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The United States regards India as a strategic pillar to resist China. Is this pillar sustainable?

The United States regards India as a strategic pillar to resist China. Is this pillar sustainable?

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 Over the years, the United States and its allies have placed high hopes on India in the confrontation with China, expecting the world’s largest democracy to work together with its democratic partners in international politics and to rise rapidly economically to gradually replace China as the world’s factory status and then completely change the basic pattern of the game between the United States and China in the Indo-Pacific and even the world.

There appears to be a steady stream of positive developments around this strategic direction in a recent flurry of signs.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi traveled to Japan this week to participate in the Indo-Japan-US-Australia Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) to show his firm support for the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). In a statement released after the meeting between President Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the White House said the two countries are committed to deepening our key defense partnership and encouraging economic engagement that benefits both countries. The Indian side said that the summit had achieved substantial results. Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said on Twitter that Modi’s talks with Biden covered many aspects of India-US relations, including trade, investment, and defense, reaffirming commitment to inclusiveness and A shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific based on sexuality and a rules-based order. Modi also used the opportunity to call on the United States to invest in India and participate in India’s “Make in India” program.

There have been occasional reports in recent years of major foreign companies pulling out of China and moving production to other Asian countries. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Apple, which feels its heavy reliance on China poses a potential risk, is looking to expand production outside China, where India and Vietnam are The countries that the company is most concerned about.

In the field of security, Indian media disclosed last week that India for the first time received foreign aid for the development of islands near the Strait of Malacca. India’s “Eurasia Times” reported on May 21 with the title “Suffocating China – India’s Strategic Islands Received $3.4B Investment to Tame Dragons for QUAD Allies” that Japan will assist India’s Andaman-Nicobar Islands. electricity supply. India has previously banned foreign investment in the archipelago due to some extremely sensitive historical issues. The Strait of Malacca is the chokepoint on which China relies on energy transportation. After the infrastructure of the archipelago is completed, India will be able to use these facilities to conduct exercises in the Indian Ocean with countries such as the United States and Japan.

However, on the other hand, although India also regards China as its greatest threat, due to a series of intricate factors such as history, economic development, relations with Russia, etc., India still faces the challenge of becoming a close ally of the United States in the short term. Great challenge.

India-US-China-Russia relations are intricate:

Since the United States launched the so-called “Indo-Pacific Strategy” in 2017, the relationship between the United States and India has been greatly improved. The National Security Strategy Report of that year defined India as the “major defense partner” of the United States. In August of the following year, the United States upgraded India to a “Strategic Trade Authorization-1, STA-1” country. , allowing it to purchase advanced and sensitive U.S. products and technologies available only to its closest allies and partners.

An article by the Chinese Army Command College at the end of last year noted that the US-India cooperation has expanded to more than 40 intergovernmental dialogues in the past few years. Multi-faceted cooperation mechanism.

India has a vast territory, and a large population, and shares common values ​​with democratic countries such as the United States. It has long been considered that no country is more important than India when the United States is dealing with the threat of China. However, due to a series of complex reasons such as history and geopolitics, The United States and this seemingly natural ally are not without rifts.

The White House said in a statement Tuesday that Biden had condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during his meeting with Modi, but did not mention that Modi had similarly condemned it.

At the United Nations, more than 100 countries voted to condemn the Russian aggression, while India abstained. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi only expressed regret over the war, but never condemned Russia. In the three months since the Ukrainian war broke out, India not only continued to buy oil from Moscow but also increased its imports. Russia is India’s largest military supplier. According to one study, as much as 85 percent of India’s primary weapons are Russian-made. India is expected to deploy its latest weapon system, the Russian-made S-400 anti-aircraft missile, this summer.

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International politics are intertwined and turbulent. In the four-nation game between India and the United States, China and Russia, China needs to unite with Russia to resist the pressure of the United States, while Russia and China have formed a “cooperation not online” partner On the one hand, it still sells arms to China’s arch-enemies India and Vietnam to maintain its influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Although India, like the United States, sees China as its biggest threat, analysts have pointed out that India is extremely reluctant to alienate Russia and is worried about pushing Russia toward China.

“Given the continuing tensions on the Sino-Indian border and the difficult relationship between the two countries, the last thing India wants is a Russia-China partnership against India.” “This will be a strategic disaster for India,” Purnendra Jain told VOA.

He said New Delhi would certainly remain neutral and would not directly criticize Russia on Ukraine, nor would it vote against Russia at the United Nations.

