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India-US-Japan

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My latest at WPR discusses the potential and the pitfalls of a grand Asian anti-China entente:

Moreover, the United States may find its position as the cartilage of a Japan-India-U.S. relationship uncomfortable. Both India and Japan have intrinsic, direct disputes with China, while U.S. concerns — apart from Taiwan and North Korea — are largely strategic. During the Cold War, the United States could generally rely on its alliance partners to stay out of direct conflicts with the Soviet Union. Because of the intrinsic conflicts between China, India and Japan, and because the bilateral power imbalance between China and either India or Japan will be smaller than that between the Soviet Union and Washington’s Cold War allies, the U.S. risks being drawn into conflicts started by one of its partners.

In short, a developing security relationship between the United States, India, and Japan holds great promise as an effort to balance and contain China. The dynamics of such an alliance will play out much differently than Cold War style containment, however. Whereas the U.S. played a leading role in NATO and the other regional organs of containment in the Cold War, its place in an India-Japan axis will at best be first among equals. Perhaps more importantly, the axis might serve to draw the United States into a conflict with China that it most desperately wants to avoid.

The potential for problems in the India-US relationship is something that I’ve discussed in the past. This post brought the issue back to my mind; McCain seemed to be putting a lot of weight on the notion that India will be a compliant partner, without necessarily thinking through the question of Indian intentions. I suspect that many of the most vociferous proponents of a closer relationship with Indian may be disappointed when they find out that India has its own attitudes, preferences, and especially ideas about the construction of the international order.

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