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Indo-US nexus in Indian Ocean & beyond

The Pentagon is renaming its oldest and largest military command to reflect the growing importance of the Indian Ocean in US strategic thinking, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday.

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The Pentagon is renaming its oldest and largest military command to reflect the growing importance of the Indian Ocean in US strategic thinking, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday. From now on, the storied US Pacific Command, or PACOM, which was formed after World War II, will be known as the Indo-Pacific Command.

The name change is largely symbolic for now, and won’t immediately result in any shifts in the command’s boundaries or assets across the vast area stretching from the western part of India to America’s Pacific coastline.

“I think India is the biggest strategic opportunity for the US. We share democratic values, we share the same concerns, and we operate more frequently in the Indo-Pacific region together,” Harris said.

“In recognition of the increasing connectivity between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, today we rename the US Pacific Command to US Indo-Pacific Command,” Mattis said in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. “Over many decades this command has repeatedly adapted to changing circumstance and today carries that legacy forward as America focuses west.”

Read more: The Indian Illusion: Denying Anti-Iranian Sanctions While Implementing Them

The name change is part of Washington’s efforts to counter China’s growing influence across the Asia-Pacific domain; even though critics say President Donald Trump has ceded considerable regional leadership.

Trump has pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreed in 2015 by a dozen nations that accounted for 40 percent of the global economy. The remaining 11 countries are moving forward with the deal without Washington, leaving America with a diminished say on regional trade rules and creating an opening for Beijing.

According to experts, US has made India a strategic partner against China as it had declared Pakistan a strategic partner against Russia in the Afghan war. The earlier cold war was a bipolar contest and the current Peaceful Rise of China is also being constructed by the US as such. India also has the plus point of becoming an arms dumping ground for the US. For Washington, containing China is as important as was containing Russia through Pakistan.

From now on, the storied US Pacific Command, or PACOM, which was formed after World War II, will be known as the Indo-Pacific Command.

India is the “biggest strategic opportunity” for the US with New Delhi showing more openness to strengthen bilateral security ties, a top Pentagon commander has said, underlining a mutual desire for global stability and support for the rules-based international order, according to media resources.

On 17 March 2018, Admiral Harry Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee, that the Quad, comprising of India, US, Japan and Australia – is an important idea of like-minded nations that can go after the challenges in the Indo Pacific region.

Read more: Pakistan and India agree to abide by 2003 ceasefire

In his prepared testimony, Harris said the US and India are natural partners on a range of political, economic, and security issues. “I think India is the biggest strategic opportunity for the US. We share democratic values, we share the same concerns, and we operate more frequently in the Indo-Pacific region together,” Harris said.

Over the past year, US and Indian militaries participated together in three major exercises, executed more than 50 other military exchanges, and operationalized the 2016 Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA).

Meanwhile, Indonesia and India pledged on Wednesday (May 30) to step up a defence and maritime cooperation, with plans to develop a strategic Indonesian naval port in the Indian Ocean, the leaders of the two countries said after meeting in Jakarta.

The earlier cold war was a bipolar contest and the current Peaceful Rise of China is also being constructed by the US as such.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss, among other issues, developing infrastructure and an economic zone at Sabang, on the tip of Sumatra island and at the mouth of the Malacca Strait, one of the busiest shipping channels for global trade.

“India is a strategic defence partner … and we will continue to advance our cooperation in developing infrastructure, including at Sabang Island and the Andaman Islands,” Widodo told a news conference after the meeting at the presidential palace.

Analysts say the move comes amid concerns over China’s rising maritime influence in the region, and is part of Modi’s “Act East” policy of developing stronger ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Modi this year invited the leaders of all ten ASEAN nations to attend New Delhi’s Republic Day parade, the biggest such gathering of foreign leaders at the annual event.


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