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Abstract

The interests of India and the United States (US) converge on multiple aspects in the Indo-Pacific. These interests range from economics to geopolitics to regional stability. India’s Look East Policy, rechristened as Act East Policy, in addition to economic, cultural and commercial goals, includes strategic interests to expand India’s influence in East Asia and to the larger Indo-Pacific. The US, challenged by the rise of China, has initiated a quadrilateral grouping of democracies (QUAD) and the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy with the objective of reasserting American primacy in the Indo-Pacific. The US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region signed in 2015 and the Indo-Pacific Strategy Report 2019 emphasize the indispensability of the part- nership between the US and India in the Indo-Pacific. The policies of the US and India towards the Indo-Pacific converge on ensuring peace, stability, maritime security, freedom of navigation, the fight against terrorism, peaceful settlement of disputes and ensuring con- nectivity of land, sea, and air transportation. Though not stated bluntly, containing the growing Chinese influence by mobilizing countries in the region figures prominently in the strategic schemes of both India and the US. As the most important strategic region in world politics, India, the US and China have vital economic and security interests at stake. By relying on a realist approach, the paper probes the main drivers and constraints of the Indo-US strategic partnership in the Indo-Pacific. The paper outlines and analyses the con- text of the Indo-US collaboration in the Indo-Pacific, their shared views and concerns, its anti-China mode and the constraints of the partnership.
ISSN 2283-7949
GLOCALISM : JOURNAL OF CULTUR E, POLITICS AND INNOVATION
2020, 2, DOI: 10.12893/gjcpi.2020.2.2
Publishe d online by “Glob us et Locus” at ht tps://glocalismjourna l.org
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INDO-US CONVERGENCE IN THE
INDO-PACIFIC: CHINA’S CONTAINMENT
AND LINGERING CONSTRAINTS
JOSUKUTTY C. ABRAHAM
University of Kerala (India)
kuttyjosu@keralauniversity.ac.in
Abstract: The interests of India and the United States (US) converge on multiple aspects in
the Indo-Pacific. These interests range from economics to geopolitics to regional stability.
Indias Look East Policy, rechristened as Act East Policy, in addition to economic, cultural
and commercial goals, includes strategic interests to expand Indias influence in East Asia
and to the larger Indo-Pacific. The US, challenged by the rise of China, has initiated a
quadrilateral grouping of democracies (QUAD) and the Free and Open Indo-Pacific
(FOIP) strategy with the objective of reasserting American primacy in the Indo-Pacific.
The US-India Join t Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region signed in
2015 and the Indo-Pacific Strategy Report 2019 emphasize the indispensability of the part-
nership between the US and India in the Indo-Pacific. The policies of the US and India
towards the Indo-Pacific converge on ensuring peace, stability, maritime security, freedom
of navigation, the fight against terrorism, peaceful settlement of disputes and ensuring con-
nectivity of land, sea, and air transportation. Though not stated bluntly, containing the
growing Chinese influence by mobilizing countries in the region figures prominently in the
strategic schemes of both India and the US. As the most important strategic region in
world politics, India, the US and China have vital economic and security interests at stake.
By relying on a realist approach, the paper probes the main drivers and constraints of the
Indo-US strategic partnership in the Indo-Pacific. The paper outlines and analyses the con-
text of the Indo-US collaboration in the In do-Pacific, their shared views and concerns, its
anti-China mode and the constraints of the partnership. This study adopts qualitative
methods and uses interpretative and analytical tools to explain the case.
Keywords: India, United States, China, Indo-Pacific, security.
The Indo-Pacific is a combination of Pacific and Indian
Oceans that includes countries located on and within the edges of
both the Oceans. Shaped by the rise of China and India, and in-
JOSUKUTTY C. ABRAHAM
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creasing economic and security connections between the Western
Pacific and the Indian Oceans, the region is becoming a single
strategic system and the center of world politics and economy.
The key driver of the geo-strategic transformations of the region is
the rise of China. Strategically the great power shift marked by the
rise of China and the relative decline of the US will have great im-
pact on the balance of power and geopolitics in the region. Dis-
putes over maritime territories, its militarization, sovereignty
claims, assertion of freedom of navigation and rule-based order
are key to geopolitical transformations taking place in the Indo-
Pacific. Economically, the Indo-Pacific is central in terms of avail-
ability of natural resources, trade flow and energy transportation.
This region is of great strategic significance to both India and the
US. It is key to India’s pre-eminence in South Asia and Indian
Ocean, its growing economic interests, maritime security, and
great power ambitions. The huge coastline of over 7.500 km, with
1.200 islands and Exclusive Economic Zone of about 2.000.000
square km with nearly 55 percent of Indias trade passing through
the region is strategically crucial for India’s maritime and econom-
ic interests (Kumar 2019). Maritime interests of India in the Indo-
Pacific include protection from sea-based threats to territorial in-
tegrity, ensuring stability in maritime neighborhood, creation, de-
velopment, sustenance of a ‘BlueOcean-Economy, support to di-
asporas, and retaining a regionally favorable geopolitical maritime
position (Chauhan 2019). As a rising power, India is ambitious to
play a greater regional and global role in South Asia, East Asia
and the larger Indo-Pacific.
