Wednesday, June 6, 2012

India turns down US plans to counter China

Concerned that the new-found US focus on Asia will lead to greater militarization in its immediate neighbourhood, specially the Bay of Bengal region, India today politely, but firmly, told US secretary of Defence Lean Panetta that there is a need to re-calibrate and rethink the just announced US Asia- Pacific policy.

The new US policy called 'Rebalancing of Military Strategy with focus on Asia-Pacific' envisages major changes in deployment and proposes that at least 60 per cent of US Naval assets would be deployed in Asia-Pacific.

India's western sea board and Arabian Sea has perhaps the highest number of warships deployed at a given time. Warships from countries, as varied as Iran, France UK, US, China and India, are all deployed in the Arabian Sea. The Eastern sea board of China already has a port in Hangyyi in Myanmar while US has south berthing rights in Chittagong Port, India has a massive presence in the Andaman Nicober Islands. The new US focus and presence of more US warships in the Eastern sea board, India fears will lead to more militarization.

Clearly, India's stand shows that it doesn't share the American perception of the Asia-Pacific region entirely, and would prefer the company and presence of countries likes Vietnam, Philippines and others to be involved when solution to the South-China sea issue is worked out. In the hour-long meeting between the Defence Minister A K Antony and Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta India 'emphasized' the need to take the relationship beyond "buyer-seller transaction", a senior MoD official said. India wants US to focus on technology transfer and a strong partnership "to build indigenous capabilities." India is likely to buy ultra-light howitzer and attack helicopters from US.

There was, however, complete convergence of view between the two heavy weights on Pakistan and AF-Pak region. Sources tell NDTV that the US expressed deep concern over the worsening situation in AF-Pak region and the support that the Haqqani network continues to receive from Pakistan.

US wants India to deepen its engagement in Afghanistan. India now trains about 1000 officers of Aghan National Army and other security establishment. Although Afghanistan has sought weapons and equipments from India, including tanks, India hasn't yet taken a decision on whether or not to supply and equip the Afghan Army. In today's meeting India and US discussed the possible situation in Afghanistan after December 2014, when the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces withdraws from Afghanistan.

Interestingly, US didn't raise the issue of India dragging its feet on signing agreements like the Logistic Supply Agreement (LSA), the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).

India doesn't want to sign any of these agreements as it would bind them to give logistic support to the US fleet and troops, and on the other hand CISMOA will force India to share certain critical communication codes with the US. For the last seven years India has maintained that it is 'studying' the agreements and hasn't come to any conclusion. Clearly, US doesn't pin much hope on India coming on board on these issues and is now willing to put these issues aside and work with India.