Recently, the RAND Corporation of the United States released a report “How regional countries respond to Sino-US competition in the Indo-Pacific region: India”, which analyzed the relationship between the United States and the United States from the perspectives of India’s security decision-making mechanism, foreign policy, foreign economic relations, and threat perception. India is facing various challenges in strengthening its security relations, and it will make suggestions to the US government and military on how to strengthen its relations with India in the next 5 to 10 years in order to better compete with China. The article contains the inherent prejudice of the West against China, and I hope readers will read it critically.
Ideal choice against China
China is becoming a strategic competitor of the United States in the Indo-Pacific region. The United States needs to work with allies and partners to deal with China. India seems to be a very ideal security partner.
From many indicators, India is the most suitable Asian country to balance China’s power. China is the most populous country in the world, and the United Nations predicts that India’s population will surpass China in 2027. In terms of purchasing power parity, India’s economy is the third largest in the world, second only to the United States and China. Moreover, India and the United States are both democracies. It is often said that the United States is the world’s oldest democracy and India is the world’s largest democracy.
India has the second largest active force in the world, second only to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. India’s geographical conditions allow it to compete with China in three areas: land, sea and air. Apart from Vietnam, only India (Editor’s Note: the original text) fought a land war with China without the support of foreign troops. Among China’s land neighbors, only India (except for Bhutan, which is actually protected by India, editor’s note: the original text) still has territorial disputes with China. Similarly, only India has the military strength and political will to prevent China from gaining a dominant position in the Indian Ocean region. In addition, India has many air bases. When the time is right, U.S. Air Force aircraft may be allowed to use them, especially the Port Blair and Karnicobar Air Force Bases in the Andaman-Nicobar Islands, and the 9 in northeastern India near Tibet, China. Air base.
The geopolitical confrontation between India and China can be traced back to the Sino-Indian conflict in 1962. In the decades that followed, there were numerous skirmishes and confrontations on the China-India border, the most serious of which occurred in the Gallevan Valley in June 2020. India’s core national security interests, including preventing its sovereignty from being eroded by any potential regional hegemony, are in line with the national interests of the United States. India is not a treaty ally of the United States, which provides considerable room for the two countries to deepen their partnership. Unlike other countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia, the relationship between India and China is relatively antagonistic, which determines that the possibility of China and India joining forces against the United States is very small.
However, the United States still faces many challenges if it wants to deepen its security relationship with India.
The shackles of India’s security decision-making mechanism
Indian civilian officials maintain strict control over the very small decisions of the military. A US military officer in New Delhi exaggeratedly stated that the commander of any service of the US Pacific Command “can do almost anything he wants, as long as he does not start a war.” In contrast, an Indian four-star general of the same status cannot even decide when and where to go without the approval of the bureaucracy. The staff of the Indian Ministry of Defense are mostly professional civil servants, rather than officials with specialized military skills. If a request successfully crosses the barriers of the Ministry of Defense, it must also be reviewed by civil servants of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assess the potential diplomatic impact. A US official in New Delhi stated that the obstacles that the US and India may face in strengthening military contacts are greater in the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs than in the Ministry of Defense. If an important proposal is approved by the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the decision will still need to be made by the prime minister’s office.
Even if an application is approved by all bureaucracies, it still faces cost issues. Out of national self-esteem, India usually refuses opportunities for training, exchanges, and exercises unless India bears the relevant expenses, but India is often unable to afford it. India’s military expenditure is only 2% of its GDP. Even if India is eligible to use the US foreign military aid budget to receive training, India will refuse it, and even the training places reserved for India by the US military academies are not fully utilized by India.
India’s doubts about the reliability of the U.S.
Although India currently believes that the United States is a partner, and China poses a long-term security challenge to it and requires the United States to check and balance China, India does not trust the United States and does not believe that the United States can reliably provide India with military or diplomatic protection and equipment (regardless of Whether it is in conflict or during the equipment procurement process).