As the sole superpower, the US’ economic, strategic and se-
curity interests are entangled with the region. The US Pacific
Commander Admiral Harry Harris in 2018 testified before the US
Senate thatthe US has an enduring national interest in the Indo
Pacific” (Senate Armed Services Committee 2018). The US eco-
nomic interests in the region are based on ideas of free market,
private finance and liberal investment. According to the US De-
partment of State Report-2019 on Free and Open Indo-Pacific:
INDO-US CONVERGENCE
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the US is the largest source of foreign direct investment in the re-
gion and it has over $1.9 trillion worth of trade with the region,
supporting more than 8.1 million jobs in the United States (US
Department of State 2019). It has key interests in the protection
of sea-lanes of trade and communication in the region. Strategical-
ly the US considers itself a resident Indo-Pacific power with a very
long maritime border stretching from the US coast to the Indian
Ocean, home to the Pacific Fleet and key alliance partners which
includes key non-NATO allies as well (Rosenblum 2018). It has
key territorial possessions and bases in the Region which include
Guam in the Western Pacific, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean,
and Denver in Australia. The US has huge military assets in the
Indo-Pacific with the objective of ensuring its hegemony in the
region (Stuart 2012).
The rise of China with its massive economic and strategic in-
vestment is the first real test of US’ pre-eminence in the region.
The US tries to maintain its hegemony in the region with the help
of potential friends and allies. India is identified by the US as an
indispensable ally to ensure peace, stability, prosperity and main-
tain US predominance in the Indo-Pacific. Containing the grow-
ing Chinese influence constitute the underlying strategic objective
of Indo-US convergence. The construct of Indo-Pacific is a case of
two rivalries in the Western Pacific between the US and China
and in the Indian Ocean between India and China (Das 2019).
Given the geopolitical dynamics of the region, Indias ambition to
become a great power and the sustainability of US predominance
in world politics depend on how they work together. This probe is
a realist assessment about what brings India and the US together
to balance against Chinas rise in the Indo-Pacific and analyses the
constraints that beset the partnership. In what follows, I briefly
describe the growing engagement between India and the US, their
shared views and interests in the context of the growing influence
of China in the Indo-Pacific. Section two examines Chinas ex-
pansionist strategies in the Indo-Pacific and how it accentuates
the anti-China mode of Indo-US convergence. The third section
JOSUKUTTY C. ABRAHAM
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analyses the constraints of Indo-US strategic partnership followed
by concluding remarks.
INDO-US ENGAGEMENT: THE NEW STRATEGIC
CAMARADERIE
The growing Indo-US engagement takes place in the context
of the evolving geopolitical dynamics of Indo-Pacific as a region
of strategic significance. The key to this dynamics is the on-going
power transition taking place in international system- the power
shift from the West to the East and the corresponding resurgence
of Asia (Nye Jr. 2014). The US has been the most important polit-
ical, economic and security player of this region since the Second
World War. China’s economic growth and military capability
powered by nuclear weapons and its assertiveness is a cause of
apprehension not only for the US and India, but also for Japan,
Indonesia, and Australia and others in the region. The US counts
India as a potential player and an ally in balancing the rising pow-
er of China in the Indo-Pacific. It is even argued that Indias
emergence as a key player and strategic partner of the US has con-
tributed to the emergence of Indo-Pacific as a single strategic enti-
ty (McDevitt 2013: 8). In this sense Indo-Pacific itself is con-
structed on the strategic convergence of interests between India
and the US.
India and the US were on the opposite sides of world politics
with divergent security interests and worldviews during the first
four decades of their relationship. But with systemic changes ef-
fected by end of cold war and the unprecedented rise of China,
India switched over to pro-US and pro-West policies (Mohan
2003: 100). India’s economic resurgence and emergence as a ma-
jor power further intensified the relationship with the US. Soon
India and the US began to be described as "natural allies", by the
top leadership of both the countries (Indian Embassy 1998). In-
creased diplomatic engagements with the US marked by high level
INDO-US CONVERGENCE
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visits, growing strategic understanding, deepening economic co-
operation, commonalities of views, support for Indias inclusion in
global bodies, India toeing the US line on international issues
such as sanctions on Iran and increased defense collaboration in-
cluding defense trade and joint military exercises have exalted the
relationship to new heights. Since 2000 every US president has
visited India compared to just three in the second half of the 20th
century. A Central Intelligent Report characterized India as the
most important swing state in international system (Tellis 2004).
Condelezza Rice former US Secretary of State opined that India as
a rising power can be a pillar of stability and peace in a rapidly
changing Asia (Rice 2006). The Obama administration considered
India-US relationship as one of the defining partnerships of the
century. The Indo-US Framework for Maritime Security Coopera-
tion-2006 counts India as a maritime counterweight to China’s
naval capabilities (Ministry of External Affairs 2006). The Indo-
US Civilian Nuclear Deal in 2008 which recognized India as de
facto nuclear weapon state (Mohan and Agarwal 2019), and the
2015, US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and In-
dian Ocean Region that focus on the importance of Indo-US col-
laboration in the Indo-Pacific (The White House 2015), high-
lighted the potential for Indo-US strategic convergence. Total bi-
lateral trade (goods and services) between the US and India from
1999 to 2018, increased from $16 bn to $142 bn makes the US,
Indias first and India the US’ eighth largest trading partners
(Ayers 2020). The US support for India, in principle, for United
Nations Security Council membership and non-proliferation re-
gimes such as Nuclear Suppliers Group, Wassenaar Agreement,
Missile Technology Control Regime and Australia Group and
joint fight against terrorism and non-conventional security threats
further cement the relationship.
