United States-India Strategic Partnership no Longer Strategic nor a Partnership
Paper No. 5461 Dated 16-Apr-2013
By Dr. Subhash Kapila
Reviewing the US-India Strategic Partnership after more than a decade of it being in existence the regrettable conclusion reached is that expectations which India and its strategic community had invested in it have not materialised.
The United States, other than rhetoric, has not contributed in any way to reinforcing of India’s security interests, raising India’s political profile in South Asia or any substantial steps to assist India to emerge as a major global power.
The United States needs to shoulder the blame squarely for the same in that in the pursuit of its tactically expedient policies in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and its hedging policies towards China, the United States has missed viewing the vital and broader perspectives of India’s significance on the strategic canvass of South Asia and Asia as a whole.
India is but one small blip on the United States strategic radar hovering faintly and obscurely in the distant background. Today when the United States is in a reverse reset mode on its Pakistan and Afghanistan policy formulations, India’s strategic sensitivities seem once again foredoomed to be trampled on. What sort of a Partnership is this?
Contrastingly, India has not made any comparative changes in its policy approaches that could be said to have impinged on United States security interests. It is the United States which has continuously been oblivious to Indian national security interests virtually within three years of the inception of the much heralded US-India Strategic Partnership.
It is duplicitous for both American and Indian policy establishment higher-ups to indulge in meaningless rhetoric about the tremendous strides made in moving this strategic partnership forward. The results when a reality check is made suggests otherwise. It seems that Indian policy-makers are in psychological awe of their American counterparts when they do not muster the courage to tell the United States vocally that the United States is crossing India’s security interests ‘red lines’.
Both the United States and Indian policy makers are loathe to admit that the US-India Strategic Partnership has been on a down-slide path for quite some time and the mutual denouement and clouded perspectives that dominate this Partnership stand covered in my Papers last year and also earlier.
In 2013, the US-India Strategic Partnership is apparently no longer “strategic” in content and intent. The US-India Strategic Partnership appears in 2013 to have degenerated into a “mercenary relationship” where the United States seems to be more attracted in bagging massive defence sales contracts from India in billions of dollars without India even making a whimper for strategic quid-pro-quos. The United States passes such garnering of Indian defence contracts as “increasing US-India defence cooperation”.
When India is unable to succumb to United States high-pitch efforts on purchase of some major billion dollars combat equipment then American petulance sets in. US petulance on this score is best exemplified by previous US Ambassador Timothy Roemer exiting India because the United States could not swing the Indian Air Fore contract for 126 Fighter Aircraft.
Regrettably, to atone for being so remiss, India awards comparative value other contracts in billions of dollars. What impels the Indian Government to be so supine to United States sensitivities when there is no similar response from the United States “strategic partner”?
Repetition of worn out clichés which pervade any discussions of the major gains in US-India Strategic Partnership discussions would serve no purpose in this discussion. This Paper would rather concentrate on some vital questions and issues which have impeded the development of the foremost ingredient in any strategic partnership and that is “Mutual Trust”
US-India Strategic Partnership Not Contributory to Diminution of Military Threat to India from China and Pakistan
The very essence of any substantial strategic partnership is the existence of a strategic congruence and convergence of security interests, regionally and globally. India implicitly sought when investing heavily in the US-India Strategic Partnership that the United States would contribute towards diminution of the military threats to India from China and Pakistan.
Far from contributing to India’s security concerns, the United States has heightened these two military threats to India by a return to Cold War fixations in its South Asia policy formulations and in relation to China following a “Risk Aversion” and “China Hedging Strategy”.
Both should hardly prove to be ‘strategic sweeteners’ for India. The Indian strategic community is fully awake to these double standards in US policy making even if India’s policy establishment is oblivious to it.
United States reset of its Pakistan policies is noticeable, As Seema Sirohi observes in an Op Ed in the Times of India of April14, 2013: “Just as the reset with Pakistan, which began in the first Obama Administration, has gained momentum in the second, pragmatic cooperation with India has lessened”
Revealingly, what follows is more damaging to India: “Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid was to come to Washington last week but the visit was cancelled. Both sides insist that the reason resides with the other. If I were to guess, a Khurshid in Washington wouldn’t have gone down well with a Kayani in Rawalpindi at this time. It was about signals”.
Is India unable to read political and strategic signals and reset its own policy formulations commensurate with US reset of its Pakistan policy under a new Pakistan-sympathetic US Secretary of State?
United States Specific National Security Damages Inflicted on India
Some of the more specific national security damages inflicted by the United States need to be highlighted to set the record straight, and these are:
United States Comprehensive Gains in the US-India Strategic Partnership at India’s Expense
United States seems to have outwitted two different political dispensations in India in extracting comprehensive political, strategic and economic gains, at India’s expense in the last decade or so. Senior Indian diplomats on Indian TV channels strongly maintain that both the US-India Strategic Partnership and the Indo-US Nuclear Deal were strategic game-changers for India. Hardly so, as America has yet to walk the talk and it is retracing its steps in South Asia to India’s strategic discomfiture.
Politically, through this strategic partnership the United States could add ballast in the Asian security environment of having India in addition to Japan on its side, in the US battle of perceptions with China.
Politically, India’s stature and image stands dented in Asia when it decided to ditch Iran under US pressure. Why did not India demand of USA to ditch Pakistan as a quid pro quo? Why has India in the period 2001-2013 all the time succumb to US Pak-centric pressures under two different Indian Prime Ministers? In the first case it could have been the late National Security Adviser’s advice. In the second case, there exists a perception that both the PM and the NSA have a tilt towards USA. In both cases it is India that is the loser.
