http://southasianidea.com/foreign-policy/asia-pacific-the-great-game-and-india/ What the Pivot Means Before the heat of US elections and Chinese transition of power cooled off, the well times East Asia Summit and the ASEAN meet at Phnom Phen has focused world attention on SE Asia. With President Obama, Prime Minister Wen Zia Bao and Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh participating in the conference, the great game in Asia-Pacific is entering an interesting stage of global geopolitics, especially in view of Americaâ€™s â€˜Pivotâ€™ to the East. Combined with Indiaâ€™s â€œLook Eastâ€ Policy the three major players in this game US, China and India are jostling for influence in the region. What happens now? As per security analysts, this Obama initiative is a part of US strategy of containing China in Asia-Pacific while China is keen to exert its influence in its soft under belly by retaining its strategic hold over ASEAN countries. India, which has great stakes in both expanding ASEAN and using its geographical leverage in Indo â€“ Pacific (Indian and Pacific Oceans) to contain Chinaâ€™s hagemonistic rise in the region is being wooed strongly by the US to become its strategic partner. As per Chidanand Rajghatta, in an opinion piece in the Times of India of Nov 17, titled â€œWith one eye on Beijing, US signals â€œ full embrace of Delhiâ€, leaving little doubt that the US sees India as a counter weight to China regardless of what China, India itself and the rest of the world thinks of the idea and their response to it. President Obamaâ€™s visits to Myanmar (also called Burma) Thailand and Cambodia are part of this larger game to make new allies in the region. Monika Chansoria of CLAWS, quotes US State Department official, William Burns as stating that â€œA healthy US â€“ China relationship is central to the future of the Asia-Pacific region and the global economyâ€. As per her, the sentiment notwithstanding the conflict and cooperation between their relations cannot be considered as mutually exclusive. Chinese state media has for some time now viewed â€˜security rebalancingâ€™ as inimical to Chinese interests in the region and have opined that â€œChina has become a firm strategic target of the USâ€. Chinese media is also weary of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a new economic and trade model in Asia pacific marginalising China. As per Kaplan, â€œUnquestionably, there is deep strategic mistrust between the two countries. Chinaâ€™s rapid economic growth, steady military modernization, and relentless nationalistic propaganda at home are shaping Chinese public expectations and limiting possibilities for compromise with other powersâ€. US Military Maneuver An analysis of the Pivot, reveals â€œcredible military rebalancingâ€ by the US - something akin to its positioning to contain USSR during the cold war days. A new realigned NATO appears to be taking shape in Asia-Pacific. Pentagon, which despite pruning has over 1000 â€œlily pondsâ€ (bases) across the globe has moved into bases in nations bordering China that include Mongolia, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and others in Australia, Philippines and Singapore. The presidential visits to Burma, Cambodia and Thailand and Defence Secretary Leon Panettaâ€™s simultaneous visits to Australia, Cambodia and Thailand are pointers in this direction. The â€˜Pivotâ€™ entails deployment of 60 percent of total American naval assets, qualitatively and quantitatively to the Asia-Pacific. The US has eleven of the worldâ€™s twelve nuclear aircraft carriers and all eleven super carriers. With US Pacific and Central Commands area of responsibilities converging in this region, there is every possibility of US attempting a cold war type encirclement and containment of China militarily. When seen in perspective US attempts to create a new global interceptor missile grid which targets China, as the European version does Russia, include to date Japan, South Korea, Australia and Taiwan. Philippines is reported to be joining this bandwagon, as home to US interception sites akin to Turkey. China, which is the key member of two global grouping (BRICS and SCO) is no push over . As explained earlier by South Asian Idea, alliances in the emerging 21st century world order would be formed with or against the US. We are now witnessing the jostling Phase of these alliances as argued in our article â€œWest Versus Restâ€œ and â€œUS-China Cold Warâ€œ. While the conditions between the two giants are nowhere near â€œThe Cold Warâ€ of yester years . The current trajectory of US-China relations is indicative of a path towards such dispensation in future. This Foreign Policy article though explains Chinese efforts to engage South East Asia with its soft power â€“ a new initiative by China to maintain the lead among countries of the Asia Pacific. â€œAfter investing tens of billions of dollars in Southeast Asia, China has now decided that its vaunted economic power, which has bought it significant influence with regional governments, is not enough. Beijing now wants to be loved, tooâ€. India â€“ Can it balance Look East with the Pivot? Where does India fit into this new great game? As opined earlier â€œIndia as a strategic partnerâ€ is the bipartisan call of Democrats and Republicans alike. Obama would use his second term to fructify this alliance even if it has to agree to some economic & political trade offs viz outsourcing , end-user agreements and Indiaâ€™s quest for retaining its strategic autonomy. Geographically speaking, India can prove to be the bulwark in US pivot, counter balancing China on land and at sea .But such a heft would inextricably involve Indiaâ€™s in a direct confrontation with Beijing , which would be counterproductive to Indiaâ€™s peaceful economic rise and upset the regional geopolitical equation with no major gains accruing out of the proposed alliance . Indiaâ€™s options are complicated and are largely based on Indiaâ€™s quest to balance China with or without overt US support â€“ military, economic and political. However, is the Indian-political environment capable of surviving the â€œalliance stormâ€ or should it remain a swing state balancing the two by having better relations with the two then they have with each other? Indiaâ€™s contentions through the â€œLook Eastâ€ policy to establish strong economic, political and military ties with the members of ASEAN are noble as it only finds trouble to its West. However, its delivery model speaks of a very poor track record. Burma, with which it established diplomatic relations for the last twenty years, despite the Junta rule, is a living example of India being long on rhetoric and short on delivery. This has hurt Indian credibility globally and regionally as a country capable of delivering on its promises. However, winds of change seem to be blowing in the right directions and with some commitment India should be able to retain its â€œstrategic autonomyâ€ while dealing with members of ASEAN as also with US and China. This though requires a long-term policy perspective with a strong will to deliver on its promises. Then, as usual, Pakistan remains the elephant in the room which would play truant to any Sino-Indian dialogue for peaceful co-existence. Not withstanding this irritant, India would have to engage US, China and the ASEAN nations including Japan and Australia to meet its strategic interests in the region. The elephant would thus have to dance deftly in this grey zone and retain adequate leverages to deal with this new great game unfolding in the region .