US-India Defense Ties

By Tyela Shaffan

Great powers are often viewed by a worldview that is widely shared from generation to generation—a strategic culture, and a good deal of firmness in vision and strategic priorities. The present visions of the U.S. and Indian elites go back to roughly World War II. The United States desired to create war or cold war like situation to create a world order in which its economic and ideological interests would be ensured; this vision was implemented through a strategy of alliance, institution-building and democracy-promotion. The implementation of each nation’s strategy after World War II led to friction. In America’s case, while India was the leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid, Pakistan was built up as a mainstay against Communist expansion, and defense ties with India only complicated relations with Pakistan.

Since India’s independence, ties with the United States have weathered Cold War-era distrust and estrangement over India’s nuclear program. Relations have warmed in recent years and cooperation has strengthened across a range of economic and political areas. India-U.S. ties have been transformed in recent years, best exemplified with the newly declared global strategic partnership between the two countries. While advancing towards a drastic change, U.S. President Barrack Obama’s affirmation in 2010 that “the United States looks forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member” was viewed as a major evolution in the U.S. position. However up to now, the United States has not plainly characterized its position on the development of the United Nations Security Council, because of the way that U.S. openness to India’s promise for lasting participation on the committee stays at a revelatory stage.

Similarly, while past joint U.S.-India statements have repeatedly spoken about India’s membership in the four export control regimes, and, India has been declared ready for Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) as well as Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) membership, so far no tangible progress has occurred. But now, the two countries have changed their approach towards the defense ties and moved towards its practical implementation. The two countries recently signed a defense pact that would have a huge impact on their strategic position. The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) is the latest one. They are also finalizing two foundational agreements — the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA). The logistics agreement provides for each country to use the other for supplies, spare parts, services and refueling. Effectively, US armed forces can operate out of Indian bases, and India can use US bases across the globe. The United States already recognizes India as a Major Defense Partner, helped it join the Missile Technology Control Regime and is willing to provide licenses for top US defense technology.

Here is what conspiracy lies behind the strategic binds. Now nothing is left vague, it is crystal clear to show the real cause of abrupt strategic relations between the two states. In international politics, all ligatures have its genesis in some diplomatic means. If we go back to history, then India was not showing any firm behavior towards the strategic ties with US. But now, quick step towards defense relations are the clear outcomes of the security threats from Pak-China economic bands. The agreement was a key part of the Obama’s administration strategy to contain China, which has been spreading its influence across Asia. This is needed to be pointed out that unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, where the US had to build everything from scratch, India already had the military facilities the United States could use when needed. India remained on hostile terms with China and this hostility had moved from border disputes to economic and strategic competition for influence.

The analyzed truth lies that the US would like to use the LEMOA to counter China’s growing military might, particularly airbases in the South China Sea. But the agreement would allow India and the US also to use each other’s facilities against their common enemy, religious terrorism. CPEC has an alarming impact on India’s security conditions and US regional influence. Reflecting the background of US strategic ties with countries, there is always despondency for the latter ones. One of the LEMOA’s objectives is to counter terrorism, throws back our thoughts to the time of ‘war on terror’, when Pakistan shook hand with US to fight against terrorism and herself became the biggest victim of terror, lost with her sovereignty. The bases which Pakistan provided to counter terrorism became the red carpet for drone strikes in her own soil. So now there is an inquest that the defense relations between US and India allowing each other to use their bases would result in comprehending the regional influence-strong strategic partners, or that would be a call for another ‘war on terror’.

The writer can be reached at: shaffan95@yahoo.com

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