Tech Cooperation With India, Not China

The joint statement issued at the end of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue on June 3 did not mention China as a mutual security concern. Direct references to conflict situations were limited to countering terrorism and restoring stability to Afghanistan. However, there was a difference in tone about certain issues that indicated that Washington sees New Delhi in friendlier terms than Beijing.

One such issue is export controls on high-technology. At the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting May 24-25, Beijing again demanded that America lift its export controls on the transfer of "dual use" items that could improve the weapons or other capabilities of the People's Liberation Army. The American response was non-committal, only promising a "reviewing by the U.S. government concerns raised by the Chinese government on export control issues."

In contrast, the U.S.-India statement read,

Minister Krishna and Secretary Clinton underlined the importance of facilitating co-operation in strategic and high technology sectors... as a key instrument to achieve the full potential of the strategic partnership. Minister Krishna and Secretary Clinton confirmed the shared objective of a strong 21st century partnership in high technology. They committed to approach the issue of export controls in the spirit of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

The spirit of cooperation has already been expressed in an agreement on the development of civilian nuclear energy, which was realized despite the fact that certain arms control advocates opposed it because India refuses to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The line between military and civilian technology is more imaginary than real. Though there was the usual wistful hope expressed in the joint statement for a world without nuclear weapons, the Obama administration like the previous Bush administration knows India will not disarm as long as China and Pakistan are building nuclear weapons, and, in fact, needs to strengthen its capabilities.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been working on a reform of export control regulations under pressure from business interests who want to sell more products overseas to whoever will buy them. In the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs, Gates made the case for providing more security assistance to U.S. friends and allies so they can better carry their share of the mutual security effort. If Gates can combine his assistance strategy with his export reform effort in explicit fashion, he could mollify critics of the latter who fear the pursuit of profit will trump national security and allow dangerous technology to fall into hostile hands.

A commentary in the Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times should be proven right.

China should not expect to import high-end products and technologies from the US after the reform. The lack of strategic mutual trust between the US and China and the US strategy of both engaging and hedging China determines that the US will not open up the export of advanced technologies and products to China within a short period.....After the reform, the US will still have an export control ‘blacklist' which involves terrorist groups, hostile countries and others.

China should be on that list, whereas India should not.