Partnership: US and India | Pakistan Today

Partnership: US and India

  • The social divisions in India drag her down

Tillerson had not long ago stated his views on US and India relations, “I want to be a partner with another democracy; I don’t want to partner with these other countries that do not operate with the same values.” The term ‘same values’ is an open ended subjective term!

The opinion about India has recently changed to being upcoming, tech-smart nation of people ready to become a power to be reckoned with. Favourable op-eds, reports by think-tanks, TV shows and books all project a picture of ‘shining India’ that can play the role of a strategic ally of US in containing China. The quickening pace of China in spreading her influence in the region has increased pressure on US to move closer to India in covering US back in maintaining her regional hegemony, effectively counter balancing Chinese presence and keeping her out of the Indian Ocean.

India, however, has pressures of her own that can seriously restrict her ability to deliver on US expectations. India’s finances need to be invested on domestic priorities. In spite of growth of Indian economy, GDP has not grown likewise creating inequality leading to many who are under educated or untrained for doing jobs as well as large numbers being unemployed as a direct result.

Internal insurgencies have pulled her back from realising her full potential. Kashmir ‘insurgency’ (if it can be so called being forcibly occupied by India), the Maoist insurgency (the Naxalites) still need attention of forces. In July 2018, the CRPF had decided to undertake more counter-insurgency operations in Naxal-hit areas.

The social divisions in India drag her down. This seriously endangers the social stability of the society. Modi’s decision to make the Hindus stronger than other religious sections of the society is creating a religious and ethnical imbalance that will continue to hurt India long after Modi is gone.

Though the funds that India has spent in Afghanistan have created a good will for her — the fact that India is no position to influence the political future of Afghanistan

On Northeast side of India, separatist rebellions since the 1950s have poses a challenge to her ability to ingress in the Southeast Asia.

US needs to understand the limitations on India to deliver. India cannot and indeed should not sacrifice her national interest-based policies at the altar of US expectations. The growing Chinese influence in the region has created urgency with both the nations to realise a shared set of concern in this regard. This understanding of common interests was reflected in the US-India nuclear agreement during the second George W. Bush administration.

US and Indian ties have strengthened on many levels like military cooperation, trade agreements. “Just as trade is bringing the United States and India together economically, China’s military actions are bringing them together strategically.” (National Review: February 1, 2018)

All is not a bed of roses however.

Seven agreements were signed between Indian and Russian companies at the Defense Expo in Chennai between governments of India and Russia on availability of spare parts for defense equipment this country had bought from there, after year-long talks stated; Business Standard. The Russian Company JSC AGAT signed agreements for after-sale support and modernisation of the Fregat radar, installed on Indian naval ships. At the end of first quarter of 2018 policy makers have been pushing for US sanctions against Russia for her alleged role in Syria and Ukraine besides interfering in the US presidential elections. In April this year India’s defense minister committed to go ahead with the purchase of long-range S-400 air defense system from Russia. Originally signed in October 2016, the deal was not executed over price agreement differences. This purchase violates a law Trump signed in August 2017 for Russian meddling in US elections 2016. An implementation of this law can have a severe negative cascading impact on US-India relations.

There is another sensitive side to the US-Indian relationship. This is how exactly India can help US in Afghanistan. India may be able to help in certain areas but will not be able to deliver on US expectations on crucial issues. “We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan. But India makes billions of dollars in trade from the United States and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development,” said Trump on his speech on Afghanistan where he pledged to win an ongoing war for 16 years. Suhasini Haider, diplomatic affairs editor for the Hindu newspaper, noted in a tweet that Trump’s comment of giving billions of dollars to India was somewhat “snarky.” (Washington Post August 22, 2017) US expectation of Indian help in Afghanistan is from pre-Trump era. It was in 2016 that the US had ‘favored’ greater Indian military support in Afghanistan.

‘India has already provided four Mi-25 helicopters to Afghanistan’ and India also provides military training to thousands of Afghan Security Personnel.’ Training of Afghan security personnel that will collapse and be overrun by Taliban soon once US exits Afghanistan. If they leave Afghanistan.

Can India have boots on ground in Afghanistan if needed?

Can India bring the Taliban to the negotiating table? Though the funds that India has spent in Afghanistan have created a good will for her — the fact that India is no position to influence the political future of Afghanistan puts her on the second or third rung of the ladder — taking away a dominating position from her in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has come to mean different things for different stakeholders involved. The report to Congress by inspectors general of the Pentagon, the State Department and the US Agency for International Development in May 2018 states that the Trump strategy for Afghanistan though ‘revamped’ leaves the country “dangerous and volatile.” (The Associated Press 22 May 2018)

The report further states; combined with stepped-up Afghan offensives, “further raises the risk of civilian casualties, insider attacks, US casualties, and other conflict-related violence.” In-spite of strikes the US and the Indian trained Afghan security forces have been unable to take away much of a territory from Taliban.

“Given that the Taliban views the Afghan government as a US puppet, it is unclear how US-supported elections would increase the legitimacy of the Afghan government in the eyes of the Taliban and would pressure the militants to reconcile,” the report said.

India’s utility to US in Afghanistan is extremely restrictive. US need to be clear as to what US wants from India in Afghanistan. It is not in India’s favour to stretch herself militarily in Afghanistan. It does not co-relate with her national domestic and foreign policies.

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: [email protected] and tweets at @yasmeen_9.