Monday, November 13, 2017

Is US Playing the "India Card" Against China With "Indo-Pacific Quad"?

Has Asia-Pacific become Indo-Pacific? Is George W. Bush's Quad back again? Is this Trump's version of Obama's Pivot to Asia? Let's examine what happened during President Donald Trump's recent Asia Trip.

Obama's Pivot to Asia:

President Barack Obama's Pivot to Asia initiative and his efforts to create Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) seemed to have been all but abandoned by President Donald Trump after his inauguration in January 2017. This is part of a pattern of Mr. Trump's campaign to erase the Obama legacy and put his own stamp on all things American. However, it now appears that the Obama legacy is being repackaged by the Trump administration under new names such as "Quad" in "Indo-Pacific" region. Its aim remains the same: To check China's rise.

Trump's Quad in Indo-Pacific:

In a speech to business leaders during his visit to Vietnam, President Trump repeatedly called for a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” describing a region where independent nations could “thrive in freedom and peace” and all states “play by the rules.” Without naming China as the target, Trump also used the phrase repeatedly at the start of a meeting Monday in the Philippines with President Rodrigo Duterte, according to Bloomberg.    Trump also met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Manila and called him a friend and a “great gentleman.”

Trump's Asia trip also saw the revival of a decade-old but short-lived partnership of four maritime nations (Australia, India, Japan and the United States) worried about China’s rising influence in the region now being described as "Indo-Pacific" rather than its usual moniker of Asia-Pacific.  Senior officials from the four countries met in Manila for the first such meeting since the George W. Bush administration, focused on regional issues including North Korea but topped with China-related concerns.

US-India Anti-China Military Alliance?

To some observers, the "Quad" appears to be a throwback to the Cold War era in which the United States wants to use Narendra Modi as a willing ally to check China's rise. They cite lack of confidence in the current American leadership under Trump to follow through on any international or bilateral commitments.

While the US seeks to use India against China, the Indians remain obsessed with Pakistan. They talk about the lack of American concern for India's interests in South Asia and the Middle East. Writing for The Wire, Indian analyst Manoj Joshi complains that "there is no reciprocal US commitment to issues of Indian concern relating to Pakistan and the dangers arising out of the highly volatile environment in the Persian Gulf area which the US has helped create".

India's Pakistan Obsession:

It seems to me that the US policymakers don't fully appreciate the Kautilya doctrine that says "your neighbor is your enemy and your neighbor's neighbor is your friend".

The foreign policy doctrine enunciated by Kautilya, the ancient Indian Machiavelli, continues to guide India's foreign policy vis-a-vis its neighbors, particularly Pakistan. Kautilya's Rajamdala (Circle of States) theory can be seen in action today in India's use of Afghanistan against Pakistan. Unfortunately, the Pakistan phobia in India is so deeply ingrained that the Indian policy vis-a-vis Pakistan is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.


President Donald Trump has repeatedly talked about the "Indo-Pacific" region in an obvious attempt to sign up Delhi to counter Beijing in Asia.  However, the Indians remain obsessed with enlisting the Americans to hurt Pakistan. The Trump administration is willing to engage in anti-Pakistan rhetoric but it is not going to act against Pakistan as long as Afghanistan remains important to the US interests. This is where their interest diverge now and likely to remain so at least in the foreseeable future.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Why is India Sponsoring Terrorism in Pakistan?

Ex-Indian Spy Documents RAW's Successes in Pakistan

Post Cold War Line-up: Pakistan-Russia-China vs India-Japan-US

Ex RAW Chief AS Dulat Blames Advani For Agra Summit Failure

Pakistan ISI: Afghanistan's Bogeyman

Trump's Anti-Pakistan Rhetoric

Counter-insurgencyOperation ZarbeAzb

India's Abiding Hostility Toward Pakistan 

India's Israel Envy: Will Modi Attack Pakistan?

India's Pakistan Phobia


Chen said...

In international relationship, India remains a card, not a player. And it's a relatively weak and unstable card.

Singh said...

I would have preferred India to be friends with China rather than US,that that is clearly not possible due to nuclear proliferation by China to its 2 client states

Ali I. said...

Not surprising. Use India as a pawn against China.

Anonymous said...

In 60s ZAB wrote "it is the hatered of Pakistan that has kept India united".

So, Pakistan is not India's obsession but requirement for its existence.


NBRX said...

Then the answer is simple. Give up this Kashmir nonsense and be friends with India ceding whatever is necessary. India will then break up and you can snatch Kashmir and more!

Anonymous said...

