McCain sees India, U.S. teaming up against “troubling” China
As President Barack Obama begins his visit to India, his erstwhile rival John McCain is voicing hope that Washington and New Delhi will tighten up their military cooperation in the face of China’s “troubling” assertiveness.
McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told a think-tank audience in Washington on Friday that the two huge democracies were natural allies in the quest to temper China’s ambitions.
“While India and the United States each continue to encourage a peaceful rise for China, we must recognize that one of the greatest factors for shaping this outcome and making it more likely is a robust U.S.-India strategic partnership,” McCain said.
McCain suggested that India and the United States could increase the level of representation at each other’s central military commands and work to make their armed forces more “interoperable” through joint military exercises and sharing of intelligence.
“There’s no reason why we can’t work to facilitate India’s deployment of advanced defense capabilities such as nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, missile defense architecture as well as India’s inclusion in the development of the joint strike fighter,” the next generation fighter aircraft being developed by the United States, the United Kingdom and others, McCain said.
The United States should also firmly back India’s desire for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, he said.
McCain said both Washington and New Delhi hope that China’s rise to power is accompanied by Chinese decisions to wield that power responsibly, but said recent moves by Beijing hinted otherwise.
“From undermining the multilateral effort to pressure North Korea and Iran to give up their illicit nuclear weapons programs, to resisting entreaties to revalue its currency, to provocatively contesting territorial disputes with several Asian nations. There appears to be….a new assertiveness on the part of China, and that is very troubling,” McCain said.
McCain said a major problem was India’s concern that the United States was not playing to win in Afghanistan, which could ultimately leave India’s traditional rival Pakistan with an upper hand.
“If we quit Afghanistan before positive conditions can be shaped and sustained on the ground, the consequences will certainly be terrible for us, but will be even worse for India which will have a terrorist safe haven on its periphery,” said McCain, who has repeatedly questioned Obama’s pledge to begin drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan next summer.
The United States needs to lean harder on Paksitan’s military to crack down on extremist elements who threaten India, Afghanistan and the United States, McCain said, adding that India in particular had shown “extraordinary restraint” in the face of provocations such as the 2008 Mumbai attacks which were carried out by gunmen alleged to have Pakistani ties.
But he said that patience was wearing thin and the next attack could spell serious trouble.
“If god forbid our luck runs out, I don’t know if restraint will be an option, either for India or for us,” he said.
PHOTO CREDIT: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (Senator John McCain appears at Reuters Summit in Washington on Sept 10, 2010)