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US-India relations: Reaching the climax all in bad shape

14 18 0
23.12.2019

Opinion |

To what extent External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s cancellation at the last minute of the scheduled meeting on Thursday with a Congressional panel in Washington, DC, was with an eye on Nagpur one doesn’t know. He is an ambitious media savvy politician with an IQ by far higher than of anyone else in Prime Minister Modi’s cabinet.

What can be deduced at this point is that the Jayapal distraction drew attention away from the outcome of the 2 2 foreign and defence ministers meeting in Washington on December 18. The US-Indian military-to-military ties are deepening and the two countries are tiptoeing toward a veritable alliance in the Indo-Pacific region.

The US side is plainly delighted that with Jaishankar’s return to the foreign policy-making echelons as EAM in May, the unclogging of the arteries of US-Indian partnership began in right earnest. Jaishankar is also uniquely placed to influence the decisions of the Indian defence ministry, although Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh is a towering presence with a booming voice and notionally one of the senior most politicians in the BJP. Plainly put, Jaishankar calls the shots since he knows how to work the system — and it is no secret that he enjoys Modi’s trust and RSS’ patronage.

Delhi’s knee-jerk reaction is to resort to the hackneyed methods of lobbying and diaspora mobilisation. But times have changed

Delhi’s knee-jerk reaction is to resort to the hackneyed methods of lobbying and diaspora mobilisation. But times have changed

The 2 2 in Washington conveys the impression that the US-Indian strategic partnership is preparing for an exciting journey ahead. The silence on the part of the US officials with regard to Citizenship Amendment Act or the lockdown in Jammu & Kashmir needs to be understood in this light. (More of that later.)

In geopolitical terms, the 2 2 has been principally about the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy. The climate of tensions between the US and China provided its backdrop. This is a historic juncture when the US is in great need of an alliance with India to strengthen its hands in the fierce struggle with China in the Asian theatre.

There is consensus in the Beltway that China is America’s number one rival, and most analysts in the US and abroad estimate that a high-stakes struggle between the two great powers lies ahead for the foreseeable future.

It means that India can rest assured that the current trend of hostile American moves against China across a broad spectrum ranging from trade and technology to currency and Hong Kong and Xinjiang will only accelerate for at least a decade to come. The lack of consistency in American policies toward China prompted India in the past to hedge and pause.

Read more: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Pangs of Terrorism

Taken together, therefore, the Indian establishment estimates that the time has come to signal to the US its readiness to shed strategic ambivalence and to stand up and be counted as a close, trusted partner in Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy to tackle China’s rise. The outcome of the 2 2 suggests that India has pressed the ‘play’ button.

The joint statement issued after the 2 2 talks shows a remarkable congruence in the two countries’ approach to the rise of China. The India-US-Japan trilateral format and the Quadrilateral (‘Quad’) format are being groomed for creating a quasi-alliance system to step up practical cooperation in areas ranging from infrastructure development, cyber security, counterterrorism, and regional connectivity to ‘capacity-building of peacekeepers’ and maritime security.

The US-Indian military-to-military ties are deepening and the two countries are tiptoeing toward a veritable alliance in the Indo-Pacific region

The US-Indian military-to-military ties are deepening and the two........

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