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Rajiv Gandhi’s China Visit No Nixonian Moment: Former Foreign Secy Nirupama Menon Rao

NEW DELHI: “Has there been a Nixonian moment in India’s relations with China? Perhaps not. We thought the Rajiv Gandhi visit was such a Nixonian moment. But I’m afraid we created more than a Frankenstein,” former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Menon Rao said on StratNews Global’s discussion show ‘Talking Point’ with Jeff M. Smith, South Asia specialist at the Heritage Foundation. She was referring to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech at the Nixon Library in President Richard Nixon’s birthplace. Pompeo said the former U.S. leader’s worry about what he had done by opening the world to China’s Communist Party in the 1970s had been prophetic.“President Nixon once said he feared he had created a ‘Frankenstein’ by opening the world to the CCP,” Pompeo said. “And here we are.” Nixon opened the way for the establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with Communist China in 1979 starting with a visit to Beijing in 1972. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s 1988 visit to China restarted a process of reconciliation between New Delhi and Beijing.

“The latest crisis at the border will provide further motivation for India to realign its foreign policy. How much of a paradigm change will depend on the Indian government,” scholar and author Jeff Smith said, adding that “the lure of the U.S. and the Quad has been growing stronger as China has been increasingly showing its true colors.” Smith pointed to India’s actions, including naval exercises, saying: “We’re going to do what’s in our own interests. We’re going to pursue relationships that help us.” He also sees genuine pushback snowballing from others “if the Chinese keep pushing, keep up their wolf warrior diplomacy, keep overplaying their hand, the way I think they’re doing with India, we could eventually see a change in threat perceptions in Southeast Asia, particularly more likely in countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, but potentially also from Indonesia or Malaysia.”

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In a comprehensive chat with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi, Rao, ex-Ambassador to the U.S. and China, and Jeff Smith also discussed countervailing coalitions, global realignments, indications of an ‘early harvest preferential trade deal between India and the U.S., military ties in the backdrop of the Russia-China relationship, U.S. CAATSA sanctions, Iran, the Chabahar port and a strategic deal being worked out between Tehran and Beijing. They also looked at policies relating to Hong Kong, Tibet and the Dalai Lama as the world pieces together a multi-dimensional strategy to impose costs and change Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party’s obsession of dominance as the new outlaw on the global stage.