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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

DEFENSE DOSSIER: Asian Triangle Shapes Up




Last December Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov said during a visit to India that Russia favored the formation of a new strategic alliance in Asia of China, Russia and India.


"A lot depends in the region on the policies of China, Russia and India," Primakov said. "A triangle, where each corner is connected with a different corner by bilateral relations, will lead to more stability in the region and on a global level."


At the time, Primakov's remarks were ridiculed in the West as a not-very-clever anti-American publicity stunt. The Western media reported that the idea of a three-way alliance met with little enthusiasm in Beijing and New Delhi. Primakov was quick to clarify his statement, saying that "this is not a formal proposal." The West believed this to be the end of the story but two months later Primakov's idea is apparently beginning to materialize.


An annual high-level conference on security policy was held in Munich this month. German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der, U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, the defense ministers of Britain, France and other European countries, leading Western industrialists and various VIPs were in attendance.


During the Cold War, such Munich conferences served as workshops in which to hammer out joint Western security policies to face the Soviet threat. But the world has changed and global security has become a political catch phrase in Western capitals. So for the first time the organizers invited representatives from India, China and Japan to speak about the prospects for stability and security in Asia.


The organizers slated the Asia discussion for the last session of the last day of the conference. Naturally, almost all the VIPs and two-thirds of all the other participants had already left for home. Major Asian countries are important economic powers, but their defense potential is small compared to the United States and its NATO allies. Former foes and other outsiders are today regularly invited to attend important transatlantic security meetings, but it is expected that newcomers should first of all listen to what wise Westerners have to say and, second, fully agree with what they are told. That seems to be the true Western definition of globalization.


It turned out that the Asian powers had important security messages to deliver. Brajesh Mishra, national security adviser to the prime minister of India, said on behalf of the Indian government: "We are witnessing the erosion of the strategic frontier on the Amu Darya that for the last 150 years had preserved strategic stability in a vital part of the Eurasian landmass. In its place, fundamentalism and extremism are taking root and fueling terrorism. This is a matter of extreme concern to my country."


The subtext of Mishra's speech was that India sees Russia's diminished influence in Central Asia and the partial withdrawal of Russian border guards from Tajikistan as a serious threat.


"During this conference," he continued, "I got the impression that the West wants to replace the UN with NATO, that the West believes that NATO can solve all global security problems." Substituting the United Nations with NATO is, of course, anathema to India.


Mei Zhaorong, the president of Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs, speaking on behalf of Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, said that Beijing is fully opposed to any loosening or rewriting of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and also against U.S. plans to develop and deploy any tactical Theater Missile Defense systems, especially in Japan, South Korea or Taiwan.


"The TMD plan developed by the U.S. and relevant countries in the Asia-Pacific region runs counter to the ABM treaty," Zhaorong said. "Instead of improving security for any party it can only stimulate missile proliferation and trigger off a new arms race."


It seems that Beijing wants to say that U.S. attempts to bend the ABM treaty and build anti-ballistic defenses may "trigger" a drastic expansion of China's nuclear rocket forces.


High-ranking Russian diplomats present in Munich agreed that China is defending the ABM treaty more vigorously and that India seems to be more concerned about Russia's diminishing influence in Central Asia than the Russians themselves. Beijing and Delhi are standing up to defend Russia's place in the world. If this is not a genuine strategic triangle, what is?


A growing convergence of basic interest is bringing the major Asian landmass countries together in opposing the Western sea nations. Maybe one day relentless Western pressure will force these countries to sign a formal alliance.