Source: The Hitavada      Date: 06 Dec 2018 13:04:19

UNITED States Defence Secretary Mr. James Mattis’ recognition of India as a “stabilising force across the Indo-Pacific and the globe” emphasises India’s growing stature as a key partner in security as well as economic affairs in the region. Assigning India a critical role in the Indo-Pacific is of paramount importance for the United States given its strategic geopolitical position to act as a counterbalance to an overbearing China. 

The fresh round of talks led by India’s Defence Minister Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman with the US authorities is another major push for India’s prominence in the region. The US’ warming up to India in the defence and security sectors will be a boost to India’s military preparedness.

Starting with the 2+2 dialogue to the signing of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), the brave new chapter of bilateral defence and strategic engagement between the two countries has found a perfect groove. The COMCASA allows India a crucial access to critical American defence technologies. These developments have come at a rapid pace quelling all doubts over Mr. Donald Trump’s policies when he had cancelled the 2+2 dialogues twice before it finally took place in September.

Hailing India as a stabiliser points to the critical mass India has assumed in the Indo-Pacific which the US views as a strategic region where an aggressive China is trying to establish its foothold. While the US is consistent in its effort to neutralise Chinese imperialism in the South China Sea with the help of its traditional allies, it was the Indo-Pacific where it needed a partner that has the ability and power to influence policies of countries in the region. India fits the bill to the T and has perched itself firmly in the security thinking of the US.

This vantage position is being leveraged by New Delhi as the statement by Mr. Mattis on India’s purchase of S-400 air defence systems from Russia confirms. India risked sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) legislation for defence purchase from Russia. That it went ahead with the deal despite the looming threat was due to the strong belief in its position of advantage which it has successfully negotiated with Washington. Add to it the US waiver from sanctions imposed on countries buying oil from Iran. These are major gains of the growing Indo-US ties that according to Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi “have overcome hesitations of history”much to India’s advantage.

The major shift in diplomatic and defence ties with the United States was fraught with dangers of disturbing long-time partner Russia and annoying China. But the Modi Government decided to take the bull by horns with an intrinsic self-belief. The move to expand bilateral ties with the United States was a major departure from the conservative policies adopted by earlier Governments. By trashing the complexes dogging its diplomatic thinking, the present ruling dispensation at the Centre has opened up new vistas for India in defence, economic and trade relations with many partners hitherto neglected.

Deftly engaging with both Moscow and Washington has only helped New Delhi assert India’s position all the more among top world powers. Holding a place of prominence in the Indo-Pacific region gives India a chance to enhance its own military prowess, a much-needed exercise given the rising hostility in the neighbourhood.

Further, being a key partner of the United States has many other advantages on various international platforms that play a key role in shaping economic as well as security dynamics of nations like Pakistan.