A lot of hype has been created about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States from 21 June to 23 June 2023. The visit includes not only an address by PM Modi to the joint session of the US Congress but also a state dinner hosted by President Joe Biden. Modi is the 4th foreign dignitary to address the joint session. The earlier three foreign leaders for this honour have been Winston Churchill (British PM during World War-2), Netanyahu (current Israeli PM) and Vladimir Zelensky (current Ukraine President).
All this needs to be viewed in the background of the events of the past, when the US had turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s clandestinely acquiring nuclear technology during Ronald Reagan presidency. Then the US had maintained total silence on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir. Even now it keeps pin-pricking through anti-India elements based in the US.
However, it is certainly a major attempt by the US to seduce India and Modi too. It is happening despite India’s refusal to toe the US line on Russia-Ukraine war. History tells India that the US has not been a trustworthy friend. It behaves like a true businessman, driven by market forces. It is very well known that the US always possessed a forked vision. To be very frank, the US has no love lost with India, especially PM Modi. It is the same Modi who was denied US visa some two decades back, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.
A lesson that India must bear in mind is that the US can change colours like a chameleon. It cannot be wholeheartedly trusted. It is from the US territory that anti-India movements was being carried out, whether it was Hindenburg report or Tool-Kit movement sponsored by George Soros, a US businessman. Its mainstream media such as Washington Post, Wall street Journal, New York Times etc keep rattling off anti-India articles on Khalistan movement, abrogation of articles 370 & 35 A and CAA. It cannot be without some indirect support of the US administration.
Why is India important to the US, in the transforming geo-politics of the globe? One must note that the Russia-Ukraine war is not only affecting Ukraine and Russia but it is also making a paradigm shift in the global power of balance. It is indirectly affecting the US supremacy of the globe. China, under Xi Jinping, is intruding into US areas of influence in the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia. The rumour goes that China is creating a counter-weight alliance of like-minded nations, which besides China, would include Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and North Korea. The announcement of the formation of the alliance is likely to take place on 21-22 September 2023. This is where India fits in as a major factor of “Plan-B” of the US.
According to the latest reports, India is the fourth largest military power behind the US, Russia and China. Economically speaking, it is galloping ahead and reckoned as the fifth largest economy according to nominal GDP and third largest GDP as per PPP (purchasing power parity)
We ought to know US “Plan- A”, before discussing India-centric plan of the US. Plan-A entails mollycoddling China diplomatically and engaging her militarily with Taiwan as it had done in the case of Russia through Ukraine. Mollycoddling involves diplomatic efforts to keep China amused, while providing military support to Taiwan and encouraging the nation of 23 million to stand up against China. It is an onerous desire of the US to seek Chinese invasion of Taiwan and then fix and tie down her there as in case of Russia in Ukraine. If it happens, there goes into thin air Xi Jinping plan of dethroning the US as numero uno global power by 2049!
As part of diplomatic efforts, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was to visit China in February 2023, but the visit was cancelled due to the shooting down of Chinese spy balloon in the US territorial waters near Carolina, on 04 February 2023. The balloon had been in US-Canadian airspace since 28 January 2023. The US authorities had announced that the balloon was for surveillance, while China insisted that it was a weather balloon which had been blown off the course. The US said that the balloon was capable of geolocating electronic communications and carried intelligence surveillance equipment inconsistent with that of a weather balloon. The incident had increased tensions between two nations. The US called the balloon’s presence a violation of its sovereignty.
Coinciding with Modi’s US visit, Antony Blinken visited Beijing on 17-19 June 2023. It is a part of the US efforts to repair the damaged relations since “balloon incident” of February 2023. The visit might also be an effort to checkmate China from poaching upon US allies in the Middle East. During the past few months, China has been able to boo away US allies in the Middle East, as highlighted above. It has been able to broker an unimaginable peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran. China seems to have created a space for itself in the Middle East, West Asia and part of Central Asia
Precisely speaking, India has been recognised as part of the “Plan- B” of US geopolitical strategy. The US wants China to abandon or slowdown in its drive to replace the US as “numero uno” in the world. It is in this context that Brahma Chellany, a famous Indian geo-strategic expert, sees Indo-US relationship as an “Alliance of Convenience”. And there is a much truth in it. India-US friendship is a fait- accompli due to transforming geopolitics.
One must note that India, particularly under Narendra Modi, has very good, rather intimate relations, with Saudi Arabia, UAE and even Iran. India, if favourably tilted towards US, it can checkmate the growing Chinese influence in these countries. Not only this, India can be a good military counter-balance to China. Therefore, the US looks towards India to checkmate China, both militarily and geo-politically. The US would like to see a military confrontation between India and China, immediately or in the near future.
It is in the above context that US has been evaluating India as a value- addition to its foreign policy, as stated by Jack Sullivan, National Security Advisor of US. He had come to India on a two-day visit to India on 13-15 June 2023. He had met Prime Minister Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. It probably was to apprise the duo about what lay in the visit-menu of Modi.
In the changing global balance of power or a transforming geopolitics, it is the US who needs India more than the other way round. According to the latest reports, India is the fourth largest military power behind the US, Russia and China. Economically speaking, it is galloping ahead and reckoned as the fifth largest economy according to nominal GDP and third largest GDP as per PPP (purchasing power parity). Therefore, India is no pushover militarily or otherwise. No wonder, the US had to swallow the insult of Indian refusing to stop the import of Russian oil, despite US sanctions. India would love to enjoy its liberty and freedom to act independently.
If India falls for US charms, it would have to deal with Chinese proxy Pakistan. Some analysts do call it as Chinese autonomous region of Pakistan. It is, undoubtedly, a total sell out to China. To keep Pakistan amused, China will continue its verbal aerobatics on Kashmir. China had refused to Participate in G-20 meet in Srinagar on the plea that it was a disputed territory. It was accompanied on this issue by Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Pakistan has a lot of nuisance value for India. Besides Kashmir, it has ISI-backed Khalistani elements actively and openly operating from England, Germany and Canada. Recent open display of tableau of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s portrait being shot at in Canada by Sikh extremists is a clear indication of ISI support and Canadian government turning a blind eye. Then, the attack by Khalistani extremists on the Indian High Commission in London needs a close look. It is no doubts that UK, Canada and Germany are close allies of the US. India and Modi must ask the US to stop Khalistanis operating from these countries. If the US wants Indian support to checkmate China, it has to accept Indian conditions on Khalistan and ISI activities in these countries. It has to be a two-way traffic. The US cannot have the cake and eat it too.
Any strategic alliance between India and the US has to be built on an equal footing. India does not have to be only a “Giver” or a surrogate of the US. Promises alone won’t work; concrete action is needed on the part of US. India has to seek some kind of a similar treaty as it had done in 1971 with USSR, which would make it incumbent upon US to respond. It would be something more than a military alliance. What is more, the US must stamp the Indian stance on Kashmir. Modi must go beyond the formalities of state dinner or address to the joint session of Senate and Congress. India must extract a huge value for its much-sought tilt towards US. It is time to raise the price because India would be a force multiplier for the US.
-An ex-NDA and Wellington Staff College graduate, Col Rajinder Singh is a renowned author and security analyst. He has authored four books, two individually and two in collaboration. His best-selling books are Kashmir – A Different Perspective and The ULFA Insurgency. The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda