Mushroom Rice: A novel view on international relations by M.J. Akbar

I came across this article Mushroom Rice by M.J. Akbar in Sunday (October 15th, 2006) issue of the newspaper Deccan Chronicle, under his famous editorial series Byline.

With the recent nuclear tests by North Korea and America’s ire over Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme, the international scenario has reached a potential dew point. Fuelling this is the widespread outcry (in U.S and U.K.) against the Iraq war, the recent Israel – Lebanon crisis, the statements about religious revolution in America (by Mr. Bush) and Pope’s accusations against Islam (for which he apologized later, after the damage had already been done). So we have the superpowers riled up in the war act which has weakened them and various events which point to a further deterioration of world order.

But who stands to gain amidst all this? M.J. Akbar points to China. It is a new view to the world foreign-relations scenario for me. Interested? Read on

M.J. Akbar says:

“It is foolish to think that North Korea was acting, or could have acted, alone. North Korea is a helpless non-entity without China’s support. China has been brilliant in the pursuit of its geopolitical interests while Bush rushed into Mission Self-Destruct (obviously pointing to the Iraq War). Look at the map of Asia. The two nations that can challenge China’s hegemony in Asia are Japan and India. China’s formal relations with both are worth of a place in the United Nations statute book (perhaps referring to Japan’s invasion of China during WW2, India-China war in the mid-1960s and their continuing strained relations). It talks trade and peace with India, raising border problems only when it seems that a problem-free relationship is too artificial a construct. Similarly, it talks trade and peace with Japan, dusting out memories of World War II only when it seems that a problem-free relationship is ahistorical.

China has simply outsourced the military confrontation with India and Japan to Pakistan and North Korea. Both are low-cost operations for China, with huge collateral benefits in terms of tying down India and Japan. Pakistan’s nuclear programme in any case had to mirror India, for reasons that China did not instigate. Neither Pakistan’s nuclear capability nor North Korea’s is a threat to anyone but China’s competitors, or past and potential adversaries. With North Korea aiming nuclear weapons at Japan’s head, the pieces on China’s chess set are in superb place.”

His views on America’ssituation:

“The shadow of Iraq has traveled a long way while America is helplessly immobile.”

“The price of departure (i.e. if U.S. & U.K. plan to withdraw) will be much, much higher than the cost of arrival. What the Iraqis have suffered because of Bush and Blair’s malign war is already in the realms of the unbelievable.”

This was a thought-provoking article which had me thinking for long. Where are we headed? What should our foreign policy be to ensure survival if not prosperity in the long term? I am too tame in thought to suggest answers for these questions. However, foreign policy and diplomacy has always been an area of interest for me. I need to learn much in this subject. For now, I will leave you with these words that my professor had once spoken in a Culture & History session:

“In international relations there are no permanent friends, no permanent enemies.

Note: The bracketed text in the quotes has been added by me for clarity purpose. If you like this article, please find the full text of this article in the October 15th, 2006 issue of Deccan Chronicle.