The threat from China is pushing India into closer ties with the U.S. but is unlikely to yield a military ‘alliance’ at present, said experts in Delhi and Washington during a discussion on Indian Foreign Policy. In particular, former National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and academic Pratap Bhanu Mehta felt that India’s common boundary with China and “continental challenge” still complicates its choices, referring to the nearly four-month-long standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“India can build coalitions, the Quad [Quadrilateral with U.S., Australia and Japan], or an alliance of democracies. But geography matters, proximity matters and the implication of China in our neighbourhood matters... Given our limited options, it is good that the government has not acted in haste,” said Mr. Mehta, a professor at Ashoka University, who praised the government’s recent economic actions aimed at China, including the restrictions on FDI and imports and banning of 59 software apps.
“We have a problem with China on land and the U.S. is not going to get involved in a continental war here. The [U.S.] is pulling out of Afghanistan. The landmass of Eurasia is being consolidated under China’s Belt and Road Initiative and by various other means, and even the Russians have decided they need to work with China. India needs to find a continental strategy that works for it as the relationship with China gets more and more adversarial,” said Mr. Menon.
U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment expert Ashley Tellis, who served as a diplomat to India, said the U.S. would not seek an alliance with India unless both sides were “committed to a collective defence” of each other in both the continental and maritime spheres.
“It comes down to a very simple question: why would it be in America’s interest to provide those capabilities to India if it doesn’t feel that the quality of the relationship it has with India warrants it? That is still a work in progress. But if we don’t answer that question I don’t think [the U.S.] will get the partnership that makes our contribution worth the money,” Mr. Tellis said, adding that apart from “putting boots on the ground”, the U.S. could help India with intelligence sharing, space technology and air power support.
The experts were part of a seminar organised by the Indo-American Friendship Association..