[Answered] There is great synergy between the US desire to “empower allies and partners as they take on regional leadership roles themselves” and India’s ambition to play a larger role in the Indo-Pacific. Critically analyze India’s policies to engage Indo-Pacific, in the light of US’s new Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Introduction: Giving context, write about the new USA’s new Indo-Pacific policy.
Body: Explain USA’s new Indo-Pacific policy w.r.t India. Explaining the main pillars of India’s Indo-Pacific policy, write the positive aspects and concerns of India’s Indo-Pacific engagement.
Conclusion: Give a way forward. 

USA has issued a new Indo-Pacific Strategy document recently. The strategy admits that the US objectives of a “free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient” Indo-Pacific “cannot be accomplished” by the US acting alone.  

The strategy seeks to  

  • Work with India through regional groupings to promote stability in South Asia 
  • Collaborate in new domains, such as health, space, and cyberspace;  
  • Deepen economic and technology cooperation, and contribute to a free and open Indo-Pacific 

This recognition is complemented by an appreciation of India’s capability both current and potential. The USA feels that a strong India that can stabilise Asia and the Indo-Pacific serves American regional interests. 

India’s Indo-Pacific strategy has two main pillars 

  • Strengthening its national engagement with the region, which elevates India’s importance in the Indo-Pacific and raises India’s value for its partners. 
  • Stronger partnerships with like-minded nations, which helps boost India’s national capabilities, enhance its reach and impact. 

India has taken several steps recently for engaging with the Indo-Pacific that address major weaknesses in India’s regional strategy. 

  • India is now looking to liberalize trade relations with strategic partners like Australia. Apart from early harvest trade deal with Australia, India has also intensified trade talks with the UAE, Israel and the UK. India and the EU too have taken a political decision to resume talks on a long-stalled FTA. 
  • India has discarded the prolonged political hesitation, in military diplomacy, by selling the Brahmos missiles to China’s neighbors. India is now trying to ramp up defense production at home as well as promote arms exports. India signed an agreement worth $375 million to supply the Philippines with shore-based anti-ship version of the Brahmos. 
  • India has increased engagement with the region through multilateral initiatives like QUAD, expanded Malabar exercise, Supply Chain resilience initiative, etc. 

However, there are issues that remain in India’s engagement with Indo-Pacific. 

  • India’s decision to walk away from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and its new emphasis on Atmanirbhar Bharat, or a “self-reliant India”, have generated widespread concerns about India returning to protectionist ways. 
  • The difficulties of finalising more consequential agreements with India’s leading economic partners like the EU and the US, create barriers for greater economic cooperation. 
  • India is in disagreement with its partners like the US, EU, Japan, and Australia on the emerging digital trade issues. 
  • Indian views Quad as a rigid alliance, the US strategy is to work in flexible groupings that pool collective strength of regional partners. Creation of AUKUS was an indication of this Notion. 

India that seeks to be a leading power in the region will be a better partner for the US. India’s capacity to lead the region depends on its national capabilities and plugging its major internal weaknesses especially in the domains of trade and security. India must strengthen itself by finalizing trade deals with strategic partners and improving domestic defense production. 

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