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Suchak Patel asked: How Cold War 2.0 between the United States and China will be different from Cold War 1.0, especially from the Indian perspective? Are strategic autonomy and NAM relevant choices for India in 2.0?

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  • S. Kalyanaraman replies: From the Indian perspective, there are two principal differences between the United States-Soviet Union Cold War 1.0 and the prospective Cold War 2.0 between China and the United States The first difference lies in the fact that one of the protagonists in Cold War 2.0, namely, China, is an adversary that has been in occupation of Indian territory, continues to make claims to other Indian territories, has supported Pakistan against India since the 1960s including through the ultimate gift of nuclear weapon and missile technologies, and is actively working to undermine Indian leadership in other South Asian countries. And the second difference is the emergence of South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region as important theatres in which Cold War 2.0 would unfold. In contrast, during Cold War 1.0, neither the United States nor the Soviet Union was India’s adversary. Further, South Asia and the Indian Ocean were distant theatres of the United States-Soviet Union Cold War.

    Given these differences, nonalignment between China and the United States is not a sensible policy to practice. To borrow and extend a statement that former United States Secretary of State James Baker made with reference to the conflict in the Balkans in the early 1990s: India did not have a dog in the Cold War 1.0 fight between the United States and the Soviet Union, whereas it would have one in the Cold War 2.0 struggle between China and the United States. Even former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru acknowledged this reality in December 1962 by observing that there is no nonalignment vis-à-vis China.

    Posted on October 07, 2020

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.