The declassification of the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific policy- that reveals a desire on Washington’s part to accelerate India’s rise to counter China- doesn’t really come as a surprise. The India-US strategic partnership has been growing in recent years in the face of an aggressive China. It is in fact no secret that India seeks active US support in the defence sector — from intelligence sharing to transfer of military technology and critical weapons platforms — to meet its national security needs.
And these needs have only increased in the wake of the border clashes with China last year. As matter of fact, given the geopolitical scenario, India must continue to boost ties with Western partners and like-minded democracies to counter China’s hegemonic designs in the Indo-Pacific. Beijing clearly believes that it is time to revive the Middle Kingdom whereby China will be at the centre of the global order and other countries will need to fall in line. This is clearly unacceptable and India and the US must coordinate to preserve a free and open order.
That said, while a strengthening of the India-US partnership based on shared values is welcome, New Delhi must not- and will not- become purely an instrument of Washington’s interests. Both sides anyway recognise mutual respect as the bedrock of the bilateral relationship and it should be kept that way. There will be disagreements on minor points like India’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system. And Washington should expect New Delhi to follow its strategic interests on these. As long as the big picture of preserving a free and open order is clear, India-US ties are natural and beneficial for the world.
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