The Generation, Yeat 01, Issue 11
Amid a maze geopolitical challenges such as the Israel-Hamas war, and China’s military expansion in the Indo-Pacific, experts say the US sees its growing partnership with India as an integral part of its foreign policy. Reaffirming commitment to their growing partnership and a shared focus on the Indo-Pacific, India and the United States touched base on critical world problems during high-level talks last week. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met their Indian counterparts in New Delhi.
Last week’s discussions picked up the threads from Modi’s successful visit to Washington and President Joe Biden’s trip to New Delhi for the G20 summit in September.
“We’re building on a rather remarkable year of engagement, and I think it’s just evidence of the fact that we have not only the strongest bilateral partnership we ever had but also a regional one and, indeed, a global one,” Blinken said in his opening remarks. Former diplomats and experts believe the ongoing momentum can be leveraged to strengthen bilateral ties further and build strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific vis-a-vis China. “Deepening India-US ties lay a favorable balance of power in Asia and keep a check on authoritarian China’s push for hegemony in the Indo-Pacific. Moreover, the US expects India to play an off-shore balancing role in shaping and correcting the regional architectural balance,”
Professor and dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs Sreeram Chaulia said, adding the US is calling on allies and partners across the Indo-Pacific to help deter China’s aggressive behavior. Under the “hub-and-spoke” model, the US serves as the hub while Asian nations with military ties to it form the spokes. It is a system that helps the US consolidate its policy influence over Asian allies, supervise inter-alliance cooperation, and increase cooperation.
As the Israel-Hamas conflict continues, India has urged both sides to shun violence, de-escalate the situation and create conditions for an early reopening of direct peace negotiations towards a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue. India has historically balanced its relations with the Israelis and the Palestinians. But after the horrific Hamas attack on October 7, India expressed solidarity with Israel while also reiterating its support for a two-state solution.
Former Indian ambassador Mohan Kumar told “The subtle shift in India’s position on the Palestinian issue which was on display is part of the more general shift in India’s foreign policy in getting closer to the US and the West. And Israel has emerged as a trusted partner over the last few years,”.
The conflict has likely put new initiatives on hold, such as an envisioned India-Middle East Economic Corridor and cooperation among the I2U2 grouping of India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.
“India is one of the few countries which can credibly talk to both the Palestinian Authority and to Israel. So, India can potentially play a mediation role. What remains to be seen is whether India will be asked specifically by the two sides to mediate and whether it has the ‘agency’ to do it,” Kumar added.
Meera Shankar, a former envoy to the US, also maintained that while India has supported Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, it has also reiterated its support for a two-state solution and for alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
During Modi’s visit to the US, an ambitious slate of agreements was unveiled, ranging from advanced technology cooperation to climate change and the production of fighter jet engines to investments in semiconductors and countering terrorism. K P Vijayalakshmi, professor and head of geopolitics and international relations at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education said, “We are expecting progress in bilateral strategic defense partnership negotiations especially, by negotiating an early conclusion of security of supply arrangement and the reciprocal defense procurement agreement.”
“India seeks to balance the China challenge by stimulating its partnership with the US, with whom it has signed foundational agreements, enhanced commercial dialogue, and signed the initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET),” added Vijayalakshmi.
New Delhi has invited Biden to India’s Republic Day celebrations as part of its plan to host the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue leaders’ summit in January 2024. “The relationship will get a further fillip if Biden accepts. After that, both countries will be in election mode next year,” said Chaulia.