India and US “Suffer Major Deficits with China,” Says US official

Foreign Affairs

New Delhi: The Biden-Harris administration does not view Sino-Indian confrontation “simply as a potential military escalation in the pain points that we look at, like South China Sea and Taiwan Straits,” said Richard M. Rossow, senior adviser and who holds the Wadhwani Chair in  US – India policy studies at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

In a discussion on  major areas of convergence between India and the US with respect to the Biden-Harris administration’s National Security Strategy, 2022, on CUTS Strategic Forum, he said “there were some concerns, I think, originally when the Biden administration came to office whether the administration would kind of continue its escalating tension with China, continue with the concept of Indo-Pacific as our primary kind of security architecture.”

As has been spelt out in the National Secuirty Strategy of the Biden Administration  which was unveiled in October, it had referred to India as a democracy and a like-minded country, and that  New Delhi remains a key partner, from the Indo-Pacific to the Quad.

“We will deepen our cooperation with democracies and other like-minded states. From the Indo-Pacific Quad (Australia, India, Japan, United States) to the US-EU Trade and Technology Council, from AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom, United States) to I2-U2 (India, Israel, UAE, United States), we are creating a latticework of strong, resilient, and mutually reinforcing relationships that prove democracies can deliver for their people and the world,” it said.

It noted that the Quad, which has addressed regional challenges, will now seek to deepen cybersecurity partnerships and to promoting high standards for infrastructure and health security.

“Our intelligence relationships with our allies are a strategic asset that will increasingly factor in to our competition with our rivals, especially in technological competition,” it added.

However, Rossow said that “we (US) are trying to move towards QUAD and even deepening the relationship with India. I think you have seen that since the Biden administration came to office, the QUAD has escalated to the leaders level, the engagement with India’s pace of confrontation with China.

“So, if your looking at the National Security Strategy, I think from India’s vantage point, its kind of a reaffirmation. We look at the (Sino-Indian) confrontation not simply as a potential military escalation like in the pain points that we look at, like South China Sea and Taiwan Straits, but in fact that the administration continues to kind of expand and widen the aperture.”

According to Rossow, “we realize China’s attempts to dominate certain areas of commercial transactions, whether its critical minerals or strategic technologies, it is also part of its military strategy.”

He felt that the two countries (India and US) “appear to share that view. We both suffer major deficits with China. We are both concerned about over reliance on China for important materials and technology. So I say that looking at the National Security Strategy, I think India’s takeaway is a reaffirmation of the partnership with India and like QUAD, the widening of the aperture in terms of areas we want to engage.”

As the National Security Strategy of the Biden Administration spelt out its relations with China,  stating that it would  “prioritize maintaining an enduring competitive edge over the PRC (People’s Republic of China) while constraining a still profoundly dangerous Russia,” it said, adding, “The PRC is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it.”

The US also said that China has ambitions to “create an enhanced sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and to become the world’s leading power”.

“It is using its technological capacity and increasing influence over international institutions to create more permissive conditions for its own authoritarian model, and to mould global technology use and norms to privilege its interests and values,” it said.

The US’ security strategy also pointed to the fact that Beijing is investing in its military, ”rapidly modernizing” it, and making it “increasingly capable in the Indo-Pacific”, and ensuring it was “growing in strength and reach globally — all the while seeking to erode US alliances in the region and around the world”. Washington has charted out a three-pronged strategy to deal with China — to invest, to align and to compete.

 “Competition with the PRC is most pronounced in the Indo-Pacific, but it is also increasingly global. Around the world, the contest to write the rules of the road and shape the relationships that govern global affairs is playing out in every region and across economics, technology, diplomacy, development, security, and global governance,” it said.

As part of the move to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which was the brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jingping to spread China’s influence in the developing world with special focus on Africa and Asia, the US spearheaded a G7 move called B3W (Build Back Better World) to provide financial and technological help to meet US$ 40 trillion for the infrastructure needs “in the low and middle income countries,” which were hit hard by the pandemic COVID 19.

The West viewed with sceptism the BRI launched in 2013  as it was considered to be part of China’s larger strategy to increase geopolitical influence in Asia and other developing countries. The US, along with G7 partners the UK, Japan, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, and the European Union (EU), had in 2021 announced the launch of the Build Back Better World (B3W) with the aim of narrowing the $40 trillion infrastructure gap in the developing world.

On June 26 this year,   Biden along with his G7 allies unveiled the ambitious Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), which was a relaunch of the B3W launched in 2021 and was the collective mobilisation of $600 billion by 2027 to deliver “game-changing” and “transparent” infrastructure projects to developing and middle-income countries. The PGII is being seen as the G7’s counter to China’s multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build connectivity, infrastructure, and trade projects in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America.

Rossow felt that “there is a pretty good overlap between our countries. So this should give confidence to Delhi policy makers that we are in it for the long haul and that partnerships and foundations are pretty secure.”

As indicated by him, New Delhi and Washington are forging closer relationship with three main objectives of Invest, Build and Modernize.