Print Edition - 2015-12-24  |  ASIANEWSNETWORK

Indo-American friendship

  • Clash of interests could sour relations, and this could affect supply of critical military hardware
Kathmandu

Dec 24, 2015-

In the past few years, the US has become India’s largest supplier of military hardware. It has overtaken Russia in meeting India’s defence modernisation plans. In addition there is an increase in military-to-military exchanges, including, in the recent past, participation in naval, air and army exercises. The interaction at the strategic level enhances close bonding. The recent visits by the foreign and the defence ministers have helped enhance the level of bonhomie and military interactions.

While for India, the relationship increases its standing in the international community, for the US it makes strategic sense. In the present environment, there are challenges for which the US needs India’s support. The first is to counter a belligerent China. The push for control of the South and East China Seas brings forth China’s hegemonistic designs. The only two navies which have the capability to counter this design are those of India and Japan. Thus by involving Japan in the naval Malabar exercise, along with the US, India has signalled its unwillingness to accept China’s claims.

This move by India and its subsequent closer interaction with Japan, heralded by the slew of agreements signed during the visit of the Japanese Prime Minister to India has invoked sharp criticism from China. India’s look east policy is also resulting in increased military-to-military cooperation with other nations of the region, thus countering China.

India has for some time enhanced its patrolling of the piracy-infected seas off the African coast. Thus piracy has drastically reduced. It is easier for India to maintain a naval presence in the region than for the US; it also suits Indian interests as it directly affects our maritime trade. India is presently in talks with the US on the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) which was desired by them, but the UPA was unwilling. It is aimed at permitting access to military bases and ports, resulting in easier conduct of joint exercises besides expanding their scope and level of conduct. It would finally result in enhanced trust levels for flow of military technology and co-production 

of hardware.

India is amongst the largest donors to Afghanistan. It is contributing to economic and infrastructure development as also providing training facilities for its military and police. It could be a key player in Afghanistan’s future. Irrespective of Pakistan’s desire to reduce India’s influence, and the Chinese desire to be a major player, the US would want India to be equally committed and involved as it prepares

 to withdraw.

India is a democracy, whose institutions are secure, and it has been relatively unaffected by the turmoil created by the ISIS in West Asia. Though India has shown its reluctance to be drawn into any conflict involving the US and NATO, whether it be Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, it has maintained a mature silence. Therefore, it is in the interest of the US to continue its present strategic engagement with India.  

For India, the US holds the key to a number of international organisations, whether it is the UN Security Council or the Nuclear Suppliers Club. The US has clout over Pakistan’s policies due to the military and economic aid that it provides. It has and would always be able to quietly influence key decision-makers there. A clear example has been the prodding it provided to the Pakistan army chief to ensure that the talks kick-start, and their army continues to have a role to play in ensuring it moves ahead. It continues to press Pakistan to curb the LET and JuD, the two groups active in J and K.

India has had problems with its military imports from Russia. The shortfall in spares and the delay and increased cost of the aircraft carrier are some recent examples. Until its domestic defence industry comes of age, India would need to depend on imports to enhance its capabilities to continue to be a military power in Asia.

Therefore India has increased its import base and turned to the US. There are a few stumbling blocks. US laws permit it to cut off armament sales and supply of spares arbitrarily. Thus any action by India contrary to US interests could affect supplies of military hardware. This was one of the reasons that India avoided signing deals with the US earlier. However, with the way relations are at present, the US hinted during the recent visit of the defence minister that these draconian laws could be amended, as an exception to India.

India’s reasons for not participating in the current western engagements in West Asia have been well understood; however, in case the situation does warrant India’s involvement, it could lead to an unpleasant situation. India is also amongst the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping. It has recently challenged the present system where decisions are taken by those countries that do not contribute troops. Further push could lead to a diplomatic standoff.

Though presently relations are positive, the future is another question. International relations swing based on national interests. Clash of interests could sour relations, and this could affect supply of critical military hardware. Thus it is advisable to avoid placing all or most of our eggs in one basket, at least till we are self-sufficient in our own military development. At the same time, a serious push to involve the private sector into defence development needs to be undertaken, while we continue our strategic engagement with the Americans.

HARSHA KAKAR

Published: 24-12-2015 09:54

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