Will US and India achieve objective of jointly containing China?

制衡中国成美印蜜月期催化剂 川普却直接跳过印度?

China Military Online
Li Jiayao


BEIJING, Oct. 30 (ChinaMil) -- The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently visited India, where he highly praised the host country and criticized China by the way. Tillerson said earlier that the US will form a 100-year-long alliance with India to contain China.


Generally speaking, the US-India relation has entered a new stage and they will carry out comprehensive political, military and economic cooperation in the future. But since the two countries have different strategic goals for their bilateral relation, their alliance is just a tactical cooperation at best, and they may not be able to achieve objective of jointly containing China.


US-India relation in "honeymoon"


After India and the US signed the civilian nuclear power agreement in 2008, their trade and defense relation has developed by leaps and bounds, and they are in a honeymoon in recent years.


When Trump met with Indian Prime Minister Modi, who visited the US on June 26, 2017, he said Washington and New Delhi were in a relationship that was never closer, and Modi said India's "New India Vision" and Trump's vision to "make America great again" will create a new platform for their cooperation. The two countries signed a series of agreements covering trade and security.


On August 12, Admiral Harry Harris, the then commander of US Pacific Fleet Command, announced that America was helping India to realize military modernization, and would give India the same military treatment as its ally Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK).


At the end of September, the US Secretary of Defense Mattis visited India, where he said America attached importance to India's leadership in the Indian Ocean and sought to forge a "flexible regional structure" with it.


On October 25, US Secretary of State Tillerson visited India. The two sides announced that they have developed their strategic partnership steadily and will expand it in South Asia and the Indian Ocean-Pacific Ocean region.


Strategic intention behind the US-India "honeymoon"


It's not strange that the US and India have gotten close. They can make up for each other's strategic weakness and they have their own intentions and needs.

On one hand, the US hopes to enlarge its influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean through the cooperation with India. After Trump took office, the US backed out of the TPP that was under negotiation for many years, and shelved Obama's "back to Asia" strategy to some extent. As a result, America's influence in Southeast Asia has weakened quickly.


Therefore, tightening the bilateral relation between the US and India is good for improving the former's interests in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. In August this year, President Trump released the new policy on Afghanistan and South Asia, and asked India to play a more active role in Afghan affairs. The US also accused Pakistan many times of ineffective attack of terrorist organizations and intends to unite with India to put pressure on Pakistan.


On the other hand, the catalyst of the US-India "honeymoon" is China. Before his visit to India, Tillerson gave a speech at CSIS titled "Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century", in which he made clear that the strategic cooperation between America and India is aimed to contain China.


The recent frequent "vessel crash" of the American navy already showed its strained military force. The US is unable to deploy more troops in the vast Indian Ocean-Pacific Ocean region.


In face of China's rise, the US attempts to form a four-country alliance with Japan, India and Australia in the Asia Pacific.

In July this year, India, the US and Japan held the "Malabar-2017" joint maritime exercise at the Bay of Bengal, the largest of its kind ever, for which the US assigned a whole carrier strike group including the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

印度一直认为自己处于中国崛起的阴影之下,加之中印边界纠纷时不时发酵,拉美国当靠山对印度极具战略意义。莫迪政府力求将印度建设成全球性大国,而军事实力则是大国的重要标志。 “洞朗事件”让印度意识到了与中国的军事差距,印度希望引进美国的精尖武器系统,试图利用美国的军事技术弥补自身军事实力的不足。

India always believes that it is under the shadow of China's rise, and border disputes break out between India and China from time to time, so having the US as its supporter is of great strategic significance for India.

The Modi government strives to build India into a global power, an important sign of which is military strength. The "Donglang incident" made India realize its military inferiority to China, and it hopes to import advanced weapon systems from the US in order to make up for its military weakness.


Obviously arming India to contain China is a good choice for the US and something India is happy to see at the moment. The US is already making preparations to sell more key weapons and equipment to India. It's even willing to provide nuclear aircraft carrier, electromagnetic catapult and F-35 carrier-based aircraft.


Intention of containing China may not come through.


When the US put forth the "Asia Pacific rebalancing strategy", it was considered a strong piece of evidence for its return to Asia, and the "Indo-Pacific strategy" marked a step further from the earlier strategy with the aim of pulling India into America's network of strategic partnerships, deepening its alliance with India and strengthening military cooperation.

This policy aims to maintain America's world leadership, takes India as a force that counters China's development, and has the ultimate goal of containing China. Owing to the drastic improvement of China's strength, India, under the "Indo-Pacific strategy", has a contradictory attitude toward China because of its own interests.


First of all, India has conflict of interests with the US in geopolitics. The US is a maritime dominator in the world today, and the Indian Ocean, which connects the Middle East, Southeast Asia and East Asia, is a central region the US navy tries to control. As the most powerful state by the Indian Ocean, India is building a powerful modern navy, whose objective is to gradually project its strength to the vast sea areas covering the Persian Gulf in the west, South China Sea in the east and Africa in the south, but that's obviously in conflict with America's geopolitical goal.


Second, the US and India have conflicting goals for their military cooperation. Modi is promoting the "Made in India" initiative and wishes to obtain military technology in order to achieve the initiative in national defense industry. The Trump government, however, plans to boost homeland employment through the massive military sale. It won't transfer the latest military technology to India or manufacture weapons and equipment there. At the moment, India is buying 22 Guardian drones from the US, which will create about 2,000 jobs in the US for the price of USD2 billion.


Besides, as far as actual effects are concerned, India and America's plan for joining hands to contain China will hardly come through. The China-US relationship got off to a good start after Trump was elected president and has developed soundly ever since. Their interdependence has become a fact in international politics, and this is reflected in the agenda of Trump's upcoming first Asian tour.


The White House announced that President Trump will visit five Asian countries in November, including Japan, South Korea, China and the Philippines, China being arranged after its two allies. More importantly, India isn't among the five countries. Indian media said, not without discontent, Trump "skipped" India in his first Asian tour.


The US Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State taking turns to bring India into the alliance reflected the Trump team's usual "trading mindset", while their real purpose is arms export. After the electromagnetic catapult system, perhaps it can sell several retired nuclear aircraft carriers in the next few years. Anyway it's a profitable deal for Trump.


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