India in US Strategic Rebalance in Asia-Pacific
A perceptional improvement in India’s global strategic profile by way of its growing economy and defence capability, has found India a significant place in United States (US) strategic schema since the end of cold-War in 1990’s. Most significant impact is expected in the defence ties of the two nation. From being a country prohibited from defence procurement of crucial high-technology transfers, India in recent years has become a recipient of major defence platforms and technology including the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Deal (2006) necessitating amendments to US domestic law and requirement for legislative approval. The recent visit of US President to India on the eve of its 66th Republic Day, the first ever by a US President, is noted to be shaping the defining relationship of the 21st century.
…the US has become one of India’s largest suppliers of defense items over the last three years…
With a strategic partnership rooted in their shared democratic values, the US and India share a wide-range of critical national interest, from expanding trade and defense relationships, to ensuring maritime security and freedom of navigation; from countering terrorist networks, to promoting clean energy and sustainable development. Two-way trade between US and India has increased five-fold since 2001 to nearly $100 billion annually and on the defense front, the US has become one of India’s largest suppliers of defense items over the last three years and active discussions continue on identifying projects for co-production and development as an agreement to renew the about-to-terminate 10-year Defense Framework Agreement (June, 2005-June, 2015).
Across Asia, U.S. and Indian interests are converging. India has been called the lynchpin of US Asia rebalance. With India’s Look East, and now Act East policies, the two countries, according to US, can play a critically important role together in bolstering peace and security and promoting a rules-based, liberal, democratic order in the Indo-Pacific region. In recent statements by President Obama and other senior diplomats, India has been referred to as a “Global Partner” and “Indispensable Partner.” In US strategic schema India is a – “regional power”, “emerging global power”, and “security provider” in the Indo-Pacific region. However, India is yet to realize its potential in this regard and US strategic partnership with India seeks to “help”India in realising this potential. Apart from the Defence Framework Agreement, US seeks to enhance its defence relations with India through the US-India Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DDTI). This initiative seeks to emphasis on co-production, co-development, procurement, and sale in defence sector by remaining sensitive to the off-set clauses requirement and transparency in defence trade. US further encouraged by the recent policy of the Indian government to allow for 49% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in defence production.
Apart from the Defence Framework Agreement, US seeks to enhance its defence relations with India through the US-India Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DDTI).
India conducted military exercises such as RIM-PAC at Hawaii and is part of Malabar Exercise (Naval) with US where Japan is also a invited participant. In 2007, China had objected when four countries – Australia, India, Japan and the US – had participated in Malabar. The US is committed to facilitating India’s admission into all four global technology control regimes – the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group. The joint statement issued on Prime Minister Modi’s visit to US, the (US) President affirmed that India meets MTCR requirements and is ready for membership in the NSG and supported India’s early application and eventual membership in all four regimes. In addition US supports India’s membership to Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation with the expectation that India will consider joining the US led free trade initiative TPP. India is supportive of the China-ASEAN lead free trade initiative of RCEP. At the Joint Press Statement made on 25 January, 2015 US President mentioned his support for India as a permanent member of United Nations Security Council.
However, despite the gaining momentum there is frustration amongst US policy makers over both the clarity and deliverability of its strategic partnership with India. Prior to agreeing the New Defence Framework Agreement(2005), in 1995, Washington and New Delhi signed an Agreed Minute on Defence Relations, which was valid for 10 years. With the need to renew the terminating “Defence Framework Agreement” on 27 June, 2015, India’s call to draft a new agreement with the same title was disagreed to by US. The 2005 agreement enjoined both sides to collaborate in 13 specific areas, including: participation in multinational operations; expanding two-way defence trade; expanding collaboration on missile defence; conducting exchanges on defence strategy; and increasing intelligence cooperation. Much of this was anathema for the Indian government to deliver. US is therefore focused on a agreement which can be realised on ground.
United States does acknowledge that India cautiously avoids a committed behaviour with in an agreed strategic partnership given India’s ambiguity over US policies with respect to Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and People’s Republic of China. While India may share tables with other US allies such as Australia, Japan and United Kingdom, it is reluctant to be a ally in the same sense and share responsibility. India is perceived to preserving its strategic autonomy and securing its international position in long-term by remaining flexible admist changing geo-political scenarios. US remains sensitive to India’s strategic equation with regional powers in Asia which are historical, cultural, and strategic. India is expected to not disrupt its geopolitical calculation in Asia for meeting with the objectives of Indo-US strategic partnership. In their meeting with the Modi government, the members of the Senates Foreign Relations Committee realised the value of economic partnership with US government and private sector for India more than the geo-political strategic engagement in Indo-Pacific region as it is for US. In 2013-14 US Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stood at 6 billion US $, in comparison to 44 billion US $ by Singapore and 37 billion US $ by Mauritius.
For US, India is a key player in restructuring the balance of power in Asia.
For US, India is a key player in restructuring the balance of power in Asia. Asian economies are now a key drivers of world economy and have increased their military profile thereby altering the geo-political landscape. A regional hegemon opposed to the international world order is not in US national interest and therefore it’s requirement to intervene in Asian power-politics in such a way that no single nation acquires the wherewithal to dominate regional power structure. In its quest to do so, US has strengthened its existing alliance with Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Philippine and equip New Zealand, Republic of China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Singapore to adequately challenge the emergence of a regional hegemon. US also improves its own military presence in the region by relocating a significant part of its cutting edge military hardware in the Asia-Pacific region. The first batch of F-35 strike aircraft is likely to find a operational base in Guam.
