emerging global powers would first transform Asia, and then the world.
The Asia part is pretty easy to see. Asian countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, are not looking forward to the prospect of having to choose sides in that brawl. Strained relations between China and India, particularly with modernized armed forces on each side, are more likely to produce proxy wars between their allies and satellites than open war between the two main players. That sort of conflict would be bad news for countries like Vietnam, which are certain to become badly-used pawns in a regional power struggle, and also certain to come out of such a struggle with too much money tied up in armaments and not much to show for it, no matter which of the bigger powers comes out on top.
As to transforming the world – well, maybe so. If the two countries with the largest populations in the world, a common border, emerging global economies, and a history of not getting along can somehow get past all that and make nice, everyone may be forced to fall into line, just to have a chance of competing economically.
That would be odd, wouldn’t it?About the Author: The major landmarks in Frank's historical interests range from ancient Persia through the Crimean War, World War II, and the modern U.S. Armed Forces, with a lot of stops in between. Frank is fascinated by the unusual, the overlooked, and the surprising. He is the New York Times number one best-selling author of the Desert Shield Fact Book (1991) and he is currently writing an historical novel on Alexander's conquest of Persia – from the Persian point of view.