Strategic choices (US-India Strategic interests) -The Nation

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US-India strategic interests and objectives converge splendidly when it comes to countering and containing China. The US clearly assesses China as a threat to its singular position as the global super power, while India shares US consternations over China’s fast expanding ascendancy in the Indo-Pacific Region, mainland Asia and beyond.

The US policy towards Asia (vis a vis China and India) seems to be epitomised by two very emphatic concepts—the famed Thucydides Trap and Offshore Balancing. The Thucydides Trap speaks of an apparent tendency towards war when an emerging power threatens to displace an existing great power as a regional or international hegemon. (Wikipedia). Through the strategy of Offshore Balancing the US exploits favoured regional powers to check the rise of (such) a potentially hostile power.

The US then augments the strategic capacities and capabilities of its regional allies to confront, neutralise and/or eliminate such, ostensibly common, threats. Much to its advantage, the US tackles such potential threats from afar, stays in the background and when the time comes may intercede to tilt the balance towards its ally. Apparently, the Thucydides Trap helps the US identify all potential threats to its interests and the strategy of Offshore Balancing determines the modus operandi to neutralise them.

Recent history is replete with instances where the US has employed this comprehensive strategy. It exploited and employed Pakistan to contain and eventually defeat the erstwhile USSR in Afghanistan at a miniscule cost to itself. Thereafter, it heartlessly abandoned and sanctioned Pakistan and promptly moved to occupy the then uncontested apex of global power.

The US’ role during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war followed the same strategy, neutralising two potential threats to Israel in the process. Later, it employed the KSA-led Gulf Arabs and Israel to keep Iran in check. Against China it is following the same strategy albeit a multi-pronged one. In the Pacific Ocean Region (POR), it has mustered and arrayed Japan, Australia and India (QUAD) against it. On mainland Asia it is exploiting the historical antagonism between China and India to circumscribe the latter’s evolving sphere of influence and strategic reach in the region and beyond. This defines the contours of the US’ two-pronged strategy to contain China in the POR and on mainland Asia.

The US has clearly chosen India as the bulwark to contain China on mainland Asia and to some extent in the Indian and Pacific Ocean Regions. It has nominated India as a strategic and major defence partner and has to date signed four foundational agreements with it. It has mustered it to its ranks by exploiting the RSS’, the ruling BJP’s and PM Modi’s base and ignoble instincts and preferences; their hubris, absolutism, megalomania, haughtiness and the Brahmin’s “ordained” sense of superiority over all other humans within their own religion, country and beyond.

However, as a state policy, the Indian parliament has passed laws that blatantly violate human rights, human dignity, humanity, fair play and justice. All minorities, especially Muslims in India and the Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir Region (IIOJ&KR) are being subjected to these biased, discriminatory, restrictive and demeaning laws. All human rights, freedoms and civil liberties are being suppressed by force. UNSC resolutions are being torn asunder by India and yet the US and its allies cannot find it in themselves to take India to task on that and similar scores.

Their geopolitical, geostrategic and economic interests in India unfortunately seem to trump all pretensions to an essentially rhetorical rules based international order, genuine democracy, human rights, freedoms and liberties and accountability for all such dastardly acts by the Indians.

Not surprisingly, in its latest list of countries violating religious freedoms, the US has chosen to turn a blind eye to India’s horrendous human rights record and its current wave of viciously bludgeoning its helpless minorities, especially Muslims, Christians, Dalits (untouchable Hindus) etc into servile submission. The genocide of the Kashmiris epitomises the Hindutva-crazed BJP government’s anti-Muslim/minority policies. What price expediency, geopolitics.

Furthermore, the US has a Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), by which the US sanctions any country that buys advanced military technologies and weapon systems from US adversaries, namely Russia and now China. India is getting the S-400 ABM system from Russia. Unlike Turkey which has been kicked out of the F-35 program for the same “crime”, a bill has been tabled in the US Congress to grant India a waiver! Does it reflect India’s clout in the US’ corridors of power or is it just a pragmatic pursuit of national interests by the US?

The US is clearly appeasing India but will not allow it to back out of confronting China at any stage. Does India have the political will and real military capacity and capability to secure US interests, regardless of the degree of convergence therein?

A stage will come where securing primarily US interests will clash with Indian interests especially vis a vis China. Will the Indians then cross the Rubicon and shed blood to secure US interests in the region? Will the US do likewise? Can India afford a war with China? Can India rationally speaking ever replace China as the most dominant power in Asia, regardless of US and its allies’ support? Where will a war with China leave India and its ambitions to achieve dominance in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent and South Asian contexts, much less of regions beyond? Is this a prudent and sane Indian policy? It ought to have drawn and heeded the right lessons from the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan and the US’ policy/conduct thereafter.

India could have opted for resolving its disputes with its neighbours, obviated the frightful two-front war scenario, joined the BRI-CPEC, established connectivity to the GMER, Europe and CARs through Pakistan and ended up in a win-win situation in the geopolitical, geostrategic and geoeconomics domains. Instead, it has chosen to become the camp follower of the ruthless US which is not really known for its chivalry and magnanimity when its interests in a particular region have been secured.

Have both, the US and India, made the right strategic choices?