In the 21st century, China’s rising uncertain behaviour and rapid increase in its influence and presence in the international arena forms the crux of India-U.S relations. With this rising uncertainty in the geopolitical arena, the India-U.S ties have witnessed a consistent effort to develop a closer and more meaningful relationship at the economic, political and strategic front. Today, India and the U.S have a relationship with China that involves elements of cooperation, competition, and potentially, conflict in different degrees, providing an opportunity for the United States and India to work together, as both countries see a role for each other to address the China problem. In light of this, Ananta Centre hosted a digital session with Mr. Elbridge Colby, Co-founder and Principal, The Marathon Initiative, USA, in conversation with Prof. C Raja Mohan, Senior Fellow, Asia Society Policy Institute, and Visiting Research Professor, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore.
In 2017 the Trump administration’s change in the U.S foreign policy with America first strategy and India’s Doklam standoff and its strategic policy change towards China shaped the geopolitical scenario in the 21st century. Both the countries profoundly misread the implications of China’s rise. The U.S policy in the 2000s on financial liberalization that acceded China to the WTO without holding them to account and India’s mismatch of approach and perceptions allowed China to gain power. It has made China turn into an evident and overwhelming threat that has allowed it to flex its muscle in the region.
In order to address the China issue, India-U.S need to start asking and closely monitoring the nature of China’s threat and the ways to deal with it. The approach should be based on a regional aspect that focuses on complex military and economic power. Moreover, the U.S will need a laser-like focus that involves a military component that will help secure Asia. The rivalry with China is more of a global competition comprising economic, technological, informational, ideological and military. It will require comprehensive working and cooperation with all the like-minded and influential actors in the international arena. To tackle Beijing, we need more of an anti-hegemonic coalition oriented on a goal that will encourage humanism among the involved members. India-U.S together needs to create a geo-economic area with sufficient scale to balance Beijing’s economic power.
In addition, the U.S has to address the problems related to its strategy by prioritizing Asia. It needs to understand the importance and fundamentals of geopolitics by realizing that China possesses the military and economic size to project power and influence in the international scenario. This influence of China will allow them to dominate the world economic stage, as Asia being the centre of it with 50% of global GDP is a concerning issue that needs to be addressed. It will eventually create a situation where everybody’s military and economy are oriented around China. Still, if India and U.S will stand together, it can stop belligerent Beijing. The India-U.S relationship should be based on the coalition that will help empower India and take a leading role in South Asia. India is the model that the U.S wants to build strategic and economic ties, as it has the ability and capability to shoulder its security. Also, for a successful coalition, we must focus on burden-sharing to create a new strategic culture based on geopolitical alignment to have a practical and realistic outcome.
Furthermore, the security arrangements like QUAD should have a comprehensive approach and not turn it into any formal defence arrangement. Instead, India-U.S should work bilaterally to improve the Indian military and intelligence capability to develop its ability. The idea of maritime security to tackle China should also be based on the division of labour or burden-sharing where multiple like-minded countries should take the responsibility to guard the naval region. The U.S and India should focus on the Western Pacific (Asia Pacific) to keep China limited in its maritime area, constraining its power and not expanding in Indo-Pacific.
Furthermore, India needs to carefully pay more attention to U.S actions and debates, as it has become a more crucial partner to Indian security in Indo-Pacific to tackle China. The impetus in the region should be based on Asian nationalism and working with the Asian nationalist countries to cope with China’s hegemonic ambitions. The conception of India should be of a security provider in maintaining the peace and stability backed by the United States that is based on burden sharing objective in the international arena.
Watch the full session here: