Austin Bay

A few months ago, I called for advice regarding a new program. I asked the tech where he was located, and he said, "South India." He confided that he wasn't supposed to give callers his location, but he said he thought I could guess and occasionally he enjoyed "chatting a bit" with clients.

This business transaction was facilitated by a common language and -- to a degree -- common social interests. Labor unions complain about offshore outsourcing, and that's a legitimate concern, but I admit I thought it was cool to shoot the breeze with a nice guy in Bangalore.

Moral of my story: The United States and India are an interesting case of developed giant and developing giant sharing where linguistic and cultural connections accelerate economic cooperation. We can blame the common language and social interests on the British Empire -- or quit the blame game and thank the Brits for it.

Now let's jump to a macro-strategic scale. Deputy Assistant Secretary Clad wants to avoid naming opponents, but Asia has another developing super-giant: China.

For the record, I'm very much an optimist about China -- I promote Sino-American amity, not enmity. But in the big room called Asia, China is the biggest elephant.

India and China have collided before, fighting a little Himalayan war in 1962. That Sino-Indian War is something of a "frozen" conflict (in more ways than one, given the altitude), with border issues not quite resolved.

But if you seek equilibrium, a militarily capable India provides Asian equilibrium to a militarily capable China.

A militarily capable India with a record for defense cooperation with the United States would give an aggressive, hegemonic China -- should that rogue elephant ever emerge -- great pause.

OK, don't call it an alliance. Call it two former British colonies, one global and the other going global, that are interested in maintaining peaceful, prosperous "equilibrium" conditions.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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