Relevance: Indo-US relationship post-US exit from Afghanistan
Synopsis: India and US have their differences when it comes to the Afghan peace process. A strong Indo-US partnership in tech sector should be the way forward to out-compete China.
US. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s day-visit to Delhi. Most of the discussion b/w Mr. Blinken and India’s External Affairs ministers, was focused on Quad cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, Afghanistan, and in discussing the state of democracy and rights.
Difference of views
Although both India and the US agree that there is no military solution to conflict, and that neither country would recognize a Taliban regime that takes Kabul by force, differences persist. Like,
- Continued engagement with Taliban: The U.S. continues to engage the Taliban in talks for a power-sharing arrangement, despite the Taliban leadership’s refusal to enforce a ceasefire, and stop attacks against civilians in areas they take over.
- Perhaps the greatest worry for India is, the U.S.’s refusal to hold Pakistan to account for having given shelter to the Taliban.
- U.S.’s announcement of a new “Quad” with Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan on connectivity, but this is another cause for worry.
Views on QUAD
As per the US, Quad was not a military alliance, and that’s how India prefers to describe the grouping too. There is a wide scope of possible cooperative activities that the Quad can undertake, from vaccines to infrastructure to supply chain resilience.
- The question, however, is how much of this can be operationalised at short notice. The Quad summit earlier this year, for example, promised that the US would help manufacture the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in India for export to Southeast Asia and elsewhere. This has not yet materialised.
- Cooperation on infrastructure has also been slow to get off the ground, in spite of efforts by Japan and by the US in the past.
Whether New Delhi likes it or not, Washington’s eyes have turned eastward from Afghanistan, and, therefore, more pressure will be put on the Indo-US partnership.
All this comes as Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, was meeting a nine-member Taliban delegation led by Mullah Baradar in Beijing.
The Taliban’s focus is to get China to pledge “non-interference” while China wants to get the Taliban to “fight” and clear out the Uyghur group, ETIM.
India’s future strategy
1]. US and India together can out-compete China: The US is not getting out of “forever wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan to engage in another one with superpower China. Similarly, India is not about to get into an armed conflict with China either.
- But both countries together have a chance to ‘out-compete China.
India, therefore, needs to pay much greater attention to the most important working group of the Quad – on critical and emerging technologies.
2]. De-risking tech from China: India began de-risking (taking steps to make something less risky) its tech sector from Chinese influence only in 2020, because that was the first time we acknowledged the dangers of China’s “civil-military fusion” policies. That process is underway and has gathered traction. US recent tech and trade sanctions, and laws, makes it pretty clear that America is headed the same way.
For the moment, the quest is to make up for the global shortage of chips, semiconductors, and other hardware as well as 5G. There, the US is looking at working with Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.
- What is the military-civil fusion policy of China? The Chinese government’s military-civil fusion policy aims to boost innovation and economic growth via policies and other government-supported mechanisms, including venture capital (VC) funds, while taking advantage of the fruits of civilian innovation for China’s defense sector.
3]. Indo-US tech partnership: Not too long ago, Blinken outlined a US tech-foreign policy, which could be a huge opportunity for India. This includes reducing national security risks from emerging tech, building resilient and secure supply chains, and building tech partnerships.
India is a natural partner as it has a tech universe that just needs less government and more facilitation. For instance, Bangalore is doing more work on 6G than is generally known.
Terms to know: