Courting India


Imran Malik


The US is making a determined push to secure its geopolitical and geo-strategic interests in Asia. It considers China a formidable adversary and intends to deal with it wholesomely; competing, cooperating and/or challenging it as and when required. To that end it has anointed India as a strategic and major defence partner to be groomed, equipped, strengthened and eventually launched to counter balance China. However, the US has thus far failed to get India’s unequivocal, unwavering commitment to securing their ostensibly convergent interests against China. A fascinating geopolitical game has thus ensued in the larger South Asian region. Both the US and China are manoeuvring to acquire strategically advantageous positions there. Inevitably, India and Pakistan are getting sucked in and embroiled in their stratagems. The Indians however, are proving hard to pin for the US. They literally want to run with the hare and hunt with the hound without committing themselves irrevocably to either. In earlier decades they espoused their non-alignment relentlessly while they were unequivocally plonked in the Soviet camp. Is it déjà vu? Do they still want to be seen as a non-aligned state yet accrue all the benefits of being a strategic and major defence partner of the US? Will this duplicity work in the current geopolitical environment? Is the US really that naïve? Or is it that the Indians know exactly where the real power differential between them and the Chinese stands and are realistically aware of the disastrous implications of a kinetic confrontation?

The US has been trying to create the right geopolitical and geostrategic environment to entice India into making that commitment but has failed thus far. Rather, quite annoyingly for the US, India has abstained from voting against Russian aggression in Ukraine in the UNSC and the UNGA and elsewhere. This does not augur well for the strategic partnership that the US flouts so often and may cause it to become a bit more assertive and demanding. It has invested heavily in the Indian economy, signed wide ranging foundational agreements with it, has promised a transfer of defence-related and other multi-use technologies and so on. It has played to India’s compulsive megalomania and bloated ego to the hilt; without real reward thus far. At the geopolitical level, US appeasement of India has transcended logical limits. Its desperation to get India to commit and start containing China is very evident. How long will the US patience run? It is already ignoring India’s gross, egregious violations of human rights in the Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir Region (IIOJ&KR), the suppression of all civil, religious and personal freedoms and choices there, the blatant demographic engineering in the occupied territories, the genocide of Kashmiri Muslims and minorities in India especially the Indian Muslims (quite apart from Kashmiri Muslims) lower caste Hindus especially Dalits, OBCs, Christians and so on. The arrogant and dismissive manner in which the Indians ignore the UNSC resolutions on Kashmir seem not to bother the US one bit. All this is reflecting very adversely on the US oft stated and acquired high moral ground in international affairs.

In the geostrategic domain, the US would like India to project itself as the dominant hegemon and main security provider in the region at large. Furthermore, it would expect India to pose a potent and meaningful challenge to China and fix a major chunk of its forces along the LAC. The strategic environment however, is far beyond India’s political and strategic capacities and capabilities. It finds itself in a strategic quandary in IIOJ&KR, as a potential two-front war (plus a destabilised internal front) stares it in the face. Three of the world’s most formidable militaries and nuclear and missile powers find their interests clashing in the IIOJ&KR, much to India’s abiding detriment. It will never do anything to exacerbate its strategic vulnerability in the IIOJ&KR. Furthermore, close to 70 percent of India’s military equipment is of Soviet-Russian origin. The US will have to live with India as a strategic partner that retains its military and other links with Russia. All said and done, India, despite its size, dwarfed only by its ego and megalomania, can be of limited use to the US against China. It is least likely to get involved in kinetic operations against China or Pakistan or worse, against both simultaneously. US support is unlikely to overwhelm the Chinese superiority and preponderance on the battlefields against India. India will take refuge behind its much-hyped strategic autonomy and is unlikely to get involved in military operations it cannot possibly win. In the geoeconomics domain, India has a flourishing bilateral trade with China touching US $100 billion. It will not endanger it unless the rewards outshine the costs substantially. The same applies to the Russia-India defence and trade relationship. They are already buying 30 percent discounted Russian oil in a Rubles-Rupee arrangement. Can the US-led West replace both as military and economic or trading partners of India? As a matter of fact, India would find it enormously advantageous to concentrate on its neighbourhood and consider joining the BRI-CPEC. That will give it vital land access to the markets and resources in the GMER, Europe, Afghanistan and the CARs. The economic impact on India’s and the region’s economies would be colossal. India will have to resolve its outstanding disputes like Kashmir with its neighbours first though. The US-led West has invested very heavily in the Indian market and economy and might even further it, but that will not suffice to challenge China’s economic impact on India and the South Asian region. Courting India has been an exercise in futility thus far for the US. How soon will it move to modify its strategy and start imposing itself in the region?

(Courtesy The Nation, Pakistan)