Strategically, no gains have been made by India in the most comprehensive connotation of the term. In its tilt towards the United States India lost the support and countervailing influence of Russia---a trusted ally of long and testing times. India has lost Iran as a strategic asset on Pakistan’s Western flanks, and Indian strategic investments in Afghanistan’s infrastructure stand jeopardised by US reset of its Pakistan policy currently underway.
Militarily, India has exhibited double standards by awarding billions of dollars contracts to USA for military aircraft through the FMS route with no corresponding ‘offsets’ by US firms or transfer of technology as compulsory in contracts with France or Russia. What has India gained in this show of deference to the United States?
Militarily, both India and the United States blow trumpets about the increasing number of joint military exercises to ensure inter-operability between the Armies of both nations. Pray one may ask whether the United States would commit US Forces war effort in the eventuality of any India-China Conflict in the future.
It also needs to be asked what will the United States stance would be in any future India-Pakistan conflict. A decade or so back one had written a Paper that the “United States is Not an Honest Broker for Peace in South Asia”
Economically, the United States has gained considerably by prevailing on the Indian Government to open Indian markets for FDI retail against stiff opposition from all political Opposition parties. Why this deference to USA at India’s apex levels in the face of stiff opposition from all over India?
United States a Declining Power& Its Impact on US-India Strategic Partnership
Personally, I have argued against this perception doing the rounds in the international strategic community, arguing that it will take at least two decades for China to pose an effective challenge. But it is the United States itself, I now believe that fosters this perception by policy formulations that smack of appeasement on contemporary challenges that face it.
Three significant examples can be quoted in this direction to substantiate that United States power is in decline and these relate to the challenges thrown by Pakistan, China and North Korea and the US responses to these challenges.
United States has been forced into a reset of its Pakistan policy because it wishes to regain Pakistan Army’s collusiveness in its Afghanistan withdrawal. US has also stooped for negotiations with the Taliban on Afghanistan under Pakistan Army pressure. The United States with available military resources could have coerced them into complicity with US strategic requirements.
China is snooking its fingers in East Asia and added two more conflicts as flashpoints, namely the South China Sea conflicts and the East China Sea conflict. Rather than drawing the ‘red lines’ for China and deterring it from aggressive brinkmanship, the United States indulges in pure rhetoric much to the dismay of its Allies and friends. Why the United is States afraid of China or is there a hidden collusive strategic agenda?
On North Korea, the United States has displayed a strategic reluctance to tame it for fear of antagonising China. Why the double standards on nuclear proliferation pertaining to North Korea and Iran?
The perception that rises up to the surface inevitably then is that presumably the United States is a power on the decline. If that be so then what is the impact on the US-India Strategic Partnership?
The major stark realities that strike sharply so are that India cannot count on the United States as a countervailing power in any of the military threats that it faces from its two nuclear weapons powers that are in deep collusion to downsize India strategically.
The second reality that follows from the above is that India would now be well advised to seek new strategic coalitions to obtain countervailing power against the challenges that it faces.
Can India Do Without its US-India Strategic Partnership Linkages?
This is a pertinent question that the Indian Government needs to answer for its over-investment of the last decade in this Strategic Partnership without any tangible strategic gains in return and in light of the foregoing analysis.
India in the last ten years had virtually outsourced its foreign policy to Washington, a view shared by many in India. This strategic subservience of New Delhi to Washington has robbed India of its traditional independence in foreign policy formulations. It has led India to underwrite and support the “Isms of US foreign policy” like Human Rights and Democracy which the United States itself does not implement when it cavorts with Pakistani dictators and autocratic monarchical regimes in the Middle East.
Can India do without the strings that bind down its independence and freedom of manoeuvre in policy making on the regional and global stage? The answer is a ‘yes’ simply because India has many other alternatives and options open for ascending the ladder to be a global player of consequence.
Many strategic geometrical triangles and quadrilaterals earlier discarded/ devalued/de-emphasised because of the US-India Strategic Partnership can now be re-opened or revived with infused vigour.
To name a few, the Russia-India-Chia Triangle, the Russia-India-Iran Triangle, Russia-India-European Union Triangle.
India could also explore a new Russia-India-Vietnam Triangle and make it into a strategic quadrilateral by inviting Indonesia.
Even without any of the above strategic geometries Indian political leaders need to provide the leadership and sagacity to steer India to strategically stand tall as a Sub-Continental Power and an Indian Ocean Maritime Power on its own strengths.
India must evolve into an independent power-centre in Asia and the global stage. India in my assessment can certainly do without and strategically distinguish itself without any US-India Strategic Partnership.
The US-India Strategic Partnership was conceived and forged with optimistic hopes that such a Partnership would evolve over time to serve the strategic interests of both democracies. Reviewing after more than a decade of its existence what emerges is that while this Partnership may have served US strategic interests, the same cannot be said of this Partnership serving Indian security interests.
Contemporaneously, the US-India Strategic Partnership is neither “Strategic” in content or intent and nor is it a “Partnership”. The United States has not lived up to the minimal connotations of these two vital terms. This Partnership stands today reduced to a “mercenary relationship”
What impels the Indian establishment to continue to be subservient to US strategic sensitivities only they can answer? To many in the Indian strategic community it appears with great clarity that with the United States engaged in a reset of its Pakistan policy, a strategic turnaround in its Afghanistan policy and its fixated gaze on a China-Hedging Strategy, it is time for India to move out and ahead of the strategic straitjacket in which India bound itself while over-investing in the US-India Strategic Partnership.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Posted by Professional Matters at 5:29 AM