India – A Strategic Security Partner to the USA in the Persian Gulf

Two weeks ago, we wrote an article about the emerging strategic partnership between the USA and India driven by mutually congruent interests.  This is what the Bush Administration set out to accomplish when it cane to power in 2000. (see our article on September 13 titled “President Bush and India – His Vision, His Accomplishments, His Legacy” – or click on the link–his-vision-his-accomplishments-and-his-legacy.aspx.

A week or so later, Anand Giridharadas wrote an article in the New York Times focused on India’s re-assertion of its historical role as a Global Military Power – “Land of Gandhi Asserts Itself as Global Military Power”

We encourage all readers to read this article. A few excerpts from this article:

  • “India sees itself in a different light — not looking so much inward and looking at Pakistan, but globally,” said William S. Cohen, a secretary of defense in the Clinton administration who in his new role as a lobbyist represents American firms seeking weapons contracts in India. “It’s sending a signal that it’s going to be a big player.”

  • India also appears to be positioning itself as a caretaker and patroller of the Indian Ocean region, which stretches from Africa’s coast to Australia’s and from the subcontinent southward to Antarctica (see our map below)

  • “Ten years from now, India could be a real provider of security to all the ocean islands in the Indian Ocean,” said Ashley J. Tellis, an Indian-born scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington who has also been an adviser to the Bush administration. “It could become a provider of security in the Persian Gulf in collaboration with the U.S. (underlined emphasis ours). I would think of the same being true with the Central Asian states.”

A partnership with India in the Persian Gulf and a long-term American presence in Iraq would be extraordinarily beneficial to Amerian interests and to the transformation of the Middle East (see our article “Iraq & Tibet – The Strategic Will of The American and Chinese People” – July 26 ––tibet–strategic-will-of-americans-and-chinese.aspx ).

The line about Central Asian states is a major breakthrough for India’ strategic thinkers, at least a breakaway from the Nehruvian thinking mores. In this context, the New York Times article describes India’s only military base on foreign soil, the airbase India has built in Tajiki-Stan, The article quotes the views of Jacqueline Newmyer, president of the Long Term Strategy Group, and a security consultant to the United States government.

Ms. Newmyer called the arrangement “a big deal,” not least because of the change of mindset it reflects. “Having overseas bases is a marker of an imperial kind of capability,” she said. “India is thought of as a power that was colonized, not a power that puts its own boots on the ground in permanent bases in other countries.”

As an aside, Tajiki-Stan has historically been a part of greater India or the India-influenced world. Today’s Tajiki-Stan was a part of the Kambhoja empires referred to in Indian history going back to the days of the Maha-Bharat and Kambhoja Armies fought in the Maha-Bharat War.

(Tajiki-Stan in red – Arrows indicate power projection from India’s Airbase there – source wikipedia)

The airbase in Tajiki-Stan is highly strategic to India. It provides a window into the Afghanistan border with South-Western China; it provides a northern route for military operations in Afghanistan and it provides a gateway to all of Central Asia. India does not have the economic or military power today to meet these objectives. But, in ten years, India will. The Tajik airbase is a physical and strategic marker for the future.

The base in Tajiki-Stan did bring India into a conflict of sorts with Russia, which considers itself as the Pre-Eminent Power in Central Asia. Russia forced Tajiki-Stan to ask India to vacate the Tajik airbase. Indian Foreign Ministry and Indian Army officials had to make a deal with Moscow to remove Russian opposition to India’s Tajiki-Stan airbase. The Indian Army has been the largest & the best customer of Russia and now finds itself critically & sometimes humiliatingly dependent on Russia for military hardware.

As an aside, the global reaction to Russian adventure in Georgia has put Russia on the defensive. This has already made Russia become more malleable in its military dealings with India, as has the realization that India is the ONLY large buyer of Russian arms for the forseable future. In addition, Russia’s interests in Central Asia parallel India’s interests in that region.On the other hand, Russia has a huge border with China and 140 million Russians feel dwarfed by 1.3 billion Chinese. Russia already fears that oil-rich Siberia might end up being a part of China sometime in the future. So, Russia has stopped supplying modern weapon systems to the Chinese Army. 

Of course, India’s interests are in direct conflict with China’s. China realized this in 1950 and India has just begun to realize this stark fact. Nehru, in his utterly naive and dreamy mental state, led the fight for China’s inclusion in the UN Security Council at Taiwan’s expense. China, on the other hand, did everything it possibly could to deny the NSG (Nuclear Supply Group Waiver) to India and is, today, the most determined opponent of India’s inclusion in the Security Council as a permanent member.

The New York Times article quotes Ms. Newmyer on this topic “There seems to be an emerging long-term competition between India and China for pre-eminence in the region,…..India is preparing slowly to claim its place as a pre-eminent power, and in the meantime China is working to complicate that for India.”

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