Foremost on US agenda in Asia is the maintenance of Freedom of Navigation (FoN) for free flow of goods and services via Indian Ocean Region (IOR),South China Sea (SCS), and the Pacific. However linking FoN with international trade is inappropriate as FoN works in interest of all nations located within a globalised trading system. FoN are more firmly located in US military doctrines which is now operationalised in terms of Air-Sea Battle doctrine (ASB), where a swift movement of US expeditionary force across all domains (Air, Sea, Ground, Cyber-Space) is vital in concentrating US forces for decisive military engagement. This necessity further gains currency given the increased Anti-Area/Area-Denial (A2-AD) capabilities among Asian powers (China, Iran) which restrict US capacity to project power. In November, 2013 China self-imposed a Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) with a view to limit US aerial surveillance and military power projection. Such moves are construed as having a negative bearing on US interests in Asia and therefore destabilizing. US in this regard views Indian Navy as a collaborator in achieving its interest at sea.
A US withdrawal strategy based on an political understanding with the Pashtun tribe and Pakistan military is not in favor to India’s national interest and of that of the region.
In recent years Indian Navy has acquired significant naval platforms from US which range from large amphibious surface vessel to P-81 Maritime Patrol Aircraft. For ASB doctrine to be realised, it not only requires a US ability to work jointly with friends and allies, but have compatibility in the operational doctrines, naval platforms and joint training. Prior to initiating transfer of military hardware and technology to India in 1990’s, US had valued India’s extensive capacity in military training establishments to train and equip military personnel and bureaucrats from Afghanistan and Iraq. India was also valued for its unique military property in having expertise in mountain warfare, desert warfare, counter-insurgency operations, counter-terrorist operations, high-altitude warfare, jungle warfare, and management of a military with diverse ethnicity.
Here in lies the fundamental tension or contradiction in the Indo-US strategic partnership with US perceiving India as a potential component of its balance of power in Asia and India’s requirement for US to play a proactive role in realising its economic potential by way of investment in capital, manufacturing, education, skill development and technology transfer. How much US and India meet each others strategic requirement and make necessary compromises in doing so will decide the future course of this relationship in years to come.
For example, India, in order to increase US participation in its economic growth may have to open its economy further and adapt its many trade regimes such as export-import tariffs and patent laws. With an economic freedom score of 54.6 out of 100, India ranked 128th freest economy in the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom evaluating economic conditions and government policies in 186 countries and 26th out of 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. US on the other hand has to be clear on its long term strategic posturing with countries such as Iran, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, for India to commit to a consistent behaviour in line with the agreed strategic partnership. For example, India disagrees to an total withdrawal by US forces in Afghanistan by 2015 and rather expects a step-by-step phased withdrawal. A US withdrawal strategy based on an political understanding with the Pashtun tribe and Pakistan military is not in favor to India’s national interest and of that of the region.
 According to International Monetory Fund India is expected to grow at 6.3 per cent this year and 6.5 per cent in 2016 by when it is likely to cross China’s projected growth rate. “India’s growth Rate to Overtake China in 2016” AFP, 21 January, 2015. Note: Chinese media report mocked such claims.
 Former Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh (2004-2014 ) hailed this deal to be the foremost amongst the achievements made by his government in the area of foreign policy. While this deal was signed in 2006, US companies still have not been able to participate in Indian nuclear energy market.
 The term “Defining Relationship[ of the 21st Century” was used by President Barrack Obama on several occasions during the visit to New Delhi. Statement of Richard R. Verma Nominee for Ambassador to India Senate Foreign Relations Committee, December 2, 2014. Available at http://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Verma_Testimony.pdf.
 The US-India joint statement “welcomed the decision to renew for 10 more years the 2005 Framework for the US-India Defence Relationship”. No new agreement has been negotiated so far; this is only a decision to renew the old agreement that expires on June 27, 2015.
 According to Mr.Kane at Foreign Relations Sub-Committee (SD-419) claims the defence relations between India and US is worth 10 Billion US $ and growing.
 The term Indo-Pacific region is a recent addition to US strategic lexicon which intends give India a role in the broad Asia-Pacific concept.
 Chairman Menendez’s Opening Remarks at Nomination Hearing for Tony Blinken to be Deputy Secretary of State.November 19, 2014.
 Indispensable Partners – Reenergizing U.S.-India Ties, Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs. Wednesday, July 16, 2014
 “Indispensable Partners – Reenergizing U.S.-India Ties”, Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs. Wednesday, July 16, 2014 ,Dr. Amy Searight (2014), Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia U.S. Department of Defense Washington , DC.
 During Modi’s visit to Washington, the two sides decided “to establish a Task Force to expeditiously evaluate and decide on unique projects and technologies which would have a transformative impact on bilateral defense relations”. Indispensable Partners – Reenergizing U.S.-India Ties, Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs. Wednesday, July 16, 2014 Nisha D. Biswal, Assistant Secretary For South And Central Asian Affairs, US Department of State, Washington DC.
 For example Lockheed and TATA co-produce certain components of C-130 at Hyderabad.
 Ajai Shukla (2014), “Baby Steps Forward in US-India Defence Ties” Business Standard, 3 October, 2014.
 Dr.Amy Searight (2014), Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia U.S. Department of Defense Washington , DC.
 The Annual Report By The Heritage Foundation, In Collaboration With The Wall Street Journal cited in “India is 128th Freest Economy” Bangalore Mirror, 29 January, 2015; p.7.