For once, I would like an American elite institution to make a strategic judgment that didn’t start somewhere near its ass or wallet. Leave it to the WSJ to criticize any attempt to compare the proud Hundu miissile and the belly-flopping Choson bomb, and then favor the Indians. “But it would be misleading to assume the two launches are in any way comparable or speak of an Asia-wide trend.” I’m not exactly sure what Margherita Stancati means by “trend”, but, no, I doubt any other country will test-fire a missile tomorrow. But, the successful launch of the Agni-V does confirm, that China and India are Asia’s top-tier rivals. Stancati consistenly takes the cheery, high road.
That’s because observers generally believe India when it says it maintains a no-first-use policy on its missiles. Analysts say the aim of the Agni V launch was to improve India’s deterrence system against China. Bharat Karnad, a security analyst at New Delhi’s Center for Policy Research, says that India has long been “under China’s shadow in terms of matching its weapons.”
By trying to redress China’s military advantage, New Delhi hopes to have greater leverage in its dealings with Beijing. Despite flourishing bilateral trade, several unresolved issues remain, including a 4,000-kilometer disputed frontier. Mr.Karnad believes the intercontinental ballistic missile could, for instance, give India greater leverage on China in negotiations on their disputed border.
China was uneasy with both tests. Although China is North Korea’s chief ally, it supported the Security Council’s statement condemning Pyongyang’s rocket launch. Beijing had earlier protested launch preparations with North Korean officials.
Chinese officials responded less strongly to India’s test, with a foreign ministry spokesman stressing that “India and China are not rivals but cooperative partners.”
Recall that along with Israel, North Korea – dammit, comparison! – and its arch-rival, Pakistan, India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). What it does have is a raft and agreements with the United States, none more than a secade old, and a tenuous relationship with the Nuclear Suppliers Group. And, even more worrying than an ICBM aimed at Beijing, is Pakistan’s testing of short-range tactical nukes, and how Pakistan’s testing prompts India to counter with its own tests. In short, South Asia with the full range nukes is even scarier than the Korean peninsula with sputtering rockets and overheated crazy talk. And then, there’s China and India, which have fought at least three major wars. Actually, China and India have probably the most complicated relations of any two states in the world, so when Beijing is slow to react, it’s because it is being careful, not expressing contentment.
But, no American – or Israeli, Russian, or American et al – will have ever sell defense technology to the North Koreans any time soon. India, on the other hand, is open for business. It has little to do with “democracy”. South Asia is as live a proving ground – outside of Africa – as westerm arms dealers could find. If only the North Koreans would go capitalist, and then a unified Korea would be the biggest prize ever!