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The Modi Doctrine and the United States: Analysis
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Dr Subhash Kapila | Date:15 Jun , 2016 0 Comments
Dr Subhash Kapila
is a graduate of Royal British Army Staff College Camberley and combines a rich & varied professional experience in Indian Army (Brigadier), Cabinet Secretariat and diplomatic/official assignments in USA, UK, Japan, South Korea, and Bhutan.

The Modi Doctrine christened as such by the Obama Administration in June 2016 was a strategic inevitability from which India shied away in earlier years in defiance of compelling geopolitical and strategic realities.

Indian Prime Minister during his visit to the United States in June 2016 audaciously unshackled India from its “history of hesitations” in forging an unambiguous US-India Strategic Partnership in strategic hues hithertofore absent. Embedded in Modi Doctrine are a vast array of strategic, security, political and economic gains for India and similarly corresponding gains for the United States in terms of United States continued embedment and predominance in Indo Pacific Asia.

The Modi Doctrine seems well-synchronised with the strategic moment when it can be said that the ‘India Card’ has come to the fore in full play. Prime Minister Modi can be said to have audaciously seized the moment to India’s geopolitical and strategic advantage.

Rightfully observed in a Western media report was that the Modi Doctrine marks the transformation of India’s strategic formulations from Non-Alignment to a “Structured Alignment.” One could add that Modi Doctrine’s “structured alignment” with the United States would be one of equitable equations between the world’s most powerful democracy and the world’s largest democracy bound by commonality of strategic convergences synchronising with the changed global and regional strategic narratives.

Reflected on the back-cover of my Book released in January 2016 titled – “CHINA-INDIA MILITARY CONFRONTATION: 21st Century Perspectives” –  was my long-held conviction that: “Evolving geopolitical compulsions and imperatives would ultimately force the United States to dispense with its strategic ambiguities on China and Pakistan and push the United States to stand by India in the intensifying China-India military confrontation. Such a game-changer would ensure that the United States not only stands on the right side of history but also ensures the continued strategic embedment in the Indo Pacific of the United States, with India’s strategic support.”

India today needs the United States strategically as much as the United States needs India with the changed global and Indo Pacific strategic narratives, and this inevitability for both nations was building up from the turn of the millennium.

The statements and assertions made by Prime Minister Modi in his address to the Joint Session of the US Congress signalled to the United States that India has no hesitations in 2016 in moving ahead to a heightened security relationship with the United States to provide some semblance of a security architecture for Indo Pacific Asia in which China with its burgeoning power is not inclined to act as a responsible stakeholder. On the contrary China is perceived as the regional destabiliser and posing a threat to the entire region.

Assumingly, it should be hoped that both the United States and India would give up their respective “China Hedging Strategies” and with existing and evolving strategic convergences work towards the common strategic objective of being the ‘net providers of regional security’ in troubled and turbulent Indo Pacific Asia, more specifically, and consequently in other contiguous regions.

The Modi Doctrine can be said to have strategically united both ends of Indo Pacific Asia into a semblance of a security architecture where United States and India will be able to secure the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean maritime expanses with consequent influence and impact on the Asian littorals that are enjoined to them.

China and Pakistan have been hit hard strategically by the Modi Doctrine as no longer available to them for exploitation are the ambiguities of US policy formulations. Like India, the United States too in response to the Modi Doctrine has signalled strategic shifts in relation to China and Pakistan. China would be continued to be engaged by the United States but absent would be the United States strategic permissiveness at India’s expense of earlier years. Pakistan does not need any more signals from the United States that its strategic utility to the United States is over.

Pakistan’s strategic and security anxieties are already surfacing in Islamabad where the Pakistan Army Chief, the presiding deity of Pakistan’s foreign policies was in huddles with Cabinet Ministers and Pakistani Generals in the wake of PM Modi’s Washington visit.

Barring China and Pakistan, the rest of Asia seems comfortable with the heightened security relationship of India with the United States and would be inclined to invest strategically in the same.

Perceptively, the outcome of the Modi Doctrine would be that henceforth the United States would not be engaged in balancing Pakistan against India but balancing India against China. Obliquely, this switch in US strategy would likely affect the strengthening of the China-Pakistan Axis.

Within India the usual political and policy analysts circles are bemoaning the loss of India’s strategic autonomy with fears that India will end up as United States B-League partner. My retort would be that was not India then a B-League partner of the Soviet Union in the Nehru and Indira Gandhi tenures and to what effect?

It is high time that a resurgent India aspiring to be a global power sheds the disputable piety and redundancy of Non-Alignment and move forward towards strategic pragmatism suiting and propelling India’s rise as a global power.

To the credit of all US Administrations from Clinton, through Bush and now the Obama Presidency of both political dispensations, a constant affirmation was that the United States was committed to the rise of India to its rightful stature. In the last decade and a half, the United States may have reversed gears in response to Chinese and Pakistani sensitivities but in mid-2016 the United States seems to have realised the futility of earlier policy formulations. The United States now would seem to be set on a course of a substantial security relationship with India responding to challenges posed by China to both nations.

There should be no fears in India that with a new President assuming charge in January 2017, India would have prematurely committed itself to an outgoing US Administration. Two things need to be remembered here with the first being that United States strategic investments in India’s rise to a global power enjoy bipartisan support in the United States. Secondly, with PM Modi being in power definitely till 2019 and predictably till 2024, thus provides any new US President with a predictable strategic template of assured Indian strategic commitments to US-India strategic convergences.

Implicit in the Modi Doctrine would be India’s readiness to assume in coming decades regional power and Big Power responsibilities in consonance with its enhanced power profile. India would have to take this call as the United States, Japan and other Asian countries, excepting China and Pakistan, would expect India to do so.

Concluding, one feels tempted to quote again from my above referred Book on Page 209 referring to India’s acceptance of Big Power and regional power responsibilities which reads that: “In such an eventuality it can be assessed that the United States would have no problems in working with India as a Big Power and then only can a meaningful “US-India G-2” management of Asian security may be possible, unlike the much China-hyped US-China G-2  combination which Asian countries find unacceptable,”


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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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