Is Asia Falling Out of Empire's Orbit?

By N. Gunasekaran


It seems that Asia is also following the Latin American way. US hegemony is trembling and the expectations of US policymakers are increasingly going awry in Asia.

The hegemonic attitudes of the Bush administration, the aggressive drive to put corporations in control of exploiting foreign resources, the resulting anger of the people against the US and, most importantly, the acute energy needs of the Asian countries are all pushing Asian ruling elites to opt for more and more regional integration. Unavoidably, these developments are weakening the grip of Washington.

Recently Russia supplied uranium fuel to India for its Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS) under the safety exception clause. The US expressed its displeasure, saying that it was "important" for India to first fulfill its "obligations" under the Indo-US statement on civil nuclear cooperation. India simply ignored it because it had to seek urgent supplies of uranium fuel to enable the Tarapur reactor to function in safe and reliable conditions. So, India felt that heeding US sermons had less importance than the continued functioning of Tarapur atomic plants.

Despite opposition from the US, India and Iran are negotiating for the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. It was announced that a final agreement among the three countries could be reached soon and the construction of the pipeline will be concluded in five years.

This pipeline is planned to pump 150 million cubic meters of gas a day. It will be the most feasible and cost-effective way for these three energy-starved countries to get natural gas. China would also benefit from this project. The US opposes this project as it would make Iran a regional power and strengthen the friendly ties among Iran, India, Pakistan and other neighboring countries.

Russian president Putin's visit to China and other friendly gestures between China and Russia illustrate that Moscow is again coming closer to China. Moscow is concerned with its Far East borderlands and ties with Central Asian countries. For this, they feel that China should be kept from aligning with the US. Siding with Beijing, they want Russian energy to go through an oil pipeline to China.

While the US is concentrating on Central Asia for its hegemonic interests, the Moscow-led "Eurasian Economic Community" was further strengthened by the inclusion of Uzbekistan. Other members are Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus. An Interstate Coordination Council was formed recently between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan has declared that it is ready to continue to supply Kazakh oil to Uzbekistan.

Since US corporatists relied heavily on China's huge market and also due to the phenomenal growth of the China's financial reserves, Washington is unable to confront China on many issues.

It's obvious that the US strategy is to use India as a counterweight to China. But both China and India have been doing a lot to improve their relationship. Trade and investment are increasing and it is said that China might overtake the US as India's largest trading partner.

India was included into the East Asian Community, China's exclusive preserve of trade partners that is similar to the European combination. Both countries are eager to have strategic partnerships with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members for security cooperation and agreements.

And, both quest for oil. India signed an agreement to cooperate with China in securing crude oil resources. They understand that, instead of competing with one another for energy resources, maintaining cooperation would pay dividends. As the former Indian oil minister said, they "cannot endanger each other's security in our quest for energy security."

Washington has been wooing New Delhi and, at the same time, seeking a balance between India and Pakistan. This is essential for the US to serve its own interests in Iraq and Afghanistan and to intervene in South Asian regional affairs. But a recent hitch in this strategy is Pakistan's anxiety about the US' nuclear deal with India and the improved Indo-US relationship.

Only Bush's cheerleaders in Asia accepted his National Security Strategy, a blueprint for targeting the Asian countries of Iran, Syria and North Korea. Washington cannot go ahead with regime change in North Korea because South Korea, an ally of the US, is firmly against the forcible regime change. They demand that the US remain committed to resolving the North Korean nuclear issue through negotiations. Beijing and Seoul have similar positions on this issue.

All these trends indicate the possibility of Asia moving toward greater independence and leaving the orbit of the US. The scale of recent protests in Asia to mark the third anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq also reflects this trend. In Japan, Pakistan, India, South Korea and Malaysia, hundreds of demonstrators chanted, "Stop the Occupation in Iraq" and "Down with America!"

N. Gunasekaran is a political activist and writer based in Chennai, India.

From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2006

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