India’s decision to boycott China’s Belt and Road Forum has reinvigorated the much-needed debate on the strategic relationship between the two Asian giants. This debate comes on the heels of the February 23, 2017 India-China Strategic Dialogue in Beijing, where the two states found, among their divergences, a convergence on Afghanistan that contradicts some of Delhi’s received wisdom.
Whether launching a few missiles at a Syrian air base, sailing an aircraft carrier toward North Korea (or not), dropping MOAB, or sending more troops to Afghanistan, tactical demonstrations of U.S. strength not tied to strategic objectives sooner rather than later deteriorate into bloody demonstrations of futility.
Considerable policy analysis has been devoted to bilateral strategic relationships between Pakistan and India, India and China, and China and the United States. But the strategic dynamics among these four nuclear powers cannot be understood or effectively addressed on a strictly bilateral basis. While Pakistan responds strategically to India, India responds both to Pakistan and China, which in turn responds both to India and the United States.
If the Trump–Turnbull call illustrated the operatic nature of the early Trump administration, then the Trump–Abe long weekend presented an alternative picture of US alliance management under the new President.
“What do you think about policy Trump in the Middle East?” - a reasonable question, but one with no answer. If we take only the Israel-Palestine conflict as an example, the U.S. has for several decades, through both Republican and Democratic administrations, supported as a solution the establishment of two states, Israel and Palestine, living in peace with each other. The U.S. advocated direct negotiations between the two parties, represented by the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization as the means to that end and has offered to assist in any way.
The United States’ presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific is transforming from a traditional alliance network (of Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand) into a web of strengthened alliances, new partnerships and creative linkages.
Washington must manage this transformation carefully, so its alliance network maintains a deterrent function and reassures allies, but does not exacerbate USChina tensions.
The India-U.S. relationship is presently stronger than at anytime in their history. The twin summits – less than six months apart – in September 2014 and January 2015 between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have repaired, revived and revitalized the strategic partnership. Yet there remain several hurdles to deepening the relationship, notably, geopolitical differences over Iran, Russia, Syria and India’s membership of various nuclear and missile export control regimes.
President Xi Jinping first presented China’s vision for a “Silk Road Economic Belt” during a 2013 speech in Kazakhstan. The idea was to “forge closer economic ties, deepen cooperation, and expand development in the Euro-Asia region”. In early 2015, the contours of Beijing’s strategy began to emerge as China’s leadership laid out plans for this “Silk Road Economic Belt” through Central Asia, and a “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” through Southeast and South Asia. China referred to both collectively as “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR).