In September 2008, we wrote a detailed article about the USA-India Strategic Partnership that was launched by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister ManMohan Singh. In the first section of this article, we discussed a security partnership in the Indian Ocean between India & America:
- America has always been the pre-dominant Pacific power. Remember, it was Japan who attacked America in WWII, not Germany. After WWII, the United States pacified Japan, built a presence in South Korea & Philippines, signed a treaty with Taiwan and established a cultural, economic and military hegemony in the Pacific. China is also a Pacific power. China has already become an economic competitor to the USA in Asia. As Chinese power and influence grows, China will become a strategic and a military competitor as well. The two major competitors in an arena do not become strategic allies or partners.
- The USA is also an Atlantic power and will always remain so. With England and Western Europe as cultural and strategic allies, the Atlantic region needs no change.
- This leaves the Indian Ocean, a region that covers South Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the gateway to the Far East through the Malacca straits.
- Historically, USA has not been an Indian Ocean power. It’s role there today is out of sheer necessity and as England’s successor.
Then we asked readers to “Look at the map below and ask yourself which large country would be the ideal partner?”
This week, the 2010 Quadrennial Review of the U.S. Department of Defense provided a clue to Pentagon’s thinking. This report describes the growth in India’s military capabilities and states that “India will contribute to Asia as a net provider of security in the Indian Ocean and beyond.”
In our opinion, this is a major statement. The United States does not anoint another country as a “net provider of security” lightly. There are strong reasons for this designation.
One reason is India’s unique geostrategic position. Look at the map above. India’s reach extends from the Straights of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to the Straights of Malacca in the east, two waterways through which the majority of oil traffic and commercial traffic flows. Protection of this broad span is the aim of India’s growing Air Force and Navy. The deeper reach of India extends up to South Africa in south west and up to Australia in the south east.
The second reason stems from the Quadrennial Report’s admission that “The United States cannot sustain a stable international system alone.” It states that “In an increasingly interdependent world, challenges to common interests are best addressed in concert with like minded allies and partners who share responsibility for fostering peace and security.”
How does India fit in this framework? The Report states:
- “As the economic power, cultural reach and political influence of India increase, it is assuming a more influential role in global affairs.”
- “This growing influence, combined with democratic values it shares with the United States, an open political system, and a commitment to global stability, will present many opportunities for cooperation.”
We discussed this theme in detail in the following three sections of our September 2008 article:
- USA and India – Congruent Interests
- USA & India – Common Political Approaches & Methods
- USA & India – Common Economic Approaches
What about China? The report praises China for its achievements and states categorically that “China’s growing presence and influence in regional and global economic and security affairs is one of the most consequential aspects of the evolving strategic landscape in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.” It also adds that the “United States welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China that plays a greater global role.”
However, the Report adds a caveat:
- “However, a lack of transparency and the nature of China’s military development and decision-making processes raise legitimate questions about its future conduct and intentions within Asia and beyond.”
The Report concludes:
- “The United States and China should sustain open channels of communication to discuss disagreements in order to manage and ultimately reduce the risks of conflict that are inherent in any relationship as broad and complex as shared by these two nations.”
Not exactly the stuff that strategic partnerships are made of!
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