THE Modi government is getting into a deeper strategic embrace with the United States. It appears Narendra Modi will do his utmost to endear himself to the Trump establishment.
On August 15, there was a telephonic conversation between Donald Trump and Narendra Modi. Trump had called Modi to congratulate him on India’s independence day but the talk outlined some of the new steps in the relations between the two countries. According to the readout provided by the White House, “the leaders resolved to enhance peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region by establishing a new 2-by-2 ministerial dialogue that will elevate their strategic consultations”. The 2 by 2 ministerial dialogue would comprise the Indian defence and external affairs ministers and their US counterparts. Till now this 2 to 2 dialogue was between the external affairs minister and the commerce ministers on the Indian side with their US counterparts. This is being changed with the defence minister replacing the commerce minister.
The change signifies the increasing importance of military and strategic cooperation between the two countries. The United States has such 2-2 dialogues with its military allies in the Asia Pacific region – Japan and Australia. India is now joining the club.
The reference to the India-Pacific region in this context is the taking forward of the US-India joint vision statement on Asia Pacific signed in January 2015 during Obama’s visit. The present formulation underlines that China is the main concern for this alliance.
The extent to which Modi has gone to accept the leadership of the United States in the region is revealed by the readout in which Modi has “thanked President Trump for a strong leadership uniting the world against the North Korean menace”. This gratuitous reference is only meant to reassure that India will be a faithful ally.
Since then President Trump has made a speech outlining his approach to Afghanistan and South Asia. The Modi government is happy with the warning issued to Pakistan to deal with the terrorists finding shelter within the country. Trump mentioned the billions of dollars paid to Pakistan and said that the US cannot tolerate Pakistan sheltering terrorists that the US is fighting. But these are statements which have been made by previous US administrations over the past 15 years. The reality is that the US cannot do without Pakistan for its continued presence in Afghanistan.
As far as India is concerned, Trump stated that “India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.” Trump has taken a similar stand with his Nato allies. He has demanded that they spend more money on their military forces and not expect the United States to bear the brunt of the cost of the military alliance. In the case of Afghanistan, Trump expects both its allies Pakistan and India to play their due role as they are earning billions of dollars due to their US connection.
It is reported that the US defence secretary Gen. James Mattis is expected to visit India later this year. The plan is to inaugurate the logistics exchange agreement (LEMOA) by refuelling and servicing the airforce plane which will bring him to India. LEMOA is an agreement which facilitates the use of Indian bases by American war planes and naval ships.
The growing military entanglement with the United States comes in the background of the continuing stand-off with China on the Doklam Plateau. The United States realises that this is an opportune time to further draw in India into its strategic net. The United States is pressing India to broaden the annual Malabar exercises by including Australia. This would make it a quadrilateral exercise involving the two closest allies of the US – Japan and Australia – apart from India.
The Modi government has also taken steps to open up defence production in India to the US arms companies with its decision to open up all key sectors of weapons production to Indian corporate and foreign multinational companies.
The subordination of India’s military and strategic resources to the United States is a serious threat to the country’s sovereignty and independence. The fight against the pseudo-nationalist Hindutva forces must include this capitulation to the United States.
The CPI(M) Central Committee has called for observing September 1 as a day against imperialism and to safeguard national sovereignty. This campaign should be taken to the widest sections of the people.
(August 23, 2017)