Whither Indo-American relations? - By MV Kamath
THE United States approach towards China and India is becoming increasingly clear as day follows day. There is a perceptible drift of the US away from China. Judging from recent developments a new Cold War is slowly developing. In the fifties, till the break-up of the Soviet Union, the US enemy was Moscow. Now the enemy is Beijing. During the Cold War, in pursuit of its self-interest Pakistan decided to accept the open embrace of the United States and made the most of it.
Now the same United State wants India’s cooperation to put China in its place. The request is very appealing. But India is warned: Do not play into the hands of the new friend. The government must put India’s interests, first, last and always. As did Pakistan which got away with murder. As of now Delhi seems to be wary of committing itself to Washington’s offer. China is watching. Chinese analysts are quoted as saying that the US efforts to make India part of its alliance against China will not succeed because India pursues an independent foreign policy. That may be wishful thinking, but it must turn out to be true.
But what does the US want? It wants a “re-balancing” of its military strategy to bring India into greater focus of its Pacific Command. All manner of tricks are being resorted to. One of them is plain flattery. In early June, the US Defence Ministry’s spokesman, described India as “a global power” determined to meet its responsibilities. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta himself said “India is the only country we mention in the Defence Strategy Guidance (a policy statement of the Pentagon) as a partner”. And he was to add: “And we are really shifting to a point at which our defence interactions with India are becoming routine”. For example, India is now close to inking a $ 647 million contact with the US for the acquisition of 145 M-777 ultra light howitzers from the US in a direct government-to-government deal.
Another deal being finalised is the $ 1.4 billion contract to acquire 22 missile-armed helicopters. All that, and much more, may be true, but in the end India should not be party to play any US game and that must be made plain, especially in regard to the latter’s continuing support to Pakistan. Washington must be told to stop all military aid to Pakistan, warn it against using jihadis against India but above all, make it plain to Islamabad that it supports India’s claim to the whole of Jammu & Kashmir, including Pakistan-Occupied territory. Over and over again, self-interest must guide India’s actions. Strong objection must be taken to Barack Obama’s effort to seek approval of the Congress for $ 2.4 billion aid to Pakistan. Apart from flattery, the US has promised India “capability building, enhanced defence trade, joint development in the field of defence and strategic defence cooperation”. How can the US possibly have strategic defence cooperation with India if, simultaneously, it has military relations with Pakistan? That is one part of the picture.
As for China, Beijing must be told in unequivocal terms that it must give up its claims to Arunachal Pradesh, must quit the areas north of Pakistan Occupied Territory where it has its troops stationed and otherwise stay away from South Asia. Besides, not only should China openly support India’s entry into the UN Security Council as a Permanent Member with attendant powers, but also assure India’s full membership of the Shanghai Cooperative Organisation (SCO). Presently it only has an Observer status in the Group consisting of Uzbekistan, Kazakhistan, Tajikistan, Kyrghistan, Russia and China. Meanwhile US is pulling out all stops to take ‘lynchpin’ India on board its new defence and security policy that focuses on the Asia Pacific. The US wants India to sign three major agreements, namely, the Logistics Support Agreement, the Basic Exchange and Cooporation Agreement for Geo-Political Cooperation (BECAGSC) and the Communications Inter-Operability and Security Memorandum of Understanding (CISMOU). They sound very supportive, but one of them, Logistic Support Agreement can be interpreted to grant US forces basing rights and access to Indian military establishments. That would be exposing our inner strength. Panetta has signed similar agreements with Vietnam and Singapore, even before landing in Delhi. The time may come when the US may even insist on stationing US troops in India which under no circumstances should be permissible.
India is not Pakistan, nor is Vietnam or Singapore. The US also wants to send a message to China that it cannot make illogical claims over suzerainty over Pacific waters. Presently the US has no need to maintain a fleet in the Atlantic, even if NATO is on the verge of breaking. Russia is no more a threat. But China can be, at least as the US sees the situation. The problem of the so-called China South Sea surely can be resolved by taking the issue to the International Court of Justice. Has anyone thought of that? The US wants to make its presence felt in the Pacific by transferring 60 per cent of its naval assets to the Asia Pacific Region on a rotational basis in addition to maintaining ground forces in South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Japan. Fair enough. That is its privilege. The US also wants to see that the Indian Ocean remains peaceful and to help India to see that this is achieved. India has little interest in the Pacific except concering its normal right to sail through international waters without being challenged, China is known to push itself as much in the Indian Ocean as possible, much to India’s chagrin, not to say dismay. There is no question but that China’s imperial ambitions have to be curtailed. But for that India does not have to accept a subaltern status vis-à-vis the US. It would be wiser on the part of India to be non-aligned and to use its power where it is paying and cheap in the long run.
Pakistan felt that it was just being clever in playing second fiddle to the United States. In the process it has lost not just East Bengal, but its self-respect as well. And it has, worse still, lost its freedom, to the point that it can do nothing when the US bombs Pakistani territory, killing, among others Pakistani soldiers in addition to civilians. Presently Pakistan is now worse than a slave state. It has no relevance. Forget Pakistan. India must not even be an England ever ready to implement American strategic interests. India will be a global power whether anybody likes it or not. Its economy will be more than doubled in 10 years to over $ 8.5 trillion. It constitutes 75 per cent of South Asia’s total population and 82 per cent of its combined GDP. Nobody can stop India’s progress as a global power. It is, therefore, imcumbent for India to behave like one and lay down terms where its interests are involved, a point that both the US and China may do well to remember.