In­dia-US co­op­er­a­tion: much cry, lit­tle wool

Global Times - - Front Page - By Yang Sil­ing The au­thor is vice di­rec­tor and a re­search fel­low of the In­sti­tute for South Asian Stud­ies at the Yun­nan Academy of So­cial Sciences. opinion@glob­al­times.com.cn

On Mon­day, US De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis ar­rived in In­dia to pro­mote Amer­i­can weapons and tout for Amer­i­can strat­egy. Some In­dian me­dia claimed that stronger In­dia-US de­fense co­op­er­a­tion is aimed against China.

In­dia has in­deed kept en­hanc­ing de­fense co­op­er­a­tion with the US in re­cent years. The two sides signed a Lo­gis­tics Ex­change Me­moran­dum of Agree­ment in 2016 and transport air­craft and drone deals when In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi vis­ited the US in June this year. It is said that the con­tracted value of mil­i­tary pur­chases be­tween the two since 2008 has reached $14 bil­lion. Yet deeper In­di­aUS de­fense co­op­er­a­tion is not with­out ob­sta­cles.

First, US-Pak­istan re­la­tions give In­dia a rea­son for dis­trust. Though Pak­istan’s po­si­tion in Amer­ica’s re­gional and global strate­gies is de­clin­ing, the US will never aban­don Pak­istan, be­cause the lat­ter re­mains geopo­lit­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant.

There are se­ri­ous doubts about a last­ing Amer­i­can stance on In­dia-Pak­istan re­la­tions. Some ask “Why does the US al­ways tell In­dia to live in peace with Pak­istan?” Al­though Amer­ica has promised to strengthen strate­gic part­ner­ship with In­dia, it will not cease weapon deals with Pak­istan.

In Fe­bru­ary 2016 when the US ap­proved the sale of eight F-16 fight­ers to Pak­istan, the In­dian Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs sum­moned the Amer­i­can am­bas­sador and ex­pressed In­dia’s “dis­ap­point­ment.”

Sec­ond, there are doubts about the In­dia-US strate­gic part­ner­ship within In­dia. De­spite ob­vi­ous im­prove­ment of In­dia-US re­la­tions and growth of their part­ner­ship, some In­di­ans be­lieve In­dia’s ac­com­mo­da­tion of US diplo­matic poli­cies has not yielded ben­e­fits. Al­leged threats from Pak­istan and China have not eased.

The US has Pak­istan un­der tight con­trol, but no ac­tions have been taken to stop Pak­istan from fighting proxy wars and ter­ror­ism. Un­til today, the US has not helped to se­cure for In­dia a per­ma­nent mem­ber seat at the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. The US, while pres­sur­ing In­dia to crip­ple its nu­clear arse­nal, will only com­pro­mise on an ex­panded In­dian pres­ence in the In­dian Ocean un­der its sphere of in­flu­ence. Third, In­dia doubts whether the US truly in­tends to con­tain China. Re­la­tions among ma­jor pow­ers are not all a zero-sum game or pure co­op­er­a­tion, but in fact a mix­ture of con­flict and col­lab­o­ra­tion. Al­though the US does seek to con­tain China which is also its clos­est eco­nomic part­ner, the China-US eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship is be­yond com­par­i­son with that of In­dia and the US. So there is nat­u­rally both con­flict and close­ness in po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic in­ter­ac­tion be­tween China and the US. In­dia grew jeal­ous when G2 was in­vented. US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is ex­pected to visit China in Novem­ber, which will inevitably trig­ger In­dia’s spec­u­la­tions about Sino-US re­la­tions and make In­dia cal­cu­late the real in­ten­tion of the US to­ward In­dia. Fourth, the In­dian govern­ment can­not af­ford to throw it­self into the arms of the US. In­dia aims to be­come a global power and so trea­sures its in­de­pen­dence as both a sign of dig­nity and diplo­matic strat­egy. In­dia has been try­ing to ben­e­fit from co­op­er­a­tion with the US while avoid­ing a close part­ner­ship. Once In­dia is whole­heart­edly de­pen­dant on the US, then its dream of be­ing a global power will be­come a joke. In this sense, In­dia’s dig­nity and van­ity is an ob­sta­cle for deeper de­fense col­lab­o­ra­tion with the US. The US also hopes to sign agree­ments on each and ev­ery item of de­fense co­op­er­a­tion, but In­dia wor­ries that too many agree­ments will give the world the im­pres­sion that In­dia has be­come Amer­ica’s side­kick.

Fifth, the US is not to­tally sat­is­fied with its co­op­er­a­tion with In­dia in eco­nomic and re­gional af­fairs and so ex­er­cises vig­i­lance against In­dia. Ac­tu­ally the US will never be sat­is­fied with In­dia un­til it de­cides to be its pawn.

Take the US at­ti­tude to­ward Iran as an ex­am­ple. The US de­ploys ex­treme pres­sure and sanc­tions while In­dia still needs en­ergy from Iran.

Un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, de­spite en­hanced de­fense col­lab­o­ra­tion, Trump asks In­dia to strike a bal­ance in the In­dia-US eco­nomic and trade re­la­tion­ship, which is ob­vi­ously be­yond In­dia’s ca­pa­bil­ity. Some in the US be­lieve In­dia may de­velop into a threat like China and so they do not go all out on de­fense co­op­er­a­tion, es­pe­cially the trans­fer of ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies.

Last, con­flicts in de­fense tech­nol­ogy co­op­er­a­tion may also pre­vent col­lab­o­ra­tion go­ing deeper. The US seeks to in­flu­ence arms buy­ers through train­ing, main­te­nance and even con­trol of core de­fense tech­nolo­gies whereas In­dia aims for a trans­fer of mil­i­tary tech­nol­ogy. The di­vi­sion is quite ob­vi­ous, and thus an­other ob­sta­cle.

With ob­sta­cles ahead, In­dia-US de­fense co­op­er­a­tion will be no dif­fer­ent from the past: much cry and lit­tle wool.

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

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