The most remarkable aspect of Indo-US convergence has been
in the defense sector. The New Framework for the US-India De-
fense Relationship signed in 2005 and renewed in 2015 with em-
phasis on defense cooperation in maritime security and humanitari-
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an assistance and counter terrorism (US-India Relations 1947-2020:
2020), India’s designation as a major defense partner” of the US in
2016, renaming of the US Pacific Command as Indo-Pacific Com-
mand, the 2+2 dialogue between the Defense Ministers and For-
eign Ministers of the US and India on an annual basis, since 2018,
signify the increasing importance of defense cooperation in bilateral
relations (Sreenivasan 2019). The Foundational defense agreements
signed between India and the US such as General Security of Mili-
tary Information Agreement-2012, Logistics Exchange Memoran-
dum of Agreement-2016, Communications Compatibility and Se-
curity Agreement-2018 (Lakshmi 2016), India specific version of
the Communication and Information Security Memorandum of
Agreement, the Industrial Security Annex in 2019 together provide
for greater defense technology transfer and exchange of logistics
support are of central strategic importance (Peri 2019: 9). Today
the US conducts the largest number of military exercises with India
than any other country (Centre for Strategic and International
Studies 2016). The Malabar naval exercise, which began between
India and US in 1992, has become an annual show of anti-China
muscle power along with Australia and Japan. The first ever tri-
service military exercise, codenamed “Tiger Triumph”, aimed at
interoperability between the two forces of India and the US was
conducted in 2019 (The Economic Times 2019). The growing arms
deal between the two has become the fundamental driver and pillar
of the strategic relationship. Indias defense hardware purchases
from the US that stood at zero in 2008 have crossed an estimated
$18 billion in 2019 (Expanding Defense Trade 2020). The defense
and strategic relationship today encompasses a broad spectrum of
activities from intelligence sharing to joint humanitarian and relief
efforts, mutual port visits by naval ships, joint exercises, trade in
military hardware, and most importantly, co-production and co-
development of military systems. The geo-political dynamics of the
Indo-Pacific marked by the rise of China is the key factor in the
growing strategic and defense cooperation between India and the US.
INDO-US CONVERGENCE
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COMMONALITIES OF VIEWS, INTERESTS AND STRATEGIES
India and the US have common views and interests and face
identical threats in the Indo-Pacific. Referring to Indo-US collab-
oration, former Indian Ambassador to the US, Nirupama Rao re-
marked,Indo-Pacific is a space that impacts our destinies, whose
security and prosperity is vital to both of us and we have an in-
creasing convergence of interests” (Rao 2013). In 2018, Prime
Minister of India, Narendra Modi, at the Shangri La Dialogue in
Singapore, had spelt-out clearly, “Indias strategic partnership
with the United States is a new pillar of our shared vision of an
open, stable, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region” (Minis-
try of External Affairs 2018).
The Indo-Pacific Report-2019 released by the National Mari-
time Foundation of India stated that Indias approach to engage-
ment with the Indo-Pacific is based on respect, dialogue, coopera-
tion, peace and prosperity (National Maritime Foundation 2019).
Similarly the US policy towards the Indo-Pacific has been guided
by identical ideas as stated in the Free and Open Indo-Pacific
(FOIP). The US Department of Defenses Indo-Pacific Strategy
Report 2019 proclaims, “the United States and India share a
common outlook on the Indo-Pacific”, and defines Indo-Pacific
asa free and open region with four principles that govern Amer-
ican policy here: a) respect for sovereignty and independence; b)
peaceful resolution of disputes; c) free, fair, and reciprocal trade;
and d) adherence to international rules and norms’’ (Department
of Defense 2019). The Report 2019 further highlights the im-
portance of rule of law, resilience in civil society, good governance
and transparency and asserts that no one nation can or should
dominate the Indo-Pacific. The US National Security Strategy
(NSS) of 2017 states “a geopolitical competition between free and
repressive visions of world order is taking place in the Indo-
Pacific region” (National Security Strategy 2017). By implication
these policy documents and statements at the highest level refer to
the competition between free and open world order postulated by
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the US and India on the one hand and the illiberal and closed sys-
tem of China on the other. The common views on FOIP between
India and US assumes a common strategic posture in response to
Chinas aggressive maneuvering in the region.
The Look East Policy initiated in the 1990s rechristened Act
East Policy (AEP) is the chief mechanism to achieve Indias eco-
nomic and security objectives in Indo-Pacific. The Association of
South-East Asia Nations (ASEAN) is key to Indias AEP. Indian
Prime Minister stated in 2018 that ASEAN “has laid the founda-
tion of the Indo-Pacific Region” and that “ASEAN centrality and
unity […] lie at the heart of the new Indo-Pacific” (Thakker
2018). Indias association with East Asian multilateral institutions
such as ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit, defense
relationship with ASEAN countries are aimed to increase its over-
all influence in the region. India has identified the South China
Sea as an area of interest after key parts of the Indian Ocean re-
gion. Many East Asian countries count on India as a contributor
to regional stability and a balancer in the region (Mohan and
Mishra 2018:165). Closer cooperation in combating terrorism,
collaboration for peace and stability in the region and promotion
of maritime security based on international norms and laws are
pursued by India in the region (Press Information Bureau 2015).
India is perceived by the US as a net provider of security in the
Indian Ocean Region and beyond through its Look East Policy
(Department of Defense 2015: 28). According to the US Depart-
ment of State 2019 Report on A Free and Open Indo-Pacific: Ad-
vancing a Shared Vision, the ASEAN is central to US’ FOIP con-
cept. There is great convergence between the ASEANs Indo-
Pacific Outlook-2019 based on inclusivity, openness, good gov-
ernance, and respect for international law and the US’ FOIP.
The US plans to counter the Chinese challenge primarily
through a network of alliances centered around the QUAD1 and
FOIP, which in combination constitute a security and economic
strategy. The QUAD is based on shared values and coopera-
tion on maritime security, infrastructure and connectivity in sup-
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port of rules-based frameworks that find resonance with the
common views and interests of US and India for an open, pros-
perous and inclusive Indo-Pacific (Wire 2019). Indias support for
QUAD, which is described as the “strategic fulcrum of Indo-
pacific” and “Asian NATO”, is indicative of India shedding its
aversion to military blocs and security alliances (Liu). The US has
security and strategic interests connected to building “a network
of states dedicated to free markets” in the Indo-Pacific through
FIOP (Kim 2018). The FOIP links the economic interests of the
US to free flow of capital, goods, services, and ideas around the
region and insist that it is imperative to maximize the prosperity
and security of the region. In other words, the FOIP which in-
vokes freedom and security in the seas and provide an alternative
to Chinas authoritarian rule, unilateral militarization, land recla-
mation in South China sea and state controlled infrastructure pro-
jects being materialized through the BRI (Tan 2020). India is a
key player of the QUAD and FOIP. The US woos India on ac-
count of its potential to balance the rise of China along with US
and allies (Mearsheimer and Walt 2016: 70-83).
Thus, increased diplomatic engagements, defense coopera-
tion, deepening economic collaboration, maritime security, em-
phasis on shared values between India and the US that are knitted
through various policy documents, and complementarity between
QUAD, AEP, FOIP and innumerable treaties and agreements
with an express intent to counter China constitute the basis of In-
do-US strategic convergence in the Indo-Pacific.
THREATENING RISE OF CHINA
The major driver of Indo-US strategic convergence is the
growing role of China in the Indo-Pacific and their attempt to
counter it. China’s ambition is to become the number one power
in the region and beyond by building comprehensive national
power. Xi Jinping’s speech at the 19th National Congress of the
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Communist Party of China (CPC) clearly stated that China’s aim
is to transform it into a strong maritime country” for the great
rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and eventually become the
number one power in the world (Xinhua 2017). China pursues
four core strategic objectives in the Indo-Pacific; exerting control
over its near seas, defending and advancing Chinese sovereignty
claims, promoting China centered regional economic integration
and the Belt and Road Initiative.
China exerts control over the near seas through military mod-
ernization by enhancing the Peoples Liberation Army’s (PLA) ca-
pacity to conduct regional military operations, including what Chi-
na refers to as counter intervention operations. This refers to a
chain of capabilities and missions aimed at preventing foreign, es-
pecially US military forces from intervening in a conflict in Chinas
near seas. As part of expanding its sovereignty claims China has
been actively asserting its territorial and jurisdictional rights over
the Spratly, Paracel and Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in both the East
China and South China Seas. China seeks to change the status quo
in its favor in the East China and South China Seas, through the
strategy of “salami slicing”2 (Glaser 2014). The announcement of an
East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone in 2013 has been to
keep away the external powers from intervening in its expansionist
strategies. According to the Indian Navy sources, the Chinese Navy
is expanding rapidly in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), and at any
given time there are about 7-8 vessels and 85 per cent of their de-
fense exports are meant for the IOR (Peri 2020). Indian navys
presence and oil exploration in the South China Sea with Vietnam
and joint military exercises with the US and other allies are objected
to by China. Beijings blunt statement that the “Indian Ocean is not
India’s Ocean” is indicative of Chinas realist schemes for the Indo-
Pacific (Wang 2010: 97).
Chinas naval capability is powerful enough to curtail US in-
fluence in the region and could weaken US initiated FOIP. Ac-
cording to a survey conducted by the Asia Maritime Transparency
Initiative (CSIS), China has conducted 25 maritime survey mis-
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sions in the Indo-Pacific between April 2019 and March 2020,
compared to 27 by the US, Japan, India, Australia, France and the
Philippines combined (Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative
2020). Today China has the largest Coast Guard and a maritime
Militia which is capable of intimidating rivals with sheer number
and threatening postures (Jai Singh 2020). China’s Military Strate-
gy White Paper 2015 highlights maritime military struggle as an
important aspect of Beijings plan to develop a blue-water navy
fleet, able to carry out operations for offshore protection (The
State Council of Information Office 2015). China has already con-
solidated its presence in Africa through dual use ports meant for
civilian and military purposes as in Djibouti and Tanzania. Chi-
nese push towards the Indian Ocean with dual use ports, increas-
ing military exercises with regional navies, the establishment of
politico-economic relationships with Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal,
Bangladesh, Myanmar and Maldives undermine Indias interest in
the region (Abraham 2018: 27-37). The military and economic aid
to these countries have strengthened Chinese presence in the In-
dian subcontinent. China’s increasing presence in South Asia is
aimed at containing Indias rise regionally and globally through
what is called the string of pearlsstrategy3. The Chinese control
of Pakistans Gwadar port could eventually emerge as a military
base facilitating interoperability between Chinese and Pakistani
navies. Even in the midst of the world fighting the Covid-19, Chi-
na flexed its military muscle against Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia,
Philippines and Taiwan in South China Sea and India in its terres-
trial borders (Kondapalli 2020).
