The U.S. Strategic Miscalculation with India in the 2nd Cold War

The current Sinophobia in the 2nd Cold War between the U. S. and China has contributed to the 2nd strategic mistake that the U. S. is making by allying with India against China (without examining thoroughly its long-term consequences) -- just as the U. S. made the 1st strategic mistake by aligning with China against the U. S. S.R. in the 1st Cold War (also without examining thoroughly its long-term consequences). In global geopolitics, a friend of today can become an enemy of tomorrow. Therefore, is it too late for the U. S. to correct this 2nd strategic mistake by handling India with great care, due to the latter's hegemonic ambition as a new world power, which will then lead to the coming of what I call "Indophobia” in the next decade(s)?

1. Introduction: Historical Background

In my 1999 book titled "The Future of Human Civilization” (published in 1999), I had already untimely predicted the emergence of China as the dominant global power on Earth in the following decades, as it was based on the untimely prediction made in my 1995 doctoral dissertation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.).

In my 2007 book titled "Beyond the World of Titans, and the Remaking of World Order” (published in 2007), I had already untimely predicted the emergence of China and India as the two "hyper-empires” in the top (1st) tier of global politics, with the U. S. and the EU falling to the 2nd tier (as the two "meso-empires”).

Then, in my 2020 essay titled "Why the Coronavirus Pandemic is Accelerating the Remaking of World Order in the 2nd Cold War” (published on April 21, 2020), I already untimely predicted the coming 2nd Cold War, as I wrote: "[T]he world is now entering the (2nd) Cold War [with China], and future historians will one day acknowledge U. S. President Trump for igniting this (2nd) Cold War, because he refuses to accept the decline of the U. S. by "making America great again"-just as Winston Churchill had famously said that he refused to preside over the fall of the British Empire (but it fell anyway).”

Then, in my 2023 essay titled "De-Globalization and De-Dollarization in the 2nd Cold War” (published on August 7, 2023), I already untimely predicted not only the 2 main features of the 2nd Cold War (namely, "de-globalization” and "de-dollarization”) but also the coming of this 2ndstrategic mistake by the U. S. in relation to India, as I wrote: "[T]he U. S. is now repeating a mistake that it had made near the end of the 1st Cold War, when it helped China to counter the Soviet Union, without the long-term vision that China would become its rival in the long term. Now, by the same logic, the U. S. is making the same mistake once again by helping India to counter China, without the long-term vision that India would become its rival in the longer term too.”

Thus, what exactly is this 2nd strategic mistake that the U. S. is making in relation to India? To understand this requires an analysis of the double-edged sword of "non-alignment” in current Indian foreign policy, both with opportunities (or benefits) and risks (or costs).

2. Opportunities (or Benefits) in the U. S.-India Partnership

The word "non-alignment” here refers to the "Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)” during the 1st Cold War (between the U. S. and the U. S. S.R.), which, starting at the Bandung Conference of 1955, led many countries in the Third World to not side exclusively with either the Soviet-led "Communist” bloc or the U. S.-led "non-Communist” (or "capitalist”) bloc, and India under its Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (at the time) was a founding member. By the early 21st century, the number of non-aligned countries (in the United Nations) had reached 120, more or less.

In regard to opportunities for the U. S. and India to seek partnership, just consider 2 important examples below.

First, in the military sphere, both India and China had chronic border conflicts over the decades (in 1962, 1967, 1987, 2003, 2017, and 2020) and difficult disagreements over Pakistan and Tibet -- just as China and the U. S. had chronic conflicts in the Korean peninsula (like the Korean War in 1950-53), in the Indochina peninsula (like the Vietnam War in 1955-75), over Taiwan (in the First Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1954-55, the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1958, and the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1996), and now over islands in the South China Sea (like the China-Philippines tensions). Consequently, just as the U. S. under President Richard Nixon engaged China with the "ping-pong diplomacy” to counter the Soviet Union in the 1970s (which continued under subsequent administrations until the early 2000s), the U. S. (especially under President Donald Trump and now President Joseph Biden) has lured India into balancing the rising power of China (as shown in the subsequent acceptance by India in 2017 to join the "Quadrilateral Security Dialogue,” also known as the "Quad” then but as the "Squad” now, which is a strategic security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan and the United States to counter China).

Second, in the economic sphere, the U. S. is pursuing a "friend-shoring” strategy to shift companies from China to India (and others like Vietnam, Mexico, Indonesia, Poland, and the like), as the rivalry between the U. S. and China has intensified (first under the Trump administration and now, even more so, under the Biden one). By 2023, the U. S. became "India's biggest trading partner at $128.55 billion,” with China falling to second position. In addition, India has increasingly bought significant military items (weapons) from the U. S. since 2008, also to the benefits of U. S. defence contractors.

