India and America's Growing Partnership
Image Credit: White House

India and America's Growing Partnership


The possibility of a looming new cold war was on most attendees’ minds at the recent Asia-Pacific Roundtable on Asian Security Governance and Order in Kuala Lumpur. Hanging over the meeting was the reality of an increasingly influential and assertive China, and the anxiety this has created in the United States.

What was striking, however, was that, at least among some of the regional states in attendance, the perception is that China’s growing power in the region is wholly benign. Malaysian Prime Minister Razak, for instance, said that he would not belittle “the positive transformational effects China’s ascendancy has and will continue to have on Asia and beyond.” Mahathir Mohammed, the elder statesman of Malaysia, went even further by suggesting that because China has never colonized Asian countries in the way Europe once did, Malaysia might have more reason to fear modern Europe than modern China.

China’s own perceptions about security in Asia and the Pacific called this logic into question. The Chinese Ambassador to ASEAN spelled out the Chinese position on the South China Sea, making light of the repercussions of Chinese assertiveness on this matter. Other Chinese scholars openly admitted that confrontation with the U.S. was inevitable, as the U.S. rebalance towards Asia was aimed squarely at China and posed a direct threat to it, even well admitting that the two countries shared an interest in proceeding with cautious pragmatism. This is likely to generate greater cooperation between the two.

By China’s own admission, moreover, its impressive rise in the region was forcing weaker countries to perform the feat of “putting legs on two boats.” Many ASEAN nations seemed to more or less agree with this assessment. For example, the Indonesian Foreign Minister said that each country in the region is “worried” about having to choose between two competing sides. “We do not want to be put into that position,” FM Marty Natalegawa said. “The Pacific is sufficiently accommodating to provide not only the role of China and the U.S., but of emerging powers too.” An ASEAN spokesperson later added that ASEAN would not like to dictate the roles of different powers in the region. Instead, it would rather act like a flight controller at a busy airport, making sure that all planes arrive and depart without collision.

But sooner or later, countries in the region will have to develop a cohesive Asian strategy to deal with the challenge of Chinese assertiveness. In contrast to many of the ASEAN powers, India and the U.S. seem to understand this reality. This is pushing them towards greater cooperation.

The U.S., for example, has decided to reorient its foreign policy to give greater attention to the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia. President Obama was candid about Washington’s’ strategic objectives in the region when he stated, “I am determined that we meet the challenges of the moment responsibly and that we emerge even stronger in a manner that preserves American global leadership and maintains our military superiority.” The real debate in America today is not about the importance of Asia, but rather over what the best methods are for the U.S. to engage the region.

India too understands what’s at stake. To be sure, like the U.S., India has an interest in working with the U.S., China, and other countries in revamping the regional security system in a way that is compatible with India’s own interests. Furthermore, India has tried to smooth over tensions with China by identifying the issues- particularly multilateral ones like international trade, the global financial system, and the environment, in which cooperation with China can be enhanced.

Nonetheless, New Delhi is under no illusions about the potential challenges a rising China creates. At least two of these stretch back decades, and yet, because of their intractable nature, continue to animate Sino-Indian relations. These include: the unsettled border between the two countries and Beijing’s continued support of Pakistan. In addition, China’s military modernization, focusing as it does on the PLA Navy, has also raised the possibility of Beijing coming to dominate the sea-lanes of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This would simply be unacceptable for India.

