Can Washington Trust Modi's India As Key Ally in Asia?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the summit meeting of the China-Russia sponsored Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan this week. India is a full member of this alliance which has been created to counter the US dominance in Asia. At the same time, New Delhi has also joined QUAD, a group of 4 nations (Australia, India, Japan and US) formed by the United States  to counter China's rise. Simultaneous membership of these two competing alliances is raising serious questions about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's real intentions and trustworthiness. Is this Indian policy shift from "non-alignment" to "all-alignment" sustainable? 

2022 SCO Summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Source: Xinhua

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO): 

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a political, economic and security organization designed to counter US dominance. It was founded by Beijing and Moscow in 2001. Currently, it has 8 members: China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iran has signed a memorandum of commitment this week signaling its intention to join the SCO, underscoring the growing alignment between the U.S.'s top adversaries. India's participation in this alliance seems strange given its simultaneous membership of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. 

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD): 

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) is a strategic security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States that was initiated in 2007 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to counter growing Chinese influence in Asia. India upset Japan recently when it joined the Russia-led Vostok-2022 military exercises held around a group of islands known as the southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan -- a territorial dispute that dates back to the end of World War II, according to Bloomberg. India scaled back its participation in the war games -- especially staying out of the naval exercises -- in response to the Japanese objections but it left a bad taste. 

Non-Alignment to All-Alignment: 

The contradictions inherent in the membership of both of these competing alliances are already being exposed by Mr. Modi's large and rapidly growing purchases of Russian energy and weapons despite western sanctions.  “India’s neutral public positioning on the invasion has raised difficult questions in Washington DC about our alignment of values and interests,” said Richard Rossow, a senior adviser on India policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Bloomberg News. “Such engagements -- especially if they trigger new or expanded areas of cooperation that benefit Russia -- will further erode interest among Washington policy makers for providing India a ‘pass’ on tough sanctions decision.”

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Comment by Riaz Haq on November 13, 2022 at 6:44pm

If China Invaded Taiwan, What Would India Do?
The New Delhi government fears its expansionist neighbor but is deeply wary about getting in the middle of a brawl with Beijing.

By Hal Brands


https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/features/2022-11-14/if-china-inva...


So how might India react if China attacked Taiwan? Although India can’t project much military power east of the Malacca Strait, it could still, in theory, do a lot. US officials quietly hope that India might grant access to its Andaman and Nicobar Islands, in the eastern Bay of Bengal, to facilitate a blockade of China’s oil supplies. The Indian Navy could help keep Chinese ships out of the Indian Ocean; perhaps the Indian Army could distract China by turning up the heat in the Himalayas.

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New Delhi has a real stake in the survival of a free Taiwan. China has a punishing strategic geography, in that it faces security challenges on land and at sea. If taking Taiwan gave China preeminence in maritime Asia, though, Beijing could then pivot to settle affairs with India on land.

Expect a “turn toward the South” once China’s Taiwan problem is resolved, one Indian defense official told me. And in general, a world in which China is emboldened — and the US and its democratic allies are badly bloodied — by a Taiwan conflict would be very nasty for India.

But none of this ensures that India will cast its lot, militarily or diplomatically, with a pro-Taiwan coalition. Appeals to common democratic values or norms of nonaggression won’t persuade India to aid Taiwan any more than they have induced it to help Ukraine.

Armchair strategists might dream of opening a second front in the Himalayas, but India might be paralyzed by fear that openly aiding the US anywhere would simply give China a pretext to batter overmatched, unprepared Indian forces on their shared frontier.

The Modi government has been happy to have America’s help in dealing with India’s China problem but is far more reluctant to return the favor by courting trouble in the Western Pacific.

What India would do in a Taiwan conflict is really anyone’s guess. The most nuanced assessment I heard came from a longtime Indian diplomat. A decade ago, he said, India would definitely have sat on the sidelines. Today, support for Taiwan and the democratic coalition is conceivable, but not likely. After another five years of tension with China and cooperation with the Quad, though, who knows?

