The United States (US) and India entered into strategic partnership in 2004. It was made as an integral part of the former’s China containment policy to counter its growing influence in world affairs. Over the past one year the sphere of cooperation between the two partners is growing and expanding. US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo and Secretary Defence Mark T Esper are visiting India for 2+2 meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Raj Nath Singh. This is the third such meeting between the two countries during the past two years, in which matters pertaining to closer cooperation in the areas of defence, maritime security, trade and investment and defence production will come up for discussion. The US has already hinted of lending support to India for the UNSC upcoming term.
The statement released from the State Department depicts India as emerging world power and its growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. In this regard the stament refers to the recent Quadrilateral Ministerial meeting held in Tokyo between the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his counterparts from Japan, Australia and India.
The US wants to give India a strategic role in South China Sea. The contents of State Department Press Release emphasises the need for multilateral mechanism for creating a resilient supply chain with increased maritime security. In 2019, the US and India held tri-service military exercise in which the US Navy, Marine, Air Force and Army participated. The Navies of Japan and Australia had also participated in Malbar US-India Naval exercise.
The strategic partnership was taken to new height in December. 2019. The Foreign and Defence Ministers of the two countries met in Washington DC to expand the scope of cooperation in the Indian Ocean. The tri-services military drill was its first manifestation, which was followed by a series of joint exercises. In that meeting it was agreed to give India access to the US Central Command and African Command. In other words the strategic partnership between the countries will not be confined to Indo-Pacific region but will extend to the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf and Middle East.
The US and India have signed Industrial Security Annex (ISA). It contains of security protocols to permit the transfer of sensitive defence technology to Indian private sector industries that manufacture war goods. It will certainly tilt the balance of sophisticated military hardware towards India and against Pakistan, least impacting China. It will give dangerous momentum to arms race in the region. The transfer of this technology will enable India to become one of the leading arms exporters. It remains to be seen as to whether India will have a free hand in the export of sophisticated weapon systems or the agreement for the transfer of sensitive defence technology include some remote control in the hands of US. It may be recalled that Pakistan’s deal for the purchase of fighter jet with Sweden did not materialise in mid-70s due to strong opposition from the United States.
US-India strategic partnership also has visible implications for China’s One Built One Road Initiative (BRI) of global trade connectivity, of which China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a flagship project. Gawadar deep sea port will serve as major outlet for Chinese exports to the Middle East and Africa. ‘Likewise, Gawadar Free Trade Zone will be a hub of foreign investment and trade. It was because of these reasons that both US and India showed open animosity towards CPEC. In July, 2018, Mike Pompeo had opposed the idea of IMF bailout, pleading that fund money is contributed by the American taxpayers and must not be used for retiring Chinese debt acquired by Pakistan for development projects under the umbrella of CPEC. Prior to this, the US Secretary of State had criticised the BRI during his visit of India in June, 2018. The BRI had been boycotted by India and the US, which include the $60 billion CPEC that pass through Pakistan. Hence, this dimension of US-India strategic partnership cannot be ignored.