Economic dependence on China and promoting regional
economic integration are integral to Beijings strategy of persuad-
ing its neighbors of the benefits of Chinas rise and dissuading
them from challenging Chinese interests. In the first quarter of
2020, ASEAN overtook the European Union to become the larg-
est trading partner of China (Asian Briefing 2020). Towards this
end China has schemes such as the Maritime Silk Road, the crea-
tion of free trade zones along Chinas periphery, the establishment
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of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China funded infra-
structure projects and Regional Comprehensive Economic Part-
nership (RCEP). The Maritime Silk Road focuses on enlarging
Chinas control over some of the worlds most strategic waterways
in the South China Sea and make China an important player in
the Indian Ocean region.
China’s expansionist agenda and aggressive postures chal-
lenge the US hegemony and Indian interests simultaneously and
have transformed the Indo-US convergence into anti-China mode.
The US sees China’s rise and behavior as a source of acute insta-
bility and have repeatedly stressed the need for China to adhere to
a rules-based order, specifically by observing the United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). In July 2016 In-
dia and the US supported the UNCLOS Arbitration Tribunal
Award which declared Chinas Nine Dash Lane claims invalid
(Singh 2016). The 2015 US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the
Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, the 2017 US National Se-
curity Strategy (The White House 2017) the US Department of
Defense, Indo-Pacific Strategy Report-2019 categorically postulate
China’s revisionist agenda to mold a world opposed to US values
and the use of military modernization and coercive economics
measures for the realization of the same.
The US counters the Chinese naval power by military de-
ployment and regular freedom of navigation operations in the
South China Sea. A report by the National Institute of South Chi-
na Sea Studies, a Chinese Think Tank, states that the US has en-
listed 60 percent of its Navy ships, 55 per cent of its Army and
two-thirds of its Marine Corps of the Indo-Pacific Command in
the region (Xuanzun 2020). The Trump administration has con-
ducted 22 “freedom of navigation” exercises till date compared to
4 by Obama in eight years (The Hindu 2020). The patrolling of
the Indo-Pacific waters by three US Aircraft Carriers accompa-
nied by other naval assortments even in the worst days of covid-19
pandemic is indicative of the intensive power struggle.
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Indian strategic analysts Mohan Malik, C. Raja Mohan, T.P.
Sreenivasan, Brahma Chellany consider China as India’s number
one threat and Indo-Pacific as the rivalry arc’’ between the two.
The India-US collaboration through QUAD, Act East Policy,
common views on FOIP, partnership with allies, defense deals,
joint military exercises, high level diplomatic exchanges and port
calls are meant to counter China’s unilateralism, militarization and
discard for rule based order.
CONSTRAINTS IN CONVERGENCE
Indo-US convergence in the context of Indo-Pacific is beset
with certain constraints that are visible at four levels. First, India
and the United States have different geographic perceptions of
what constitutes the Indo-Pacific and its strategic mapping. The
US view of Indo-Pacific extends from the West coast of India in
the Indian Ocean to the West coast of the US in the Pacific
Ocean, whereas India, regards the “Indo” to indicate the whole of
the Indian Ocean, stretching from South Africa to Australia
(Singh 2019). The strategically important Western Indian Ocean
does not figure in the US conception. This divergence in strategic
mapping is significant because it signals divergent strategic priori-
ties for the two countries. The US consistently has supported a
bigger military role for India in the Pacific Ocean, but for India,
the Indian Ocean is more important than the Pacific. If India is a
central partner for the US in the Indo-Pacific, the regional strate-
gy must take into account the aims and objectives of both parties.
This incongruence is reflected in the opinion of Indias External
Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar who stated at the 2019 Delhi Dia-
logue conference that one of the problems in building partner-
ships in the Indo-Pacific maritime region was the lack of consen-
sus on what such a concept meant or even its geographic extent
(The Hindu 2019). Because of this difference in strategic mapping
the US navy’s cooperation with the Indian navy is confined to the
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14
Eastern half of the Indo-Pacific region whereas at the Western
end, where Indias vital interests are intertwined, maritime coop-
eration with the US is minimal (Wire 2017). Again the US accords
least importance to Indias concerns over Chinese Navys India
specific activities in the Indian Ocean (Observer Research Foun-
dation 2018).
Second, the Indo-US partnership lacks the strategic depth of
an alliance. When alliances are characterized by binding responses
by parties to specific events, strategic partnerships are opportunis-
tic in nature. India has a historically rooted aversion to alliances
and military oriented security partnerships. India-US strategic
partnership is characterized by joint military exercises, intelligence
sharing to diplomatic consultations, and a whole range of treaties
in myriad fields and high end defense deals on par with that of the
United Statesclosest allies and partners. Despite these strong
connectivity, it is contended that the US-India military partner-
ship has not developed the “habits of cooperation” that the US
typically enjoys with its closest partners (Ladwick, Mukherjee
2019) and the relationship has high dose of uncertainty about the
US intentions in the region (Shankar 2017). The 2019 US decision
to end the special trade status given to India since 1970 that al-
lowed entry of tariff free goods to US market is a case in point.
The fragility of the alliance is also visible in the functioning of the
QUAD, FOIP and AEP. The QUAD has the problem of struc-
tural inability and divergence of opinions on the threat China pos-
es to the members and the strategies to be adopted to deal with it.
