The uproar over the new COP28 President

Source– The post is based on the article “Credit for India-US bonhomie goes to Xi Jinping” published in “The Indian Express” and the article “Soft or hard power?” published in “Business Standard” on 24th June 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Bilateral groupings and agreements

Relevance– India and US bilateral relationship

News- The article explains the importance of India and US bilateral relationship for Asian geopolitics. It also explains the importance of hard power in strengthening the bilateral relationship.

How is evolving India and US relations important in the context of Asian geopolitics?

This new moment in bilateral relations is important for the evolution of Asian geopolitics. The new India-US defence partnership can ensure that Asia is not vulnerable to domination by any one power.

The India-US defence compact is not an effort to contain Beijing. China is too large and powerful to contain.

It is an attempt to build a multipolar Asia with sufficient deterrent capabilities and ensure respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states in the region.

Both Delhi and Washington want productive relations with China. India’s engagement with China,  to restore peace and tranquillity on the disputed border reflects that approach. The US is re-engaging China so that current tensions do not escalate into a shooting war.

The outlines of a more expansive defence cooperation unveiled by the two leaders shows the convergence of their geopolitical and geo-economic interests in Asia.

The US support for the modernisation of India’s defence industrial base is part of the effort to strengthen India’s military capabilities and enhance its deterrence against China.

What were the India-US differences over Asian order during the cold war and efforts to deal with these differences?

This inability of Delhi and Washington to build a productive relationship in the past was rooted in a profound disagreement on the preferred geopolitical order in Asia.

The divergence included the assessment of Soviet Russia and Communist China, Washington’s Cold War alliances, and the US tilt to Pakistan.

There were occasional moments after the Chinese attack on India, and more recently in the early 2000s, to explore a common agenda for Asia.

The formation of the Quadrilateral Forum in 2007 and the emergence of the Indo-Pacific construct provided a basis for serious India-US strategic collaboration in Asia.

How has China always concerned about the strong bilateral relationship between India and the US?

Chinese concern about India-US strategic cooperation was evident in Beijing’s intense opposition to the Bush-Manmohan Singh civil nuclear initiative and its continued blocking of India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

China did not have to work too hard to keep Delhi and Washington separate. India’s own reluctance to develop strong defence cooperation with Washington, in the name of “non-alignment” helped China.

Keeping distance from the US, or “strategic autonomy” was defined as a first principle of India’s foreign policy. It left China free to build a relationship with the US on its own terms.

Beijing has become the greatest champion of India’s “strategic autonomy”. The Chinese commentariat praises Delhi’s independent foreign policy.

What are the push factors behind the increasing closeness between India and the US?

The credit for moving India and the US closer than ever before goes to the assertive policies of Xi Jinping.

The crises of Doklam (2017) and Galwan (2020) persuaded India to boost its deterrence against China as the principal strategic objective. This led Delhi to seek stronger strategic partnerships with the US and its allies.

Washington too has changed in the interim. In the last two years, Washington has moved away from an Asia policy framed around the bilateral relationship with Beijing.

The US has revitalised its traditional alliances with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia, created new coalitions like the AUKUS, and upgraded the Quad forum to the summit level.

Underlying this is a new US strategy to build a more balanced Asia. That suits Delhi. It is not seeking an alliance with the US but a partnership that will elevate India’s capabilities and help contribute to a stable Asian architecture.

How can the logic of hard power explain the bilateral relationship?

It has India’s growing military and economic clout, and the potential of the market. The aircraft ordered by IndiGo and Air India are only one manifestation of this.

India’s is the world’s fifth-largest economy and likely to become the third-largest before too long.

The Indian economy is only 15% of the US’ in size, but its contribution to  world growth is 60% of the US’ because it is growing four times as fast this year.

India’s military too matters, especially in the Indian Ocean. Here, it can counter China’s  expanding navy aided by the surveillance and attack capabilities of a dozen American Poseidon aircraft and the 31 Sea Guardian drones being ordered.

India’s defence budget is the world’s fourth-largest, and it is the world’s biggest defence importer.

Many Western companies see a brighter future like General Electric, which, with HAL, will make engines in India for the Tejas, Mark 2. India can therefore afford to be more assertive in its foreign policy.

On the other side of the equation, the US economy has comfortably outpaced the European Union in the last decade-plus and is now 25% bigger.

It is uniquely positioned as the home of the major tech companies. It is the source of vital technology and capital, and with a critical role when negotiating multilateral issues like trade and climate change.

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