Mobama’s China Spectre


New Delhi should refrain from being part of Washington’s plans to contain the rise of China.
Barack Obama took a break from the Secret Service protocol. He spent some two hours in the open, reviewing India’s 66th Republic Day parade, perhaps looking forward to the day when the largely Russian military hardware on display will have been replaced by artillery from his country’s military-industrial complex. It did keep the nation anxious, on edge and all keyed up for the president of the United States to feel comfortable with the breach of what his Secret Service

recommended – the presence of some 50,000 security personnel in the area and its immediate environs, a large battalion of snipers positioned all along the parade route, the declaration of a “no fly zone”, a joint manning of the air defences by Indian and US air force personnel, and, lest we forget, US military aircraft on standby on aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean. Well, no doubt we are living in an epoch of naked imperialism.

The New York Times (NYT) (26 January 2015) reported that the first 45 minutes of the first meeting that Obama had with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were dominated by just one issue, China. And, to their delight, Obama and his aides found that Modi’s assessment of China’s rise and its impact in the Asia-Pacific, and the Indian Ocean, seemed so close to that of their own. Modi was as concerned as Obama is about China’s influence in the region and of how to jointly (with the US) counter it. What resulted was the “US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean”. This joint strategic vision statement said “Regional prosperity depends on security”, going on to “affirm the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight…, especially in the South China Sea” (our emphasis). The statement particularly calls attention to resolution of territorial and maritime disputes in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLS).
In this statement and in the “US-India Joint Statement – ‘Shared Effort; Progress for All’”, it is noteworthy that New Delhi parrots Washington’s positions on a number of issues. For instance, in the concern expressed over North Korea’s “nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, including its uranium enrichment activity” and on the “criticality of Iran taking steps to verifiably assure the international community [our emphasis] of the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme”. Prey, who is this so-called “international community” but Washington?
Of course, the US-India Joint Statement of 30 September 2014 that marked Prime Minister Modi’s first bilateral US-India summit also made explicit references to the South China Sea and all the rest of the issues just mentioned, as also the commitment to work more closely with other Asia-Pacific countries to advance India’s “Act East” policy and the US’s “rebalance to Asia” (better known as “Pivot to Asia”) strategy, all parroted in an American idiom. But what is new, if one were to give credence to what the NYT reported, is that Modi “suggested reviving … [the] loose security network involving the United States, India, Japan and Australia”, a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue that was established in 2007 but that an Australian Labour Party prime minister shortly thereafter withdrew his country from when Beijing objected.
The other instrument to advance the objective of containing the rise of China is the new “2015 Framework for the US-India Defence Relationship”, a top secret, 10-year agreement that will replace the 2005 Defence Framework pact that expires later this year. Already the US stages more joint military exercises with India’s armed forces than with the militaries of any other country, and these are going to be stepped up and made more intensive. More collaboration in maritime security and the upgrading of the Malabar naval exercises are on the cards, for the Indian navy has become the chief policeman of the Indian Ocean, which, of course, is part of the main transportation route for oil and other major inputs for the Chinese economy.
The US-India Defence Trade and Technology Initiative is going to get a big boost with the Pentagon establishing a “dedicated rapid reaction team” to move the various weapons projects in the pipeline forward, including those involving co-production and even co-development. If this succeeds, India’s military will become more and more dependent on the US military-industrial complex, displacing Russia, New Delhi’s long-standing collaborator in defence equipment and technology. India is already in the process of liberalising foreign direct investment policy with respect to defence production, this as part of its “Make in India” initiative.
In sum, Modi has committed India to cooperating with the US in the latter’s quest to contain the rise of China.
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