It remains unclear whether the US can allocate the resources
needed to accomplish its objectives and coherently wed its strate-
gic ambitions with the interests of other regional actors
(Brattberg, Philippe 2019). The US response to China’s coercive
measures to enforce disputed sovereignty claims with countries in
the South China Sea including to its allies have been limited to
normative liberal preaching on freedom of navigation (Flournoy
2020). The FOIP lacks credibility to counter China’s massive de-
velopmental projects through the Maritime Silk Road. The Act
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15
East policy which is central to India’s Indo-Pacific strategy is
more of an economic and soft power endeavor than a security
plan. The policy, so far, has not helped India to attain a favorable
balance of power in the Indo-Pacific (Jaishankar 2019). Indias
ambiguity to align completely with the QUAD, emphasis on eco-
nomic and commercial relations with ASEAN, frequent vacilla-
tions in Indo-US relations over tariff hikes and H-IBVisa, skepti-
cism to embrace market economy to the satisfaction of the US,
aversion to bloc politics, big power ambitions, the policy of multi-
alignment and strategic autonomy4, unwillingness for joint patrol-
ling with the US Navy in South China Sea, wavering positions on
the Malabar exercise and reluctance to align completely with the
US in its rivalry with China are indicative of strategic deficit in the
partnership. The implication is that Indo-US convergence in the
Indo-Pacific lacks a comprehensive plan and machinery for the
realization of the stated objectives.
Third, there are differences between India and the US over
issues that are of key security concern to India. Indias most im-
portant security threat is at the terrestrial borders with Pakistan
and China. India and the US have not so far entered into any un-
derstanding to deal with this threat. Despite Indias opposition,
the US has continued with its military aid to Pakistan and consid-
ers Pakistan vital for US’ foreign policy and national interests, re-
ports the Congressional Research Service (Iqbal 2015). Pakistan
has a history of using US supplied weapons against India in bor-
der conflicts and proxy wars. In the recent stand off between In-
dia and China in the border at Galwan valley in June 2020, the US
response was muted and neutral.
Fourth, is Indias strategic ambiguity to deal with China. In-
dias relationship with China is complex for many reasons. China
is Indias most important neighbor with seemingly protracted
border disputes with no signs of resolution in sight and at the
same time one of its biggest trading partners. In economic
strength, military capability and political might China is way
ahead of India. India considers China a threat to its security and a
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16
check on its global and regional influence and big power ambi-
tions. Should India deal with China through means of confronta-
tion or cooperation is the biggest dilemma. There are conflicting
signals from official circles in India as visible in various policies.
India does not seeIndo-Pacifican entirely security-oriented
scheme against China. At the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2018 it was
categorically stated that India does not consider the Indo-Pacific
Region as a strategy or grouping directed against any country.
Both India and Chinese leaders have emphasized the need for co-
operative relationships between the two for the realization of
Asian century. On the one hand, India partners with the US and
allies in the Indo-Pacific against China, and on the other hand,
strives for a peaceful relationship with it. Rajagopalan calls it eva-
sive balancing which is a combination of balancing and reassur-
ance happening simultaneously in Indias relationship with China
(Rajagopalan 2020). This ambiguity handicaps India to evolve a
clear policy in the Indo-Pacific against China. These limitations
restrict Indo-US strategic partnership in the Indo-Pacific.
CONCLUSION
Indo-US convergence in the Indo-Pacific is based on a set of
common views, interests and challenges. Though apparently liber-
al economic and political arguments constitute the basis of the
partnership, in reality the rise of China on a realist prism consti-
tutes the rationale of the strategic and security convergence be-
tween India and the US. Both India and the US are reluctant to
state openly that containment of China, in realist terms, constitute
the key objective of the partnership. India’s objective is to main-
tain its predominance in South Asia and consolidate its strategic
primacy as an Indian Ocean state and extend it beyond the re-
gion. The objective of the US is to maintain and consolidate its
hegemonic role in the Indo-Pacific. This is possible only by con-
taining the rise of China. The US as the net security provider in
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17
this region supports a key role for India in this endeavor. In reci-
procity India supports a dominant role for the US as an extra re-
gional power in the region. But India is skeptical to take on China
directly. Though the US has supported a bigger role for India
which is in agreement with India’s big power ambitions, India is
cautious of challenging Chinas core interests, especially in the
South China Sea (Hall 2018: 65-81). This has to be read along
with the gap in the relative capabilities and contradictions in the
strategies adopted by the US and India in the Indo-Pacific.
Despite the deepening of bilateral relations, India is reticent
and circumspect to openly align with the US especially in security
related joint ventures. Indias continued adherence to certain tra-
ditional tenets of its foreign policy such as strategic autonomy,
multi-alignment and inclusive order is contrary to hardcore securi-
ty alliances and bloc politics. India focuses more on the economic
and soft power aspects of the relationship whereas the US stresses
on strategic and security issues giving more importance to military
cooperation and joint operations. The US has not done enough to
reassure India of its reliability as a partner under all circumstances
and in all terrains both oceanic and terrestrial. That is why India
has resisted the idea of joint-patrols in the South China Sea. This
blocks the graduation of their collaboration into a truly strategic
partnership, especially at the security front, against China.
The differences between India and the US in strategic map-
ping of Indo-Pacific, lack of strategic depth in the partnership,
US’ lackadaisical approach to Indias priority security threats at its
borders with China and Pakistan, conflicting priorities of Act East
Policy and the QUAD, reluctance to admit publicly the underly-
ing realist objective of containing China and Indias ambiguity
over how to deal with China render India-US collaboration in the
Indo-Pacific strategically reticent and to a great extent ineffective.