Optimists in Washington might take this assessment as evidence that India is moving in the right direction. Pessimists might point out that there is still a long way to go, and not much time to get there.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 20, 2022 at 8:28am

U.S. Seeks Closer Ties With India as Tension With China and Russia Builds
Treasury Secretary Yellen wants India to be part of the Biden administration’s “friend-shoring” agenda, but trade tensions linger.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/11/business/us-india-relations.html


The United States is placing India at the center of its ambition to detach global supply chains from the clutches of American adversaries, seeking to cement ties with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies as tensions with China remain high and as Russia’s war in Ukraine upends international commerce.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, the Biden administration’s top economic diplomat, delivered that message in person on Friday during a visit to the Indian capital at a moment of intense global economic uncertainty. Soaring food and energy prices stemming from Russia’s war and heightened concerns about America’s reliance on Chinese products have pushed the United States to try to reshape the global economic order so that allies depend on one another for the goods and services that power their economies.

India is often in the middle of geopolitical jostling between the United States, China and Russia. But as the Biden administration promotes what it calls “friend-shoring,” it is making clear that it wants India to be in America’s orbit of economic allies.



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India emerged as a significant obstacle when members of the World Trade Organization tried to reach a suite of agreements at a meeting this year. It has also declined to join negotiations over the trade pillar of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, an Asia-Pacific economic pact proposed by the Biden administration.

In the last few months, India’s long economic relationship with Russia has become increasingly problematic for the United States. India is the world’s largest buyer of Russian munitions — a relationship that is difficult to sever, particularly given India’s tensions with neighboring China and Pakistan. India has refused to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And since the war began, it has become a major buyer of Russian oil, which it is able to purchase on international markets at a discount.

India’s imports from Russia have risen 430 percent since the war in Ukraine began in February, as tankers of Russian crude oil flock to Indian ports. India, which imports a significant amount of energy and is the world’s second-most-populous country, has said it is merely focused on buying oil at the lowest price.

Eswar Prasad, a trade policy at Cornell University who speaks to both American and Indian officials, said that while India wanted to forge a stronger economic relationship with the United States, it was unlikely to distance itself from Russia.

“India has very deep-seated economic interests in maintaining a reliable and relatively cheap supply of oil from Russia,” said Mr. Prasad, a former official with the International Monetary Fund.

The American embrace of India comes as the United States and its European allies are racing to complete the terms of a plan to cap the price of Russian oil. The initiative must be in place by Dec. 5, when a European embargo and maritime insurance ban goes into effect, potentially disrupting the flow of Russian oil around the world.

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“In a world where supply chain vulnerabilities can impose heavy costs, we believe it’s important to strengthen our trade ties with India and the large number of countries that share our approach to economic relations,” she said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 20, 2022 at 8:53am

U.S. Seeks Closer Ties With India as Tension With China and Russia Builds

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/11/business/us-india-relations.html


Sadanand Dhume, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said India faced several challenges in becoming a hub for international manufacturing, including government reforms that had not yet “appreciably” made it a more attractive destination for companies. And compared with China, India’s domestic consumer market is smaller and therefore less attractive for companies that manufacture there.

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The price cap would essentially create an exception to Western sanctions, allowing Russian oil to be sold and shipped as long as it remained below a certain price, a level that has yet to be determined.

India has been circumspect about the proposal, but Treasury Department officials say the United States is not trying to push it to formally join its coalition. Instead, they are hopeful that India will use the price cap as leverage to negotiate lower prices with Russia, depriving Mr. Putin of revenue but keeping the nation’s oil flowing.

However, Ms. Yellen emphasized in her speech that relying on Russian oil came with risks.

“Russia has long presented itself as a reliable energy partner,” Ms. Yellen said. “But for the better part of this year, Putin has weaponized Russia’s natural gas supply against the people of Europe.

The Treasury secretary added: “It’s an example of how malicious actors can use their market positions to try to gain geopolitical leverage or disrupt trade for their own gain.”

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Atul Keshap, the president of the U.S.-India Business Council, said there were many opportunities for economic partnership between the United States and India, especially in setting up secure supply chains for strategic technologies like semiconductors, electric vehicle batteries, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and drones.


“You look at the headlines, you look at the risks to the supply chain,” Mr. Keshap said. “You look at the uncertainties of the last two or three years, and countries like India have an opportunity.”

