In the Making – An Asian NATO?

The devious game New Delhi is playing alongside Washington, Tokyo and Canberra.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to Australia during 16-18 November, immediately following the G-20 Summit, needs to be particularly noted for the conclusion of a new Framework for Security Cooperation, under which New Delhi and Canberra will “hold regular meetings at the level of the Defence Minister, conduct regular maritime exercises and convene regular Navy to Navy, Air Force to Air Force and Army to Army staff talks”. In September, during a visit of the Australian

Prime Minister Tony Abbott to India, a Civil Nuclear Agreement for the supply of uranium to India topped the agenda. Hailing India’s “absolutely impeccable non-proliferation record”, Abbott justified the decision to sell uranium ore by calling New Delhi a “model international citizen”, ignoring public concern that imports of uranium ore from Australia would allow India to allocate more of its own domestic supply for nuclear weapons purposes. Why this imperative of “security cooperation” between India and Australia, one might ask?

In his address to the joint session of the Australian Parliament on 18 November, Modi stressed greater cooperation on maritime security, working “together on the seas”, as he put it, to ensure, one might posit, that the United States (US), Japan, Australia and India maintain their naval dominance in the Indo-Pacific region. In 2006-07, the four nations, united as “democracies” against the “autocratic” People’s Republic of China, had made significant headway in moving towards a quadrilateral security arrangement, but then, the Labour Party Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had second thoughts and pulled his government out of this groundwork in the making. But Rudd was displaced and sidelined in his own party, replaced by Julia Gillard who quickly brought Canberra to do what Washington wanted it to do – become a lynchpin in the US’s “Pivot to Asia” directed against China.
In reality, of course, the rise of China poses practically no threat to the US’s national security. Indeed, China may not even be able to effectively retaliate if the US blocks its maritime access to energy, raw materials and markets via the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. But New Delhi has aligned itself even more closely with Washington’s imperialist agenda, and has now joined Tokyo and Canberra as the third lynchpin in the US’s Pivot to Asia that aims to contain Beijing. Washington has assisted New Delhi in expanding its military presence not only in the Indian Ocean, but also in south-east Asia and the South China Sea, and indeed, even in central Asia.
On 29 September, Modi and the US President Barack Obama – just before they sat down to dine at the White House – released a “vision statement” entitled Chaleinge Saath Saath (Forward Together We Go), and they also published a jointly authored op-ed in the Washington Post claiming that “the true potential of our relationship is yet to be realised”. The Obama administration knows well how Modi succumbs to flattery! Indeed, the joint statement at the end of Modi’s official US visit notes the complementarities of New Delhi’s Act East Policy and Washington’s “rebalance to Asia” focus (the Pivot) if the two “work more closely with other Asia-Pacific countries”, presumably to uphold US hegemony in the region. New Delhi has certainly moved a big step forward with the agreement on the Framework for Security Cooperation entered into with Canberra on 18 November.
So what now? The recent past has been witness to military exercises involving Washington, Tokyo and Canberra, or New Delhi, Washington and Tokyo, but not the four together, what was envisaged in 2006-07. But now, a strategic partnership of Washington, Tokyo, Canberra and New Delhi is de facto in place, and it only remains to be formalised. Elsewhere, and this after 1991, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has de facto assumed the role of the world’s policeman, working out military solutions to the world’s political problems as seen from the geopolitical perspective of a section of the ruling classes in the US and western Europe. It is this section’s interpretations of the geopolitical realities that count, no matter that a section of the ruling classes in France and Germany does not agree with US strategies. So also now, in Asia, with an Asian NATO in the making, a section of the ruling classes in the US, Japan, Australia, India, South Korea, Taiwan and some south-east Asian countries will use it to serve their geopolitical interests in the region.
For Modi and the self-styled strategic analysts around him, calculating that with Beijing eventually on the verge of strategic encirclement, India’s border dispute with China will be resolved in their favour – claiming Aksai Chin and demanding complete adherence to the McMahon Line. That will indeed be faithful adherence to British colonialist policy with regard to the boundaries dispute with China. But getting entangled in the larger imperialist intrigue is a dangerous game. The stakes are, no doubt, high; the armaments race will, for sure, bring in the big moolah, this in a setting of hypothermic hostility not witnessed since the end of the Cold War, with all hush-hush in the military-industrial complexes, and no public naming of the Middle Kingdom. Perilous and devious, no doubt, this game New Delhi is getting involved in.
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