Therefore, a full-fledged strategic partnership between India and
US with the underlying objective of containing China is unlikely
to materialize in the foreseeable future. India will not completely
align with the US against China rather it would accommodate US
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18
interests to the point of not provoking China directly. India will
ambiguously balance between the US and China with the objec-
tive of promoting India’s interest in the region. The objective of
evolving a regional security mechanism in the Indo-Pacific to en-
sure peace, stability, progress and security is unlikely to be materi-
alized on account of the inherent limitations and contradictions in
the partnership. However, the act of convergence between India
and the US will continue in the context of the geopolitics of the
region characterized by the rise of China.
NOTES
1 The QUAD has been a quadrilateral alliance of “maritime democracies” Australi a, In-
dia, US and Japan put forth by Ja panese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007 with the primary
objective of containing China through alliances and military build up wi th focus on a rule-
based order. The US administration under Trump has reactivated it as QUAD 2.0 in 2017.
2Salami slicing(cabbage strategy) refers to the Chinese strategy of eventually dom-
inating a landscape in which they cabbage-targeted areas for seizure slowly piece by piece.
This strategy of territorial expansion has been followed in the South China Sea and the
territorial borders with India.
3 “String of Pearls” is a Chinese plan to acquire several strategically located ports and
naval bases in South Asian countries- Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myan-
mar. India views it as a strategy to encircle it with China’s naval capability with an objective to
contain India in South Asia and consolidate Chinas primacy in the Asian region at large.
4 Strategic autonomy, a central principle of Indias foreign policy, stands for inde-
pendent foreign and security policies. The policy of multi-alignment emphasizes engage-
ment in regional multilateral institutions and the use of strategic partnerships to boost eco-
nomic development and national security without ideological or other constraints.
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... Bu değerlendirmeler ışığında, "Hindistan, ABD'nin Çin'e karşı stratejilerinde değerli bir araç olabilir mi ?" sorusunu cevaplayacak olursak, Çözümleyici Bağlam Analizi'nin de sunduğu üzere uzun vadeli kapsamlı planların oluşturulması açısından ABD'nin oldukça önemli avantajlara sahip olduğu görülmekte olup Hindistan'ın ABD için değerli bir fırsat dizini sunduğu düşünülmektedir. Özellikle Hindistan -Çin arasında süre gelen gergin-olumsuz ilişkiler ABD'nin Çin'e karşı Hindistan'ı destekleyip stratejik anlamda Çin'i kısıtlama politikasına uygun bir zemin hazırlamaktadır (Abraham, 2020). Hindistan'ın hem demografik açıdan hem de ekonomik olarak bölgedeki ikinci güçlü devlet olması, ABD'nin muhtemel stratejilerini uygulatacak en uygun partner görünümünü doğurmaktadır. ...
Article
This article assesses how south-east Asian countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have responded to the ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ (FOIP) strategies promoted by the United States and the other countries in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the ‘Quad’: US, Japan, Australia and India). Their nuanced ripostes imply a persistent commitment to hedging and shifting limited alignments in the face of growing great rivalry and the lack of a clear FOIP vision among Quad members. In the face of external pressure to take sides, the ASEAN states are likely to keep hedging through working selectively with China and the United States. Given the United States' apparent preference to balance China and Trump's disregard for multilateralism, ASEAN's ability to maintain its centrality in the evolving regional architecture is in doubt—despite the Quad countries' (belated) accommodation of ASEAN in their FOIP strategies. However, the success of the US strategy depends on Washington's ability to build and sustain the requisite coalition to balance Beijing. ASEAN has undertaken efforts to enhance bilateral security collaboration with China and the United States respectively. In doing so, ASEAN is arguably seeking to informally redefine its centrality in an era of Great Power discord and its ramifications for multilateralism.
Article
India has adopted the Indo-Pacific concept with uncharacteristic speed. This article examines India's Indo-Pacific strategy, which evolved out of its earlier ‘Look East’ and ‘Act East’ policies but is much more focused on strategic concerns than on trade or connectivity. As such, the strategy is subset of its China policy, and includes contradictory elements of balancing China by building partnerships with the United States as well as with regional powers, while simultaneously pursuing a reassurance strategy to convince Beijing that India is not really balancing China. The combination of these contradictory elements is characterized as evasive balancing, which is a more useful concept than either pure balancing or hedging for understanding the policies of India and of many other countries in the region that are trying to manage China's rise. However, reassurance strategies rarely work and the combination of balancing and reassurance is even less likely to be viable.