In the possible Sino-Indian war in the future, will the United States really risk supporting India and having a military conflict with China, which is similar in strength? “Non-Aligned Version 2.0″ expressed skepticism. The document pointed out that even when India and Pakistan clashed in history, the United States did not help India. The document also pointed out that even if India can trust the United States, the ability of the United States to effectively defend India’s interests is inevitably declining, and the alliance system led by the United States is also declining.
India also doubts the reliability of the United States in providing military equipment or technology. American military officers who often deal with India said, “Indians cannot understand us why we cannot treat India like NATO allies in terms of security cooperation. They cannot accept this fact. Without a basic agreement, according to the law, we cannot do (like India wants to treat India like that”. These basic agreements stipulate the relevant conditions for the transfer of military equipment or dual-use technology by the United States to other countries, mainly involving end-use supervision: According to U.S. law, any sensitive military equipment sold by the United States must maintain control over its end-use. Without such oversight, the trusted security partners of the United States (such as India) can freely sell American equipment to US opponents (such as Iran). Although most countries make similar regulations when selling weapons or transferring sensitive technologies, few have such complicated and extensive rules as the United States. This makes India feel that it is not trusted, and it also doubts the sincerity of the United States.
India’s inability to compete with China
Indian strategists regard China as the most serious long-term security challenge, but they are very clear that India is not yet a competitor with China’s strength. Most strategists believe that the gap between the two countries is widening. An Indian security analyst said, “We don’t have a military-industrial complex like China. We cannot provide an initiative similar to the “Belt and Road” initiative. They are ahead of us in military, economic and other aspects, and their advantages are getting bigger and bigger. We are struggling to maintain our current position.” Another Indian scholar said, “We are planning today’s war and will be ready in 20 years. China is preparing for tomorrow’s war and will be ready in five years.”
An Indian analyst said, “Send our navy to other places in the South China Sea or the Pacific Ocean? This is unrealistic-China has already reached our backyard and we are too busy. We really cannot compete in other places.” Another analyst said, “India may be waving the flag of freedom of navigation, but nothing more.”
In addition, India is quite dependent on China economically. China is India’s largest import trading country, accounting for 16.2% of India’s total imports, about three times that of the United States (5.4%), India’s second largest importing country, and exceeding the sum of the third, fourth, and fifth places (the UAE 5.2 %, Saudi Arabia 4.8%, Switzerland 4.6%). Moreover, if the imports of oil, natural gas and financial services are excluded, China has a more significant dominant position in the source of imports of tangible goods in India. As an American military officer said, “China has the ability to impose military and economic punishment on India.”
Options for the U.S. and U.S. military’s policy toward India
In order to strengthen defense and security cooperation with India, the US government should consider the following suggestions.
First, accept India’s pursuit of “strategic autonomy”. India will not become an ally of the United States in the near future. It is neither a formal treaty ally nor a de facto ally of Singapore or Sweden that has not signed a treaty. Forcing India to be an ally of the United States will only backfire. With regard to the US-India partnership, US policymakers should do more and less talk, and avoid asking India to take actions that are clearly hostile to China.
Secondly, the United States should consult India’s opinions before making decisions on matters that affect India’s interests. India regards its own country as a “global quasi-superpower” and expects to be respected accordingly. If India feels that the United States regards it as a second-rate country, it will inevitably make a counterattack. U.S. decisions in the Indo-Pacific region often directly or indirectly affect India. If you communicate with India in advance, it will help to get India’s understanding.
Third, increase cooperation in sea area perception. In terms of sea area perception, the United States has the world’s leading technology, which can help India to map and control its territorial waters and airspace. With the enhanced awareness of Indian waters, it is possible to discover when Chinese ships enter the territorial waters of India or its neighboring countries (Sri Lanka, Pakistan, etc.). India will welcome the United States to cooperate in this regard.