In terms of the United States, although Washington is almost dissatisfied with India and Russia, in order to maintain the overall situation of the united front against China, India must be united, and the Indo-Pacific strategy cannot be without India. After the outbreak of the Ukrainian War, although the United States severely criticized and warned China, when it comes to India, U.S. President Biden only called India’s position “not very good.”

Elizabeth Wishnick, a professor of political science at Montclair State University in the United States, said: “Although India’s position is similar to China’s, and they all abstained in the United Nations, India has not suffered the same problem as China in the Ukraine war. pressure.”

She told VOA that after Western countries withdrew from Russia’s energy industry, the United States and its allies do not want to see any country investing in Russia, let alone China taking advantage of it. However, since India is considered to be a counterweight to China Therefore if India also gets some investment opportunities, it will be considered to be conducive to strengthening India’s strength against China.

In the just-concluded summit of the US-India-Japan-Australia “Quad Security Dialogue” mechanism, although the heads of the four countries discussed the situation in Ukraine, after the meeting they only emphasized the importance of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity and resolving the issue peacefully, without condemning Russia at all. It highlights the differences between the United States, Japan, Australia, and India on this issue of sanctions against Russia. The statement made no mention of Russia, saying only of Ukraine: “We discussed our respective responses to the conflict in Ukraine and the current tragic humanitarian crisis, and assessed their impact on the Indo-Pacific region.”

India, the world’s third-largest oil importer, saw a surge in imports to Russia in April, rising to more than 270,000 bpd from 60,000 bpd in March. A U.S. Treasury Department official set off for India on Tuesday in an effort to persuade the Indian government and business community to reduce oil imports from Russia.

Zack Cooper, the senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said it was natural for India to have different interests and relationships with other members of the Quartet, which made the main focus of the Quartet on China, and China issues India Still in line with the US, Japan, and Australia. He told VOA that the U.S. and India are actually doing a good job of managing their differences and that the ministerial meeting between the two countries in Washington is going well. “I think the signal from the two countries since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is actually the continued solidarity between the US and India, not the breakdown of the relationship,” he said.

India has no hope of replacing China:

Compared with China, India has a democracy, a legal system, a huge market, and a population size. Even from an economic point of view, India has a large and young population and is one of the youngest and most powerful countries in the world. Labor advantages in India also include low labor costs, with workers earning an average monthly salary of just $423. Benefiting from the official language status of English, Indian workers also have a linguistic advantage. In recent years, India’s diplomatic and economic relations with almost all democratic countries have greatly improved, and the international development environment is very favorable.

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On the other hand, in addition to a series of political factors such as the government system, China has also faced rising labor costs, soaring land prices, a rapidly aging population, unfair competition, forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, and other major economies in the world in recent years. A series of challenges, such as the sharp deterioration of relations between the two countries, are almost innumerable, and almost nothing compares to India.

If only this inference, India has more reason to become the world’s second-largest economy, the world’s factory. However, since the 1990s, large international companies have been flocking to China, and in India, they have repeatedly failed to go to Matching.

Just take the auto industry as an example, attracted by a series of beautiful figures such as a population of more than one billion and a salary of several hundred dollars a month, large American manufacturers have been coming to India for many years, but so far, special Sla is not in, Ford and GM are out.

Reuters recently reported, citing three people familiar with the matter, that Tesla has paused plans to sell electric vehicles in India after a few years of pouncing on it.

Previously, Ford, which had been painstakingly operating in India for 10 years, finally announced last year that it would close its Indian factory after losing $2 billion. Ford Chief Executive Jim Farley said it was a difficult decision but there was no choice for the company to remain profitable.

In 2015, General Motors, which had been operating in the Indian market for 18 years but was still losing money, stepped up and announced ambitious plans to capture at least 5% of the market share in India in the next 10 years. GM firmly believes that by 2025, India is expected to replace Japan as the world’s third-largest market, with an estimated annual sales of 8 million vehicles. After a lapse of five years, a Chinese automobile company established in the 1980s announced that it had reached an agreement with GM, and GM would withdraw from India, and the company would take over the local factory of this old American car company.

India’s foreign direct investment in 2021 fell from the previous year to a total of $74 billion, while China surged by a third to $334 billion from the previous year.

In the 2021 World Competitiveness Ranking published by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne, China ranks 16th, far ahead of India, which ranks only 43rd out of 64 countries.

All of this is taking place against a backdrop of deteriorating U.S.-China relations, governments clamoring for supply chains not to be reliant on China, and many major corporations actively trying to pull out of China.