But business leaders and trade experts say the U.S. and Indian governments have thus far failed to realize those opportunities. Talks for a trade deal with India briefly flourished during the Trump administration, but a series of persistent economic issues — ranging from India’s barriers for U.S. agricultural goods and medical devices to its lack of protection for U.S. intellectual property — have made any agreement difficult to reach.

A U.S. program that lowered tariffs on imports from poorer countries, including India, lapsed in 2020, and there has not been enough support in Congress to reinstate it. At a 2021 trade meeting in New Delhi, the sides made some headway on opening trade for American pork, cherries and alfalfa hay, and Indian mangoes and pomegranates.

A U.S.-India trade policy forum eyed for Nov. 8 in Washington was pushed back to give officials more time to achieve more substantive outcomes, a representative from the Office of the United States Trade Representative said.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of her meetings on Friday, Ms. Yellen said that reducing tariffs was not currently part of the discussions with India, but that the two sides had been talking about other “trade facilitation” measures to reduce non-tariff barriers.

According to Mr. Prasad, who is also a former I.M.F. official, there is lingering skepticism in India about the durability of America’s good intentions in the aftermath of the tariffs that former President Donald J. Trump enacted.

“There is a layer of apprehension if not outright mistrust in Delhi,” Mr. Prasad said.

Ms. Yellen came to India to show that, despite their differences, the United States can be a trusted partner. On Friday, she also met with India’s finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman.

Comment by Riaz Haq on Monday

US-India Relations Aren’t Playing Out Like a Bollywood Movie
Analysis by Bobby Ghosh

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/us-india-relations-arent-pl...

In American foreign policy circles, where lazy hegemonic assumptions still abound, there is a widespread conviction that the US-India relationship will play out like a Bollywood film: There may be some resistance at the beginning, some friction in the middle and plenty of song and dance along the way, but in the end the protagonists will overcome all hurdles and live happily ever after.

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This failure to communicate is in large part to blame for a growing suspicion among Indians of US foreign-policy objectives. A new survey shows that Indians view the US as the biggest military threat to their country after China — and, even more shocking, put it ahead of Pakistan. Conducted by Morning Consult, a US-based global business intelligence company, the poll also shows Indians are more likely to blame America and NATO than Russia for the war in Ukraine.


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But Washington has long since switched sides from Islamabad to New Delhi, and the US Navy now routinely conducts joint exercises with its Indian counterpart. India is a key member of the US-led Quad, a security grouping that includes Japan and Australia and is designed to check Chinese ambitions in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Surely no Indian in their right mind perceives a real military threat from the US?

Rick Rossow, an India expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, reckons the fear is rooted in the consequences of American military adventures elsewhere: “The concern is that our actions threaten Indian interests.”

Rossow, who holds the Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at CSIS, points out that as one of the world’s largest importers of hydrocarbons, India suffers collateral damage from American policies that lead to a spike in oil and gas prices. “You can make a strong case that the war in Iraq and the sanctions against Iran have hurt the Indian economy,” he says.

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Why hasn’t it? For one thing, it has not cared to. But perhaps more worrisome, it lacks the minimum means to communicate with the Indians. The State Department faces a chronic shortage of speakers in any of the Indian languages. It is also lacking an ambassador in New Delhi. The position has been unfilled since Biden became president.

This is hardly an exception: Republicans in the Senate have blocked a number of Biden appointees for ambassadorships. But even Democrats have questioned his choice of Eric Garcetti for the Delhi job. The former mayor of Los Angeles has faced allegations of ignoring a former top aide’s sexual harassment and bullying; he denies this.

That Biden has persisted with Garcetti’s candidacy for the last year and a half is baffling: The mayor has no special expertise on India. Worse, the State Department has been unable even to maintain a semblance of stability at the embassy, which has been run by five charges d’affaires over the past two years. The longest-serving of these had no India experience whatsoever. (In contrast, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, India’s ambassador to Washington, is on his fourth US stint.)

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There is no prominent India hand at the Biden White House, and although much was made of Harris’s ancestry during the election campaign, the administration has not capitalized on the enthusiasm she generated among Indians. Putting the vice president front and center of India policy would be a good place to start undoing the damage of long American neglect.

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