The strategic ties between India and the US are on the rise and are likely to have implications for Pakistan’s security and strategic interests. Shunning its non-aligned pretensions, New Delhi is now Washington’s global-strategic major defence partner and equates Washington’s strategic objectives in Asia with its own.
India’s huge middle class market for US goods and investment and the US’s policy of containing China in the Asia-Pacific are two foundations on which the Indo-US strategic alliance has been forged.
The bilateral trade of goods and services between India and the US stood at an estimated $114.8 billion in 2016 – with exports from India to the US amounting to $42 billion and imports from India to the US reaching $72.8 billion. The two countries have fixed the goal of enhancing the bilateral trade by five times in the next few years. The US, in particular, supplies India high-tech military equipment and has so far sold weapons worth $14billion to $15 billion to it.
The containment of China, especially in the South China Sea, is the other major basis for growing Indo-US partnership. The growing importance of Asia for the strategic goals of the US is manifest in the deployment of nearly 60 percent of the US’s naval assets in the Pacific. In order to achieve its objectives in relation to the burgeoning power of China, the US plans to integrate the military assets of its allies in the region for a collaborative defence. The US naval strategy is based on a global network of allies, which includes Japan, South Korea, India and Australia.
The India-US defence ties are legally covered by three basic agreements, including the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA). India has already signed the LEMOA. Talks are under way between the two countries for an agreement on the CISMOA, which allows for interoperability between allies during operations or a war. A treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation (FCN) has already existed between the two countries since the late 1950s.
Under the LEMOA, US fighter aircrafts and warships can now use Indian military bases to refuel and avail of their required supplies. Meanwhile, India can use the US bases in Diego Garcia, which are located between Tanzania and Australia.
With the availability of this facility, India will now be able to fulfil its old ambition of projecting its power in the entire southern Asia. On the other hand, the US Navy can now use bases of Indian Navy and air force in the Nicobar and Andaman islands, which are located near Burma. America already has bases in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. With the access to Andaman military bases, it has further extended its power closer to China.
India is also likely to sign the Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) with the US in the near future as it has already decided to be a part of the US defence network and has been working with the US forces to develop interoperability. Other US partners in the Pacific will also be part of this arrangement.
The CISMOA creates interoperability for building teamwork between allies. The main part of interoperability is the networking of various strands in a battlefield for the secure and smooth flow of information, which provides a common, integrated picture of the battlefield. Based on this depiction, the commander directs the right kind of weapons system for quick action against a target. Under the CISMOA, various war elements belonging to the US allies will be connected to the US command and control centre in a ‘plug and play’ ecosystem. This means that India will now acquire more military hardware and software from the US that can easily fit into the ‘plug and play’ softwares.
The depth of the Indo-US alliance can also be gauged from the leniency shown towards India by the US while it recently tested long-range ballistic missiles. In December 2016, India tested Agni-V, its intercontinental ballistic missile. The missile is said to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. In January 2017, it fired the Agni-VI, with a range of between 5,500 and 5,800 kilometres. With these long-range missiles, India can now target major Chinese targets, including large cities.
Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said that with the ICBMs capable of delivering nuclear warheads and a new 17 Mountain Strike Corps with “quick reaction ground offensive capabilities” in the making, the Indian Army has elevated its posture against China from “dissuasion” to “credible deterrence”.
In 2008, with the signing of a bilateral civilian nuclear deal between India and the US and thus granted it de facto recognition as a nuclear-weapons state. This means that the US unilaterally scrapped the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which has been the core of the international nuclear regulatory framework since it was launched in 1968.
This deal has enabled India to import civilian nuclear technology, hardware and fuel from the US for the production of energy as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) have waived objections on such trade. As a result, India has allocated its own nuclear resources on the development of nuclear weapons.
In mid-2016, Washington strongly supported India’s request to gain the NSG membership. A complete and effective implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was the basis of the NSG membership while India is not even a signatory to the 48-member treaty. The US wants India to be exempted from these conditions. While a number of NSG members opposed the US move, the most intense opposition came from China.
Keeping in view the breadth and depth of the Indo-US strategic alliance, its trajectory of containing China and the massive Chinese investment in Pakistan, it is clear that Pakistan should forget the possibility of any major favour from Washington where military equipment are concerned. Pakistan should also not expect vehement diplomatic support from Washington on the Kashmir dispute. Since the Kabul government is closely allied with Delhi and Washington, Pakistan will have to contend with a not-so-friendly Afghanistan as well.