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Will Biden’s strategy in South Asia be any different than Trump’s?

South Asian nations are likely to keep themselves at a distance from the new Biden administration as well, what will be an outright dismissal of American orthodox regional approach.

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Over the years, the regional conflicts have enormously rolled a pitch for the US to overly practice a cryptic or spooky diplomacy – manipulate territorial disputes and other flare-ups to nurture US defense industry, advance national foreign policy objectives and shift the balance of power in its favor.

After mincing Soviet Union under the auspices of Afghan Mujahideen and Pakistan intelligence, the US piggybacked on a victory and claimed the status of matchless global superpower in a war that barely involved its military footprint in Afghanistan.

Anti-China campaign 

Washington is once more on toes to rewrite history by sparking off a new rivalry against Beijing, which it labels as a US strategic competitor that could erode its power projection and the longtime US dominance of the world. In order to make its effort is a success, the US again needed Pakistan, this time to inject life in its anti-China campaign.

While trying to outlast in bordering nodes with Beijing, New Delhi has exposed a whole lot bigger national sovereignty to Washington

Unsurprisingly, Islamabad defied joining Washington’s newfangled crusade against its ironclad ally, Beijing. Naturally, the US then had to rely on India to oil the wheels of its Sinophobia. This American South Asia strategy, despite the change of administrations in the White House, would likely continue with slight fine-tuning under the President-elect Joe Biden.

Read more: Pompeo warns of China risks ahead of US-India talks

It would be the same approach that the US Secretary Mike Pompeo disseminated in India during his recent trip, in a bid to pluck out China’s growing tentacles in South Asia with Indian support while barging in on the “China threat” as well as trying to play on the Beijing-New Delhi Himalayan border standoff.

Although, the US would have doubts on Indian ability to undercut the dragon but in the absence of any other option in the sac, Washington will be throwing its full diplomatic and military support behind India vis-à-vis bilateral political arrangements and defense contracts.

Indo-US defense pact: BECA

The US interests, therefore, in India are largely commercial and its new defense pact – Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) on geospatial cooperation – with India is only targeted to wring regional disputes for American advantage, notwithstanding the degree of grave risks the treaty on sharing satellite and map data could pose to peace and stability in the “nuclear deltoid,” comprising three regional atomic powers.

BECA has been pending for more than 15 years as leftists in the past coalition government were strongly opposed to maintaining close ties with the US. Indian security forces too had fears “on protection of classified information and access to classified laboratories in India.” Like its descendant, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) previously prompted anxieties about turning India into an American military base.

Read more: India, a colossal washout in US versus China showdown

Even Indian experts dub the Modi government’s “mindlessly suicidal extreme step”  of signing the defense agreement could be a costly bargain and opine India has potentially mortgaged the digitized capability of its air, ground and naval forces to the US as its “kill-chains (sensors-to-shooter networks)” would be under American control.

China has invested billions of dollars in Sri Lanka and Maldives through BRI to build seaport, airport, port city, highways and power stations, which would help the two developing nations to improve their economy

Remarks by a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute Tanvi Madan – “Arguably without Doklam and Ladakh crisis, India would not have got to yes on COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) or reportedly BECA – unequivocally ratify that the US is sharply using its “military diplomacy” to redeem China-India row for its offensive territorial goals.

No matter how effective BECA will be in strengthening the Indian-American strategic and defense cooperation, one definitive conclusion can be drawn from the agreement. While trying to outlast in bordering nodes with Beijing, New Delhi has exposed a whole lot bigger national sovereignty to Washington.

Read more: US and India sign BECA, putting Pakistan in a vulnerable position

Empty promises to Sri Lanka and Maldives 

After deliberations with India on forging a consensus response to jointly “thwart (China) threats”,” Pompeo had reached in Sri Lanka and Maldives to iron the two Indian Ocean nations on cutting their economic, infrastructure and investment ties with China.

Biden would follow the footsteps of Trump in the region and continue to irk Pakistan by downplaying its contributions against war on terror

In Colombo, his unrestrained criticism of Beijing and its mega Belt and Road Initiative was given a cold shoulder by Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Rejecting Pompeo’s perspective that China was attempting to trap the nation into debt, Rajapaksa pointed out Beijing had played a key role in developing the country’s infrastructure since the end of the separatist war in May 2009. America’s “debt trap” idea was additionally rebuffed by a Sri Lankan diplomat who said that 90% of the country’s debt was, in fact, owned by western and other international multilateral institutions.

Pompeo announced to open an embassy in Male. This move doesn’t intend to bolster bilateral relations; it is an attempt to counterbalance China’s presence in Maldives. In so doing, the Secretary publicly revealed his mala-fide intent to cramp Beijing-Male ties through a forthright intervention in internal affairs of the Island nation.

Read more: Growing US-India ties call for a new regional bloc in South Asia

China has invested billions of dollars in Sri Lanka and Maldives through BRI to build seaport, airport, port city, highways and power stations, which would help the two developing nations to improve their economy, boost trade and generate employment. In comparison, Pompeo landed in the two countries with empty promises and pressing demands.

US should rethink its priorities 

Washington should reassess its “alpha-dogging” toward the sovereign nations, which is sinking its trust in South Asia. Rather than seeking to chop off countries from China and flock them into an Indian orbit, the US needs to demonstrate the same eagerness to resolve the Kashmir dispute, a nuclear flashpoint between India and Pakistan, as it has been showing to end its Afghan stalemate.

But since Biden would follow the footsteps of Trump in the region and continue to irk Pakistan by downplaying its contributions against war on terror while pressing Sri Lanka and Maldives to ostracize the Chinese investments without offering any economic substitute – bulges of South Asian nations are likely to keep themselves at a distance from the new Biden administration as well, what will be an outright dismissal of American orthodox regional approach.

Read more: Power shift in US: All eyes on Biden

The writer is an international commentator and opinion contributor to CGTN, New Straits Times and The Express Tribune, partner of The International New York Times. He writes on economy, geopolitical issues and regional conflicts. The views expressed in this article are writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

 

 

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