But opportunities (or benefits) in the U. S.-India partnership come with risks (or costs).

3. Risks (or Costs) in the U. S.-India Partnership

The politics of "non-alignment” in global geopolitics is a double-edged sword, as it brings both opportunities (or benefits) and risks (or costs).

At the Munich Security Conference in February, 2024, current Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar faced the criticism about India's hypocritical "non-alignment” (comparable to the imperialist practice of "cherry-picking” in global politics by Western powers), so he went on to brag about his country's "diplomatic versatility” for strategic autonomy by stating that India is "smart enough to have multiple options.” This is a bold and assertive statement on foreign policy, which, when implemented, is to mean that India can side with the U. S. on some issues (like the 2 benefits as already explained above) but can also refuse to side with the U. S. on other issues, even if, by doing so, benefiting some U. S. adversaries (as explained with the following 6 important examples).

First, in the political-cultural sphere, India likes to tout itself as the "world's largest democracy” (to garner Western liberal-democratic support), but its political system is actually far from what this slogan may suggest, due to some persistent problems plaguing the South Asian giant (like "religious intolerance” against Muslims, "Naxalite insurgency,” "caste-ism,” "terrorist groups,” "widespread corruption,” "gender violence” against women, and so on). And India under the current government of Narendra Modi has made things worse, as Maya Tudor in a 2023 article thus wrote: "India exemplifies the global democratic recession. India's recent downgrade to a hybrid regime is a major influence on the world's autocratization,” and "the government of Narendra Modi is diminishing the very idea [of democracy]…India today is no longer the world's largest democracy,” strictly speaking.

Second, in the geo-military sphere, India has consistently irked the Western alliance not only by refusing to "condemn” Russia in the Russia-Ukraine conflict (in spite of Western, or especially American, pressure) but also by buying Russia's cheap oil (which has contributed to the latter's ability to evade or defy Western sanctions and thus to sustain the conflict).

Third, in the sphere of international finance, India has been working closely with the BRICS+ nations (like China, Russia, South Africa, Brazil, Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Ethiopia) to de-dollarize, that is, to increase the global use of non-dollar currencies for international finance. Already, India and other BRICS+ members have started accumulating gold and using local (and digital) currencies as part of a concerted effort for their new international hybrid currency bundle in the making (ultimately to counter American financial hegemony). This issue was already analysed in more detail in my 2023 essay titled "De-Globalization and De-Dollarization in the 2nd Cold War” (published on August 7, 2023).

Fourth, in the sphere of international trade, India does not shy away from cooperating with China on various economic issues, be they about climate change, exports, imports, foreign direct investments, development for the Global South, and so on. It is important to note that China is already India's second biggest trading partner, with the amount reaching USD 136.26 billion in 2022 (though falling in 2023), but the amount of trade between the 2 countries continues to grow rapidly over the decades, in spite of border disputes between them. Also, one should not forget that India is part of the BRICS+, which also includes 3 important adversaries of the U. S., namely, China, Russia, and Iran.

Fifth, in the regional-security sphere, India finds it difficult to accept the U. S.-Pakistan alliance, in light of the chronic tensions between India and Pakistan since the partition of India into 2 separate countries in 1947. Some in India rightly consider Pakistan as an "ally” of the United States, whereas others think of it as a "client state” of the United States. Regardless of this name-calling, the U. S.-Pakistan alliance poses a major limit to the U. S.-India partnership.

And sixth, in the geo-political sphere, India is not content with being a regional power in South Asia, or being dependent on the Western alliance (under the dictates of the U. S.) in the larger world. "Strategic autonomy” is thus more important to India than "alliance” is. After all, India, together with China, had long been the world's 2 most dominant civilizations for millennia and had been the world's 2 largest economies until the rise of the modern West, especially during the Age of Western colonialism affecting South and East Asia from the 19th century onwards. In short, India inspires to be a world power (not subject to the whims or dictates of the U. S. or any other power or power alliance).

Of course, on the other side of the same partnership, there are also risks (or costs) for India to play with the U. S. for its own "non-alignment.” Consider the following 2 important examples.

First, the more India allows itself to be drawn into the Western alliance (like the SQUAD), the more it loses its highly valued strategic autonomy (especially when India is still very weak as a "junior” partner vis-à-vis the U. S. at the moment, so the latter is using India as a "pawn” in the geopolitical game to maintain Western global dominance by containing the rise of China in the 2nd Cold War).