jay not hind
December 28, 2012 at 05:16

@jay_hind: "India believes in world where there is no enmity. May be not possible, but we believe at least. So we don't go on war with even Pak without their aggression. Because We dont like wars. We want peace ."
Upon the partition of the late 1940s India invaded and forcibly annexed all the princely states that refused to accede to India, the prime cases being Junagadh/Manavadarh (who had acceded to Pakistan) as well as Kashmir and Hyderabad (who had not even decided yet who to accede to). Apart from Israel, India is the only country in the world that expanded its territory by means unprovoked military aggression in the post-World War II era.
In a completely unprovoked act of aggression, India invaded Pakistan in 1971 and split that country in half.
In 1984, in direct violation of the Shimla Accords that India itself had promulgated, it invaded and occupied the Siachen glacier, which had been awarded to Pakistan under that treaty, again without any provocation from anyone.
India supported the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka's civil war and continues to sponsor Tibetan separatists in China.
India is sponsoring terrorism and separatist elements in Pakistan from out of its consulates in Afghanistan and Iran.
@jay_hind: If India believes there should be no enmity in the world as you say, if you Indians want peace, the you weren't in control of your mental faculties when you took the above actions, right? You say you want peace but you keep blocking every possibility of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Kashmir for the last 64 years by means of the free and fair plebiscite under UN Security Council Resolution 47 which was passed at your own request. You perpetrate terrorist acts on yourselves then blame them on Pakistan before your own guilt is proven (like in Samjhauta Express) and you send in terrorists like Sarabhjit Singh to take people's lives in terrorist bombings across Pakistan then your government lobbies for his release while you never have a second thought about hanging Ajmal Qasab. Your aggression is visible even in sporting events. When a Pakistani blind cricket team beats India you feed their captain phenyl poured into a water bottle served on his breakfast table and boycott your way out of any match whenever you see imminent defeat at the hands of Pakistan.
Why are you Indians so hell-bent on proving to the world that you are the most heinously hypocritical nation on earth? Only those gullible Americans would ever take your word, your immediate neighbors (who have seen India's true face) know better.

[...] as the US pivots to Asia. In this context, could China’s rise be pushing the US and India into a growing partnership? If so, India may ask for greater US support in Kashmir in return for tentatively moving away from [...]

September 10, 2012 at 14:45

Hi, I am here to express indian view point over all US-China and world issues.
First , India is country which has no intension to gain territory which does not belong to it. India will not be certainly US puppet in acting in South China sea and all over the world. 
But , USA is a democratic , free country  and India and indian people like the idea. However , USA and China , both are arrogant and aggressive, India preferes USA. Because USA is far from our borders and will not go on war against us. USA ties with pak are not determining factors of our ties with US and europe.However, USA must rethink about Pak for their own sake!!
Most american thinks India is dirt country which cant produce enough electricity also. Yes some part is true , shamely , that we are governing ourselves well. But we are strong democracy, and the country runs on faith , not only on power.
We have strong , experienced military and  Navy , and our airforce is becoming stronger.  It is history that USA have always played negative role for India. USSR proved our good friend in our bad times. So we cant forget our friends. But we can make new friends without hurting their enemies! 
India believes in world where there is no enmity. May be not possible, but we believe at least. So we don't go on war with even Pak without their aggression. Because We dont like wars. We want peace .
We will certainly improve our Nation andd seat in UN security council with veto to counter any act against humanity. Dont expect us to smooth over US over these issues. USA / china / russia cant rule world alone.

September 6, 2012 at 01:25

@John Chan,
If the insurgent groups are recognized by the United Nations, then they can bring their grievances to the ICJ. Taiwan, Tibet,  you and me cannot bring any case to this court, even if we agree to do so.
China and Philippines being both signatories of the UN Charters, can faithfully bring their territorial disputes to this court. Many, many states have done that, exactly for the purpose of avoiding wars. It's China's right to stay away from international arbitration. However there are no reasons for doing so, other than, you fear you can lose, you have things to hide, your hubris tells you so, and waging wars is in your interest.

September 6, 2012 at 00:30

@ Frank Wall,
Any relations with India must have some degree of ethics and morality in the Foreign policy objectives. Any relation with India, purely based on short term and narrow national interests, is bound to fail ….. the US State Dept. needs to recognize this simple fact ….. !  In other words, four decades of failed US investments in Pakistan and China relations, which by the way directly threatened India's security,  can not be and should not be the basis for  the US seeking relations with India, which will be perceived as opportunistic, immoral and unethical in Indian culture. 

John Chan
September 5, 2012 at 22:26

Unless the Philippines can subject its own territory to ICJ to resolve disputes with those insurgents in Mindanao, etc., your idea of using ICJ to resolve disputes is merely a lip service at other’s expenses, not sincere at all.
The Philippines is the one not abiding international law, it is abusing international laws such as UNCLOS at will to suite its own greed; unless the Philippines can get rid of the bad habit it copied from the American exceptionalism, Pinoy’s talking about abiding laws sounds hollow.

September 5, 2012 at 21:13

Why not to the days of Confucius  …… ?  Is there a guideline for that …. ?   Do you think you Chinese can set the rules for yourselves based on your own perception, and the world would accept that  ….. ?

