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Conflicting views on Indo-Pacific concept

iasparliament
November 08, 2018
6 days
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What is the issue?

There are conceptual differences between India and US on the concept of Indo-Pacific.

What is the conflicting perception on Indo-pacific?

  • The Indo-Pacific, as described in the National Security Strategy document of U.S., represents the most populous and economically dynamic part of the world.
  • It stretches from the west coast of India to the western shores of the United States.
  • There are prevailing views in India that through “Indo-Pacific”, U.S. has made India the central point of its strategy.
  • India has tended to present the term “Indo-Pacific” as raising India’s strategic stature.
  • But the NSS document of 2017, which outlined America’s top security concerns, have corroborated the Indian interpretation.
  • U.S. has hailed Vietnam as being at the very heart of the Indo-Pacific at the APEC Summit last year.
  • The NSS 2017 also views the ASEAN and APEC as centerpieces of the Indo-Pacific’s regional architecture.
  • Thus, this part of the strategic vision does not cater to India’s interests.
  • The NSS 2017 has omitted some of India’s most vital interests, including the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
  • Also left out is the Strait of Malacca, which links the Indian and Pacific Oceans and is India’s gateway to trade with Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea.
  • India too, in recent times, hailed ASEAN as the foundation of the Indo-Pacific and asserted that a geographical definition could not be a strategy to contain any country.

What are the views regarding countering China?

  • The concept of the Indo-Pacific, as perceived by U.S., seeks to counter China’s assertiveness in Asia.
  • China is the main security threat to U.S. primacy in Asia and it also has a long-standing border dispute with India.
  • This gives India and the U.S. a shared interest in countering China’s growing military power and territorial revisionist tendencies.
  • The NSS 2017 recognises that China’s military power rests on its economic progress.
  • To blunt China’s competitive edge, U.S. focusses on –
  1. protecting American jobs through its “America first” policy
  2. ensuring reciprocal bilateral trade practices
  3. the key role of the private sector in directing investment
  • Thus, Business engagement with Asian countries is at the centre of the U.S.’s strategy for a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.
  • However, for India, only defence cooperation is the most significant dimension of the India-U.S. strategic partnership.
  • Also, maritime power is the key to international clout in the 21st century.
  • About 90% of India’s trade passes through the Indian Ocean and while India has less than 20 submarines in service, China holds a larger number of 78 submarines.
  • Thus India demanded intelligence-sharing and drones from the U.S. at the 2+2 Dialogue to detect Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean.
  • Significantly, of India’s three services, its Navy gets around 15% of the defence budget.
  • But the U.S. Navy and Marines get the lion’s share of the U.S. military budget.
  • Moreover, in April 2017, China successfully launched its second aircraft carrier, which was domestically built.
  • But it will be many years before India’s second home-built aircraft carrier becomes operational.
  • All these made the U.S. sceptical about India’s capacity to counter the growing influence of China in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

How useful is India to the U.S. in the region?

  • The NSS says that prosperous states are stronger security partners who are able to share the burden of confronting common threats.
  • However, China’s economy ($14 trillion) is nearly five times bigger than India’s, and its defence spending ($228 billion) is far more than India’s $63 billion.
  • U.S. also wants India to offer more investment to Asian countries.
  • But India needs Chinese investment to upgrade its own infrastructure and is nowhere near competing successfully against China as an investor in Southeast Asia.
  • In 2016, two-way trade between India and ASEAN moved up to $71.6 billion.
  • In contrast, two-way trade between China and ASEAN stood at more than $452 billion.
  • Moreover, U.S.’s contemptuous labelling of India as the “tariff king” points to strong differences between the two countries over trade practices.
  • The U.S. has sold nearly $15 billion worth of arms to India over the last 10 years.
  • However, U.S. perceives Russia as a security threat and it stresses interoperability with U.S. armed forces.
  • It has also expressed displeasure at India’s recent decision to buy the S-400 missile system from Russia.
  • This shows that U.S. aims to help American defence firms compete successfully against Russian and Chinese arms manufacturers.
  • But India depends on U.S. and Russia for most of its arms and on the U.S. and China for much of its trade.
  • This shows India’s simultaneous efforts to cultivate good relations with the U.S., Russia and China.
  • All these highlights the conceptual differences between India and U.S. on the Indo-Pacific and on how best to counter China in Asia.

 

Source: The Hindu

 

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