Saleem Akhtar Malik|
Conceived in 2009 as the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, the mechanism has been the primary forum to advance “shared objectives in regional security, economic cooperation, defense, trade, and climate challenge”.
In January 2015, President Obama and Prime Minister Modi elevated this mechanism to the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, with the avowed objectives of “reflecting the United States and India’s shared priorities of generating economic growth, creating jobs, improving the investment climate, and strengthening the middle class in both countries.”
The US Navy plans to deploy 60 percent of its surface ships in the Indo-Pacific in the near future. Unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, where the US had to build everything from scratch,
President Trump has pushed the Indo-US cooperation a step forward by calling upon India to help the US in Afghanistan, ostensibly in the area of economic assistance and development. However, the implied objective of this upped cooperation is the prospect of a major Indian presence to goad Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban and deny them sanctuary.
Doing so, Trump has pleased his Indian policymakers with his blunt warning to Pakistan to stop “housing the very terrorists that we are fighting”. The Dialogue has provided a mechanism that aims to unify the often divergent strategic aspirations of the US and India on a common platform by focusing on the commonalities of interests.
This article will focus on the security dimension of the cooperation. The analysis will give the readers a fair idea of how the US intends to bring India within her global security matrix. The major security aspects of the Dialogue include:
Prospects for Indian “boots” on the Afghan Soil
Since the post 9/11US intervention in Afghanistan, the Pentagon, and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force have groped around for troops to fight a resilient Taliban insurgency. According to the Indian defense analysts, India could easily spare tens of thousands of soldiers for Afghanistan from its 1.4 million-strong military.
India is looking toward Sweden’s Saab JS-39 Gripen as a likely replacement. However, Gripen’s engine and critical systems are of American origin, which compounds India’s dilemma.
However lucrative it may seem to the Indians to have their boots on the Afghan soil, when we try to feel their pulse, we find them wary of jumping into the Afghan cauldron. As the things go, it is expected that the Indians will remain content with their 5th generation war in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s border areas. This promises them both economies of effort, and finances, to achieve their strategic goals.
This is aimed to check China’s growing naval power in the South China Sea and the Pacific. This includes joint exercises between the US, India, Japan, Australia, and other regional navies. Presently, Indian monitoring of the Chinese and Pakistani submarine traffic is hindered due to lack of Active Towed Array Sonar (ATAS) in Indian surface ships.
The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA)
BECA refers to Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation. This agreement would facilitate the exchange of geospatial information between India and the United States for both military and civilian use.
The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA)
The agreement allows the two allies to use each other’s military facilities for “checking China’s growing influence in Asia and in the fight against terrorists (read Pakistan, sic)”. This agreement provides for each country to use the other for supplies, spare parts, services, and refueling.
President Trump has pushed the Indo-US cooperation a step forward by calling upon India to help the US in Afghanistan, ostensibly in the area of economic assistance and development.
Effectively, US armed forces can operate out of Indian bases, and India can use US bases across the globe. To a greater extent, the agreement will facilitate India, in case of hostilities with China and Pakistan, to draw on the large network of the US military facilities and inventories spread all over the Asia-Pacific region.
The US Navy plans to deploy 60 percent of its surface ships in the Indo-Pacific in the near future. Unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, where the US had to build everything from scratch, India already has the military facilities that the United States could use when needed. However, this agreement could irk Russia, but the Indian leadership does not appear bothered much about the Russian sensitivities.
Transfer of Military Technologies
After the failure of Tejas light combat aircraft, India is contemplating replacing her aging fleet of Mig-21 aircraft with a suitable foreign fighter that will be produced in India under Modi’s much vaunted “Make in India” policy. Since the Lockheed Martin assembly line for F-16s is going to be closed down due to the projected induction of F-35 stealth fighter, the US has offered India to transfer the assembly line to India.
Trump has pleased his Indian policymakers with his blunt warning to Pakistan to stop “housing the very terrorists that we are fighting”
American policy towards cooperation in jet engine development and transfer of UAV and nuclear reactor technologies for the future Indian aircraft carriers will also be governed by the same considerations – the US will not share sophisticated and cutting-edge technologies with India. So far, the US has ignored India’s request for armed drones and has promised her only reconnaissance drones. This may cast a shadow on the strategic dialogue.
However, the US, while doing so, has denied India the transfer of critical technologies such as the systems for active electronically scanned array radar, electro-optical targeting pod, infrared search and track, and radio frequency jammer. Consequently, India is looking toward Sweden’s Saab JS-39 Gripen as a likely replacement. However, Gripen’s engine and critical systems are of American origin, which compounds India’s dilemma.
Such are the dimensions of the US-India security matrix. Are we alive to the implications, for Pakistan, for this cooperation? How much prepared we are as a nation to face this challenge?
Saleem Akhtar Malik was a Lt Colonel in the Pakistan Army. He holds an honors degree in War Studies, an MBA and an M.Phil in Management Sciences. He is the author of the book Borrowed Power. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.