Frank Wall
September 5, 2012 at 19:23

Its very much in the interests of the United States to continue investing in India. Look at the state of the American 'alliance' with Pakistan, and the amount of distrust. I think India is a much more likely friend to the US than most people believe. Developing quickly, lots of investment opportunities and distrustful of China and Pakistan.

September 5, 2012 at 11:56

As long as U.S has the most powerful military and global alliances and military deployments, there will be no multipolar world, we would still be in the unipolar system. That unipolar system is an exploitative, stifling and unjust system. It must be destroyed and be replaced with a multipolar world. That's why I support China.

September 5, 2012 at 11:49

Most of China's claims only go back to the Song or Ming dynasty, that's not so far back, barely a few hundred years. We're not talking about biblical Zionist claims here.

September 5, 2012 at 10:52

@ Anonymous (American),
" maintaining decent relations with China" …… ??!!
The problem my friend is,  ….. the Americans can not watch China forge ahead to a $ 50 Trillion economy in the next two decades, while America would try to maintain decent relations with China …… so, can you now figure out why courting India has become so important for the US State Dept. ……  ?

September 5, 2012 at 10:05

@ Bankotsu,
How far back in history do you think a country can go …. ?    In that case India should lay claim on much of SE Asia, and upto Afghanistan in the North …. !
Are you Chinese trying to outsmart the world on territorial issue ….. ?

September 5, 2012 at 06:21

There seems to be a confusion between "multipolar" and "multilateralism". A multipolar world like the Cold-War era one, with three distinct "poles", the "West", the "Socialist" and the "Non-Aligned", did not avoid wars. The unipolar world that follows until today, did not avoid wars.
Ideally, the modus operandi of a peaceful world should be MULTILATERALISM. Global issues should be managed cooperatively, according to commonly accepted international laws, which laws should be above national laws. 
The Bush administration rejected a multilateral world order. China too, but not for the same reason: The Bush's America wants to maintain a UNIPOLAR world. CCP-led China wants to go back to a  MULTIPOLAR world. 

September 5, 2012 at 05:21

@John Chan,
How can anybody trust China when the head of the police in Chongqing did not?
And why doesn't China trust The Philippines and agree to bring the ownership of the Scarborough to the International Court of Justice, especially when China has a judge sitting in that court and The Philippines does not?
In fact,  does China trust any international institution, and by extension, will China abide to any international law?

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September 5, 2012 at 04:16

I hate to break it you, but it still isn't a multi polar world when the US has a bigger economy than the BRIC countries combined.  The rise of the so called emerging powers wouldn't have been possible without the system the US helped create and enforce.

John Chan
September 5, 2012 at 01:17

You have to trust China, because China has more creditability than the USA; USA has territorial ambition on the Philippines, it occupied and ruled the Philippines with brutality, yet China did none of those terrible things to the Philippines. Since the Philippines trusts the USA blindly, by the same logical extension, the Philippines should trust China at least at the same level of the USA or not more, unless the Philippines is bias. 

September 4, 2012 at 19:32

Short sighted would be backing India when our long term interests clearly lay in maintaining decent ties with China.  Just look at the comments from these Indians and tell me if you think we should trust them. They are already arrogant talking about weakening the US influence despite the fact that India is still a dirt poor country.  You think that attitude isn't prevalent in their government?  And let's not forget that the only reason our relationship with India even improved in the first place is because their patron the Soviet Union collapsed and India had no choice but to establish better relations with the US.  They aren't any better than China.  If anything we should play China and India off each other while maintaining strong ties with more friendly countries that are actually deserving of our support.  India doesn't deserve our support and friendship.  What have they ever done for us?

September 4, 2012 at 19:06

And you are Mr Imperialist I see?

September 4, 2012 at 19:02

U.S is for unipolar world dominated by U.S itself. India is for multipolar world. Can these two countries really work together? I think not.
Both India and China support a multipolar world and reject the U.S unipolar world. Most countries in this world reject the U.S unipolar world.
From an ideological point of view on world order, there is no conflict between China and India. They are natural allies.
It is 1988 and Deng Xiaoping is meeting Rajiv Gandhi. China's leader tells India's Prime Minister: 'The 21st century can only be the Asian Century if India and China combine to make it so.'
If India gangs up with U.S to plot against China, they may share the same bed but end up dreaming different dreams.

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