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Trump-hant India or a Modi-fied Indo Pacific

Finally US looks East?

Trump’s first state visit to India signifies the growing strength of the relations between Washington and New Delhi, amid China’s rising clamour in South Asia, this decade. As part of his two-day visit which began on Monday, Trump was in New Delhi and Ahmedabad, the city of Indian PM Modi’s home state of Gujarat.

The fact that Trump made time for India in an election year is a major indication of how the US sees India, no longer as another entity in its geostrategic calculations, however, as a partner, indicates how it perceives and is rearranging the world geopolitics.

Indo Pacific For India

Indian partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region can be broadly classified into three groups viz the Quad, the ASEAN, and the Western Indian Ocean.

While increasing its defence engagement with Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines and emphasizing the western Indian Ocean footprint with France, Djibouti, UAE, French Réunion and Seychelles, what is of upfront concern is the Quad.  Quad refers to an ad hoc group comprising Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, that facilitates informal discussions in areas of mutual cooperation in the region.

India had historically resisted calls to upgrade the level of Quad consultations to allay Chinese fears. China perceives Quad as an anti-China group that seeks to contain its rise. It is therefore fascinating that Quad countries met at the ministerial level for the first time in September 2019, signalling a shift in India’s accommodative stance towards China. In another significant departure from the past, India may also invite Australia to participate in the annual Malabar Exercises in Year 2020, which are trilateral naval exercises involving the United States, Japan, and India. China had protested strongly when Australia participated in Malabar Exercises in 2007.

Bilateral strategic and defence relationships between India and the Quad countries have witnessed increased action. India and the United States conducted their first-ever tri-service military exercises in November 2019, improving defence cooperation between them. India also operationalized a mutual support logistics agreement with the United States that provides both countries reciprocal access to each other’s military bases in the region.

It was widely believed that India’s vision of a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific can only be taken seriously if India shows initiative and resolve to walk the talk. After years of being lethargic in action and being unconvinced about its vision for the Indo-Pacific, India seems to be finally getting ready to be the net security maker in the Indian Ocean.

With this The United States and India took note of efforts toward a meaningful Code of Conduct in the South China Sea while cementing the roles in Indo Pacific.

Trump’s Friend Imran-Pakistan?

Rap on Radical Islamic Proxy Terror

With Afghanistan peace process on the anvil, whilst Pakistan being geographically in epicentre as also being the rogue custodian of the terrorist proxies operating against American and Afghan forces, Imran is to be fed some American reassurance. This understandably, Imran and Pakistan Army requires to feed to its public, as a face-saver.

For records in all its mirth, in same press brief Trump calling Xi Jinping a great capable friend, doesn’t mean they are clinking beer mugs in Florida. That’s the language of diplomacy at international forum, for novices to understand.

Nonetheless, in a hard-hitting statement for expenditure of both Pakistan and China, President Trump and PM Modi denounced any use of terrorist proxies and strongly condemned cross border terrorism in all its forms. They unilaterally gave a dressing down of sorts, to Pakistan to ensure that no territory under its control is used to launch terrorist attacks and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks, including 26/11Mumbai and Pathankot. They called for concerted action against all terrorist groups, including Al-Qa’ida, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Hizb-ul Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network, TTP, D-Company, and all their affiliates.

They grimly meant Pakistan without mentioning Pakistan.

Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership

Russia Encompassing

This is where the Eagle meets the Bear, at the Lion’s Lair. All along the history of diplomacy, in the last seventy years of India’s being, India refused to polarizingly side with either US or Russia. Since 2014, India has successfully put to effect, the implementation of non-alignment to a burgeoning dimension.

Interestingly and significantly, addressing a global conference in the Indian capital to discuss the most challenging issues facing the world community, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Asia-Pacific cooperation until now was centred on Southeast Asia.

The Indo-Pacific concept being pushed by the United States, Japan and others was to reconfigure the existing structure, he said. This realistic fear is now alleviated with the manner its long-trusted friend India positions itself.

It is also a matter of astute diplomacy, saturated with unprecedented trust and an extraordinary trilateral iron friendship, that all this while of the Trump state visit, Deputy chairman of the council of ministers of the Republic of Crimea Georgy Muradov and Minister of finance Irina Kiviko were on a visit. India has kept a balanced position on Crimea, which was helpful for Russia and also acknowledged by Putin. It is in the same breath that India understands though may not agree to the manners of it, the sovereign actions of  Iran.

Both these are thorns in the flesh of the US and Trump, however, both Russia and Iran continue through with the generations-old trust, while India cements the long calling however now emerging deep inherent geo-strategic alliance in the Indo Pacific.

At present, while US openly disinclines against India’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems and other ongoing defence cooperation, so does Russia snobs at the Trump’s Indo Pacific strategy where India is the fulcrum. This deft positioning of itself in this manner, at the epicentre of Asia and Pacific, is unique and historically a diplomatic novel, by India, and path-breaking in the geopolitical sense. This was the only way India can balance and counter China, and the beginnings have set in.

Abrogation of Article 370, CAA and Religious Freedom

While it is an internal matter of sovereign India, however, India has never shied away from having an open discussion on it, in a matter of principle and intent. Trump’s answer “ in India they have, they have worked very hard to have great and open religious freedom” not only expresses his conviction on the matter, but also stresses the fact that, incredibly diverse India is fully capable of handling its minorities and aspects of religious freedom, as it has been doing since last seventy years of freedom, and centuries beyond that.

It was nothing short of rubbishing the hype that has been incorrectly associated with the same.

Hence Mr Trump reposted faith in PM Modi’s governance and leadership and reiterated that both Kashmir and CAA are valid, legal and India’s sovereign internal matter. Also, he insisted that Indian government is fully capable of handling all internal issues.

Trade Deficit and Trade Deal

Trump was unequivocal about what he expects from India as a trading partner. While he expressed certainty in trade deals in future, just like he has been on many other issues, there was transparency in how he will do business with India.

“I would say if the deal happens with India, it will be toward the end of the year.  And if it doesn’t happen, we’ll do something else that will be very satisfactory.  It’ll be very good.” These lines do not beat about the bush and underlines the avoidable the pits, which he says will still be good for India.

Travel Ban in US and CAA law in India

Anti Muslim tone?

Trump, for the first time since the highest court of Law in US cleared the travel ban decision by US government, from certain countries, took allegations head-on. He termed the attempt to link it to Muslims, including attempts to link CAA to Muslims, as a deliberate false.

He lauded the facet of religious independence in India, quoting a very strong answer from PM Modi. As well, he also said that Indian government is working very closely with the Muslim community, and it’s a learning for him too.

He unilaterally rejected the Anti Muslim tone, given to any law that is intending to ensure safety and integrity of a nation as well as discharging its moral responsibilities.

Viewpoint

While the official press release “The United States and India are committed to an open, reliable, and secure Internet that facilitates trade and communication. The United States and India recognize the need for an innovative digital ecosystem that is secure and reliable and that facilitates the flow of information and data. The leaders intend to foster cooperation among their industry and academia for open, secure, and resilient supply of strategic materials and critical infrastructure, and to independently evaluate the risk associated with deployment of emerging technologies.” lays out the broad spectrum cooperating including defence, it was the press conference which unexpectedly summarises the essence of the visit, just before Elections US 2020.

This is the time, when irrespective of differing economic trade push and pulls, the two gigantic democracies have decided to draw to each other, and recommit themselves to the concept of Indo Pacific. This is in consonance with our common democratic values, a long term vision of economic openness, and growing confidence in each other’s reliability.

This shall also be the defining point in history, that a platform is created to get US and Russia together to a neutral platform of co-existence, as the trust shall exist through a common bond, India.

It announces the re-emergence of Indo Pacific after trump’s withdrawal from Asia Pacific for most of last five years. Very soon we shall see another trade axis coming up in the Indo Pacific, which shall obviate the draconian and Chinese centric RCEP.

Endless possibilities have begun in the Indian Ocean, with India in the driving seat, beacon is bright and evident.

27 Feb 20/Thursday                                                                     Written By: Fayaz

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