Opponent of My Opponent
NEW DELHI—Last year, mutual frustration with China’s increasingly irascible behavior— coupled with deepening concern about Pakistan—led to a reboot of the Indian-American relationship. Indians, who watched Chinese President Hu Jintao’s trip to Washington this week with a special fascination, worry about China’s growing presence in and around the Indian Ocean, its territorial intentions along India’s northeastern border, and its ties with Islamabad, Pakistan. Most of all, they worry about the competitive threat that Chinese companies pose to India’s economic ambitions. Sound familiar?
Indian officials believe that the White House kept relations with India on the back burner for more than a year out of fear that any perception of a U.S. tilt toward New Delhi might jeopardize delicate negotiations with Beijing over Iran and North Korea. But now, Washington and New Delhi are on the same page. Indian officials say that when President Obama visited last November, China figured in nearly every official discussion with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his government. “There are few people in Indian politics who are sanguine about China’s rise,” said B.J. Panda, a member of the Indian Parliament, who represents the state of Orissa. “A vast majority of Indian politicians are uneasy.”
That uneasiness is widely shared. Half of Indians hold an unfavorable opinion of China, up from just 20 percent five years ago, according to the Pew Global Attitudes survey. Although Pakistan remains a neuralgic, existential challenge, it is a threat they believe is manageable. These days, China is what keeps officials here awake at night.
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