Article
In the wake of the U.S. Navy’s recent freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea in November 2015, maritime stability in Southeast Asia has been a hot topic of discussion in Asian strategic circles. The passage of USS Lassen within twelve nautical miles of Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands group was followed with a fly-by over the same area by U.S. B-52 bombers, leading to fears of an escalation in tensions between the United States and China. Despite some commentary that deemed the naval patrols as a needless provocation,1 many regional analysts saw the patrols as an essential undertaking—important to highlight an issue of maritime principle to China.2 Washington, proponents held, was well within its right to warn Beijing of the illegality of its reclamation in the South China Sea, as well as to underscore the invalidity of its territorial claims in the vicinity of artificially constructed islands. Unsurprisingly, many regional states came out in support of the U.S. decision to challenge China’s island building. Notwithstanding its vastly improved strategic relations with Washington, New Delhi, however, surprised regional watchers by maintaining a studious silence. This essay examines India’s understanding of the South China Sea disputes and assesses the implications of instability in this critical region for Indian interests and the Indo-Pacific more broadly. India’s reluctance to endorse a maneuver meant expressly to emphasize access to the maritime commons appeared odd since it lately has been vocal about the need to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, even raising pointed concerns over the growing state of insecurity in the region.3 New Delhi, however, remains acutely conscious of its official position of neither being party to the disputes nor taking sides.4 Regardless of the magnitude of nautical developments in the region, India’s security establishment fears that the perception of abandonment of its neutrality might be construed as strategic support for the United States—still the principal source of resistance to Chinese unilateralism in the South China Sea, but whose deterrence strategy, Indian analysts suspect, could spark an intense reaction from Beijing. Yet there is no mistaking a sense of exasperation in New Delhi with China’s maritime practices in East Asia, which many officials privately regard as being arbitrary and unreasonable. The aggressiveness with which China has sought to protect its turf in the South China Sea has led Indian strategists to believe that, unless sustained pressure is brought to bear upon China, a negotiated solution to the dispute is unattainable.5 Not surprisingly, in at least three ASEAN-centric forums since the U.S. naval patrols, Indian leaders have emphasized the need for freedom of navigation, the right to passage and overflight, and peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In November 2015, Prime Minister Narenda Modi made a reference to the South China Sea conflict in two successive events—at the thirteenth ASEAN-India summit and during a public lecture in Singapore—suggesting the need for a mechanism that could enhance cooperation in maritime security, counterpiracy, and humanitarian and disaster relief.6 India also was widely reported to have snubbed China during the third meeting of the India-Philippines Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation in New Delhi in October, when a joint statement referred to the South China Sea as the “West Philippines Sea,” a term to which Beijing is averse.7 India has also increased its maritime deployments in the South China Sea, signaling a desire for an expanded security role in the western Pacific. After a contingent of four Indian naval ships completed a two-month tour of Southeast Asia in June, the stealth frigate INS Sahyadri was sent to the Philippines for an operational deployment in November. Concurrently, the Indian Navy has been conducting high-intensity operational exchanges with the United States—raising the complexity of Exercise Malabar by also inviting Japan to participate for the latest iteration in October. India has simultaneously improved its military cooperation with ASEAN countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, and...
Article
This is the third time that American policy makers have considered a pivot to Asia. This time is different, however, because it is clear that the base of gravity of the global economy is shifting from West to East. As the most powerful nation in the Asia-Pacific, the United States has an overriding national interest in the preservation of regional prosperity and order. But Washington recognizes that it can no longer impose solutions on the major governments in the region. A new U.S. strategy for the Asia-Pacific will have to take into account the very strict limits imposed on U.S. foreign and defense policies by America's relative economic decline. This means that Washington will have to convince its friends and allies to take greater responsibility for regional security. The so-called San Francisco system of U.S.-sponsored alliances will have to be transformed, in order to make it more responsive to the problems that confront America and its regional friends and allies. This essay will draw upon Joseph Nye's concept of ideal and material resources to assess the viability and adaptability of the San Francisco system. It will also consider the merits of the Pentagon's proposed AirSea Battle concept as a response to Chinese military modernization and as a source of reassurance for Washington's regional friends and allies.
A Survey of Marine Research Vessels in the Indo-Pacific
Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (CSIS) (2020), A Survey of Marine Research Vessels in the Indo-Pacific, https://amti.csis.org/a-survey-of-marine-research-vessels-in-theindo-pacific. ISSN 2283-7949 GLOCALISM: JOURNAL OF CULTURE, POLITICS AND INNOVATION 2020, 2, DOI: 10.12893/gjcpi.2020.2.2
The Case for Transatlantic Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • E Brattberg
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E. Brattberg, P. Le Corre (2019), The Case for Transatlantic Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Working Paper, https://carnegieend owment.org/2019/12/18/case-for-transatlantic-cooperation-in-indo-pacifi c-pub-80632. Centre for Strategic and International Studies (2016), U.S.-India Security and Defense Cooperation, https://www.csis.org/programs/wadhwani-chair-us-india-policy-studies /pastindia-chair-projects/us-india-security.
The Security Dimension in the Indo-Pacific: Military-Strategic Issues
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P. Chauhan (2019), The Security Dimension in the Indo-Pacific: Military-Strategic Issues, in Indo-pacific Report 2019: Indo-pacific Partnership Realizing the Benefits of Economic and Maritime Cooperation (New Delhi: National Maritime Foundation).
Understanding the Indo-Pacific: A Case of Two Rivalries, https://south asianvoices.org/understanding-the-indo-pacific-a-case-of-two-rivalries
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U. Das, (2019), Understanding the Indo-Pacific: A Case of Two Rivalries, https://south asianvoices.org/understanding-the-indo-pacific-a-case-of-two-rivalries. Department of Defense (2015), Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy, http://www.def ense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/614488/us-outlines-asiapacific-maritime-security-strategy. Department of Defense (2019), Indo-Pacific Strategy Report: Preparedness, Partnerships, and Promoting a Networked Region, https://media.defense.gov/2019/jul/01/2002152
How to Prevent a War in Asia, The Erosion of American Deterrence Raises the Risk of Chinese Miscalculation
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M.A. Flournoy (2020), How to Prevent a War in Asia, The Erosion of American Deterrence Raises the Risk of Chinese Miscalculation, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-06-18/how-prevent-war-asia.