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-- India Module

Unilateralism is key to India relations – strong US power projection is key to make India balance against China


Selden, 13 – director of the Defence and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly AND an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida (ZACHARY, “Balancing Against or Balancing With? The Spectrum of Alignment and the Endurance of American Hegemony,” Security Studies Journal, 08 May 2013, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09636412.2013.786918#.U8b7VI1dVe8)//eek

India US-India relations have waxed and waned, but the trend since 2001 in partic- ular is toward closer strategic cooperation. Since then, Indian leaders have consistently moved the country toward greater strategic cooperation with the United States, reversing a long-standing nonaligned tradition in Indian foreign policy. Given India’s growing economic and military power, it would appear to be a good candidate to engage in soft balancing or strategic hedg- ing against American hegemony. Yet, despite India’s traditional antipathy to the global position of the United States, India has sought out closer security ties with it in recent years. There are, of course, many factors that may ex- plain this increased security relationship. India and the United States share a concern over the danger of radical Islamist terrorism. The United States’ com- plex relationship with India’s long-standing regional rival, Pakistan, is clearly another reason for India to ensure that it has some influence in Washington, D.C. Yet, India’s concern over China’s growing regional power is also a sig- nificant issue that makes security cooperation with the globally predominant power an attractive option. The emerging relationship is sometimes depicted as one driven by Amer- ican desires to contain China, but this discounts India’s concerns about China and the potential threat it poses to India.62 There are a number of indica- tions that India views China as its main strategic competitor in the region, and much of India’s strategy appears to be driven by its desire to balance against China’s growing ability to act as a regional hegemon. In 1998 Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes stated that China posed the greatest threat to India, surpassing the threat posed by Pakistan.63 To support his contention he cited China’s supplying of nuclear technology to Pakistan, but also emphasized China’s recent acquisition of bases in the Indian Ocean and alleged that China was stockpiling nuclear weapons along India’s northern border. This is by no means a consensus position across the Indian political spectrum, but it is clear that the 1962 border war between India and China set the tone for the relationship in later years.64 India’s nuclear weapons program is depicted by Indian analysts as product of the Sino-Indian rivalry, and its continued development is seen more as aimed at balancing China than Pakistan’.65 Indian analysts also note that China sent its troops into Indian territory sixty-five times in the first half of 2008 alone. In response, India is developing its road and airfield infrastructure in the border region and creating new mountain divisions of fifteen thousand troops each to be deployed in the area.66 Although China has been a consistent factor in Indian strategic thinking since the 1960s, the potential danger posed by China increased significantly in the post-Cold War era. The demise of the Soviet Union put an end to the Friendship Treaty that was seen as a major part of India’s security strat- egy. From the early days of independence, India viewed the Soviet Union as a major security partner. In addition to supplying most of its weapons, the Friendship Treaty with the Soviet Union was seen as providing a secu- rity hedge against China. The collapse of the Soviet Union left India in a weakened position. India’s defense policy has long since held China as the reference point and without the Soviet Union, India was more isolated and self-reliant than at any previous time.67 This coincided with a period of significant growth in China’s regional power and its development of power projection capabilities into the Indian Ocean. Combined with China’s expanded ties with states around India, some Indian security analysts warned of the risk of a strategic encirclement by China.68 India in turn made efforts to bolster its naval and air force presence in the region with an eye toward countering China’s influence, particularly its facilities in Burma’s Coco Islands. As Indian Navy Admiral Raman Suthan clearly stated, “We keep hearing about China’s interest in the Coco Islands and are wary of its growing interest in the region.”69 The post-Cold War period also featured a growing defense relationship between India and the United States. This increased security cooperation is viewed by many analysts as a hedge to counter the growing regional power of China, although this is generally downplayed in both capitals.70 But improved US-Indian security cooperation faced a number of stumbling blocks in the 1990s. In particular, nonproliferation concerns made it difficult for the United States to bridge the gap between its commitment to non- proliferation and its interest in a closer relationship with India. Starting in 2001, however, the United States and India embarked on a new relationship when they agreed to establish a strategic framework dialogue. This new framework included enhanced cooperation on export controls on high technology items, but the relationship quickly evolved to- ward increased military cooperation.71 After a rapid series of discussions in November 2001, the United States and India moved toward military cooper- ation in the form of defense technology sales agreements and the protection of strategic sea lanes, an area of particular importance to India given China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean.72 The following month the two governments issued a joint statement that they “share strategic interests in Asia and beyond” and that they would undertake joint security initiatives.73 This rapprochement was rapidly followed with more concrete actions, particularly in naval cooperation. The 1990s saw some limited cooperation between the Indian and US navies, and between 1992 and 1996 the two countries held three joint exercises. But relations soured after the Indian nu- clear tests in 1998. That cooperation, however, quickly revived in 2001 after a series of high-level meetings between American and Indian officials. India granted refueling rights in Indian ports to US warships involved in operations in Afghanistan, the two countries ran joint exercises in December 2001 and India offered over-flight access and air base use to US aircraft in the region.74 A series of military exercises facilitated the development of unprecedented military coordination that was on display in the tsunami relief operations carried out by the Indian and US navies in the Indian Ocean in late 2004 and early 2005.75 In 2005 the two countries signed the New Framework for the US-India Defense Relationship that elaborated on a common understanding of the need for improved defense cooperation and established a Defense Production and Procurement Group to facilitate defense industrial coopera- tion.76 The size and number of joint military exercises continued to increase with the Malabar 07 naval exercise involving twenty thousand personnel, mainly from the US and Indian navies.77 In 2009 India hosted the largest deployment of the US military’s ground forces’ armored vehicles outside of the Middle East for the bilateral Yudh Abhyas exercise.78 Clearly one of the major driving forces of US actions was the increased threat of terrorist activity and the desire to bring India into closer cooperation with its counter-terrorism initiatives. This suited India well given its record of terrorist incidents and its increased awareness of the potential for additional large-scale Islamist militant action following the Mumbai attack in November 2008. But for India, much of the effort to build a better security relationship with the United States appears to be at least partially driven by the perceived threat of an increasingly powerful China. As noted above, much of the military cooperation between the two states was focused on naval exercises and large-scale ground exercises, neither of which would be expected if the primary driver of the security relationship was a mutual concern about terrorism. The broader strategic significance of improved US-India security ties was not lost on China. Alarmed at the growing level of Indo-US cooperation, China has attempted to dissuade India from pursuing closer relations with the United States.79 India is a nuclear power with a strong and growing economy. Its military is growing in capability and reach and the overall picture of India’s devel- opment is highly positive. It would seem logical that India, especially given its traditional antipathy toward American hegemony, would use its growing power to weaken that hegemony or hedge against it. Instead, India is actively working to establish deeper security ties with the United States. None of this is to say that the United States and India have formed an alliance, and there are numerous sticking points in the relationship that hinder its progress, particularly the US relationship with Pakistan. Yet, it is clear that the Indo-US strategic relationship has developed dramatically in the 2001–2009 period in a manner that serves both Indian interests and American strategic goals in Asia.


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