A report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Monday said German companies fell on deaf ears to the government’s call to reduce their dependence on China, with everything from Mercedes-Benz to machine tool maker TRUMPF counting on their performance in China. Woolen cloth.

The state of India’s democracy in recent years has also worried critics. According to a report this year by the NGO “Institute for Democratic Diversity”, India is gradually evolving into an increasingly undemocratic state with elections. Another authoritative report, Freedom House, also criticized that India suffered a series of setbacks in terms of civil and political rights and freedoms after Modi’s re-election in 2019, and even weakened these democratic values ​​on an international scale. Freedom House has downgraded India to a “partially free” country.

Analysts pointed out that in order to truly get rid of dependence on China and win in this fierce competition, Western governments must face up to the many problems that India has after some superficial figures, including weak government policies and serious infrastructure shortages.

Although China is listed as a “non-market economy” country by the US Department of Commerce, it is higher than India in two key World Bank rankings. In the ranking of economic freedom, China’s 2021 score is 58.4 points, and India’s is 56.5 points.

China far outpaces India in the Ease of doing business rank, another World Bank ranking report that measures whether government regulations help drive or limit business activity. In this ranking, 1 is the highest score, and New Zealand is awarded this honor, ranking first among 190 economies around the world with 1 in the business environment. China still lags behind some advanced economies in many areas, including access to credit, tax payment, cross-border trade, and government approvals, and so the score is 32. In contrast, the World Bank’s flagship report found India to be even worse than China, giving India almost double the score, at 62 points.

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However, India is still higher than China in another authoritative index of economic freedom. The annual report released by the American think tank Heritage Foundation covers 179 countries and regions around the world. India ranks 131. Although it is not high, and it is not in harmony with its democratic system, it is still much higher than China, which only ranks 158.

It is undeniable that India has now become the fastest-growing major economy in the world, and India is also confident that it is expected to become one of the largest economic powers in the world in the next 10-15 years. In particular, the rapid development of its high-tech industry has impressed the world, and it occupies a pivotal position internationally in software development, chip design, and other fields, all of which are generally considered to benefit from its strong democracy and strong international partners. relation.

For now, India still faces some specific problems and challenges in many aspects in order to attract a large amount of foreign investment and deepen its integration into the international economic system. For example, Indian law stipulates that manufacturing companies with more than 100 employees cannot lay off their own employees. To lay off employees, they must first obtain approval from the government, which discourages many foreign companies.

Tariffs are often a focal point of trade frictions. India’s tariffs on imported cars are rare in the world, imposing tariffs of up to 100% on imported cars worth more than $40,000 in cost, insurance, and shipping.

Poor infrastructure is also another key factor keeping big international companies at bay.

Power outages are commonplace in India, and as soon as the power goes out, factories have to shut down, increasing costs and reducing efficiency. A New York University study found that Indian manufacturers rely on themselves for about 35 percent of their electricity.

Roads are vital to a country’s economic development, especially highways. If you only look at numbers, India ranks second in the world. The Chinese official website of the Indian government claims that India has the second-largest road network in the world, with a total length of more than 6.2 million kilometers. But a study by the University of Reading late last year found that 75 percent of India’s highways have only two lanes, up and down, and are perennially congested, while 40 percent are unpaved dirt roads. One of the keys to China’s economic revival over the past few decades is that in just 20 years, China has added highways that are 20 percent longer than the entire U.S. interstate highway system, which is one of the reasons India has lagged China so far, the report said.

A study by China’s securities investment company Minsheng Securities believes that India’s manufacturing base and market demand are far from China’s, and the growth rate of consumption is also “incomparable” to China. The analysis based on investment and trade structure said that from the perspective of competitiveness, not only “India’s competitiveness is weaker than my country’s in all aspects, but the gap between the two countries is constantly widening.”

Jain, an expert on India at the University of Adelaide in Australia, said that at the beginning of this century, a popular word at the time was “Chindia”, which means China and India emerged side by side as economic powers, “but that did not happen”. “India’s manufacturing base is still weak, and India is unlikely to replace China as a manufacturing hub anytime soon,” he said.

Although Apple’s bet on India is big, and the proportion of mobile phones made in India in Apple’s total global manufacturing has indeed increased year by year, the “Wall Street Journal” reported that citing data from market research firm Counterpoint Research, even if the output of mobile phones made in India is This year, the proportion of China has reached a record high of 5% or 7%, but this proportion is still insignificant compared with China’s current proportion of 95.3%.

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