And second, the more India allows its highly nationalistic emotion to get carried away by the need to counter China with the help of the Western alliance, the more it loses the benefits of cooperation with China on various important issues (equally, if not more) essential for India's very own survival and growth (as shown in the examples above). Besides, to counter China by weakening it (with the help of the Western alliance) is self-destructive, since it thereby decreases the leverage of the BRICS+, of which both India and China are founding members for the Global South (to counter the global dominance of the Western alliance).

4. Conclusion: The U. S.-India Rivalry in the Making, and the Coming of Indophobia

For these 6 reasons for the U. S. and 2 reasons for India (afore-explained), the current U. S.-India partnership is both temporary and limited, as a kind of "marriage of convenience,” until the future tipping point when India will challenge even more, not only American hegemony in the world arena but also the Chinese one in the Asian century (as already predicted in my 2007 book titled "Beyond the World of Titans, and the Remaking of World Order,” published in 2007).

If China was using the U. S. in the 1st Cold War to counter the U. S. S.R. to further its own rise as the world's new superpower (in the context of the 1st U. S. strategic mistake), India is also using the U. S. in the 2nd Cold War to counter China to further its own rise as the world's next superpower (in the context of the 2nd U. S. strategic mistake).

In this light, shortly before his death in 2023, Henry Kissinger acknowledged, with a sad touch of culpability, that the U. S.-China partnership at the time had helped China's rise and therefore is now "partially responsible” for the unexpected challenge of China to American hegemony in our time (that is, the 1st strategic mistake as explained earlier). Precisely here, can one attribute a comparable strategic mistake to Trump and Biden for being at least "partially responsible,” with a sad touch of culpability, for India to challenge American hegemony in due time when it grows sufficiently strong enough to do so, in its long-term geopolitical game with China for global domination in the Asian century (that is, the 2nd strategic mistake as explained earlier)?

Bluntly speaking, for both China and India, what stands in the way for the Asian century is the current "rules-based international order” set up since WWII for Western dominance in world affairs, so they find it important for the U. S. and the EU to be challenged and put aside, so as to create a new world order, even if China and India will one day fight for global dominance in what I already predicted as the 3rd Cold War to come (as already analysed in my 2007 book). And how this 3rd Cold War will play out in a more multi-polar world (to replace the uni-polar one (led by the Western alliance under the dictates of the U. S.) was already predicted and analysed in my 2023 article title "The Future of Pan-Asianism in the Asian Century (and Beyond)” — which was published on November 29, 2023.

With this vision of the 3rd Cold war in the future in mind -- the current disagreements between the U. S. and India in the 6 examples for the U. S. and 2 examples for India (afore-explained) are only a tip of the iceberg in the making. As the power of India grows in the next few decades, it will behave more aggressively as a world power (than it now does), just as China is already doing it, to the displeasure of the U. S. and the EU (in the Western world, which will eventually be dethroned to the 2nd tier of world politics).

But some countries, unfortunately in a way, do not need to wait until future times to taste what Indian hegemony is like. For illustration, just ask those smaller states in the Indian neighbourhood like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Burma. Even the Maldives in the Indian Ocean under the leadership of Mohamed Muizzu is already talking loud and clear about its displeasure with India's bullying its smaller neighbors in the region, in its own version of Indophobia.

In the end, if "Sinophobia” is now a new political sports or a new media past-time in the Western world, do not be surprised to see another new political sports or another new media past-time in the future, namely, what I call "Indophobia” in the decade(s) to come.

Thus speak (and will speak) "hyper-empires” in the Asian century, though differently if taken from multiple lens, be they of the friends (or proponents) of "Sinophobia” and/or "Indophobia,” or of their enemies (or opponents), or of neither of the two sides.


About the author:

Dr. Peter Baofu is an American visionary and author of 180 scholarly books and numerous articles (as of July, 2023) to provide 146 visions (theories) of the human future in relation to the mind, nature, society, and culture -- and had been in 144 countries around the world (as of June 2024) for his global research on humanity, besides knowing 10 languages with different degrees of fluency. His books are listed in top university libraries and national libraries around the world (including the Library of Congress in Washington, D. C.). He was interviewed on television and radio as well as by newspapers around the world about his original ideas and visions of the human future (search for "Peter Baofu” on YouTube). He was a U. S. Fulbright Scholar in the Far East and had taught as a professor at different universities in Western Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East, the Balkans, Central Asia, South Asia, North America, and Southeast Asia. He received more than 5 academic degrees, including a Ph. D. from the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), was a summa cum laude graduate, and was awarded the Delta Sigma Pi Scholarship Key for being at the top of the class in the College of Business Administration, with another student.

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Author`s name Peter Baofu
Editor Dmitry Sudakov