NBRX wrote "Then the answer is simple. Give up this Kashmir nonsense and be friends with India ceding whatever is necessary. India will then break up and you can snatch Kashmir and more!"

It takes two to tango, first of all India will never solve all problems and even if all problems with Pakistan are resolved then India will create a new boogy man (China?) to keep the population terrified and united.

Artificial nations (like India) exist on external enemies.

G. Ali

Anonymous said...

How is India an artificial nation but not Pakistan?

Btw all nations need credible external enemies to maintain focus.The quality of US leadership has fallen of a cliff ever since the USSR collapsed.

Reagan,Kennedy,Eisenhower...vs Clnton,Bush Jr. and now The Donald!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said
"How is India an artificial nation but not Pakistan?"

Just check the history of India. Never before the British united it were Kashmir to Kanya Kumari were ruled by one ruler, it was British who united sub continent. As Dr. Lee Kyan Yew said that India was not even a real country, merely “32 separate nations that happen to be arrayed along a British rail line”.

On the other hand there is Pakistan. If there is a nation whose nationhood is justified, it is Pakistan, where around 90% people voted for it's creation.

I am not sure if US needs enemies. It is easier to sell McDs and iPhones to friends and partners than to enemies and rivals.

G. Ali

NBRX said...

UK is artificial. USA is articial so is South Africa. In fact most countries. Maybe Pakistan creation was divine!


made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, typically as a copy of something natural.

Anonymous said...

NBRX said... "UK is artificial. USA is articial so is South Africa. In fact most countries...."

We are not talking about US/UK/South Africa or for that matter about Mars or Jupiter, so who cares. We are talking about South Asia, so stay with it.

Typical Indian, can't argue with facts so bring in grandmothers shoe size into the discussion.

G. Ali

Riaz Haq said...

Here's India's Hindu Nationalist loving Tarek Fateh calling for dissolution of India into multiple nations

"India, the whole sub-continent, you see it was never been one country....even during the British, India has not been one country under Ashoka, not even under Aurangzeb

The future that I see, if I had my dreams come true, something like Europe, the entities that exist are Bengal. Punjab with no borders, common currency,

there's more in common between someone in Lahore and Delhi than between someone between Delhi and Madras.

Break-up of India, that's my analysis of what will happen in the future, if it's ever dissolved voluntarily, would be best thing to happen to India, like Europe has.

Anonymous said...

Riaz Haq,

You have restored my faith in humanity, Tariq Fateh saying something intellegent, wow? This was probably before he was invited to become an RSS stooge.

Some seventy years ago Dr. Ambedkar wrote a book "Pakistan or division of India", he mentioned that for seventy years there is an argument going on between the anglos and Hindus about weather or not India is a nation. He wrote that when Hindus are told that India is not a nation, they feel like some one has taken off their cloths in public. Remember the book was written in 1940s, so for some 140 years they have been told that India is a nation, now the myth has become a reality for them.

G. Ali

Truth Seeker said...

In terms of countries that have ceased to exist, isn't Pakistan of 1947, since 1971, ceased to exist technically speaking?

SYJ said...

As a American and a long term US Embassy worker in India but now retired I see many parallels to the US. India is going through growing pains of a maturing democracy not unlike the race relations in the US. I see a Indian "glue" that is getting stickier and stickier on its own notwithstanding problems - like race issues in the US.

It is a definite positive for the world as a whole. Problems will arise but it is the capacity to resolve and that is sticky glue.
All the best!

Riaz Haq said...

SYJ: " I see a Indian "glue" that is getting stickier and stickier on its own notwithstanding problems - like race issues in the US."

I'm afraid the "glue" holding India together is under threat with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its top leader. Modi is a highly divisive figure like the current US President Donald Trump. The two have a lot in common.

Riaz Haq said...

Truth Seeker: "In terms of countries that have ceased to exist, isn't Pakistan of 1947, since 1971, ceased to exist technically speaking?"

A country like Pakistan is not defined by geography alone.

Pakistan is not one or two's much more complex as explained by Christophe Jaffrelot in his book "The Pakistan Paradox: Instability and Resilience".

Political, military, religious, ethnic, sectarian, secular, conservative and liberal forces are constantly pushing and pulling to destabilize it but Pakistan remains resilient with its strong nationalism that has evolved after 1971.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan will always be important for #US, say experts at a conference in #India. #Trump #China #Afghanistan | Business Line …

Pakistan will always be important to the US in its strategy towards containing Taliban and other terrorist organisations in Afghanistan even as India will continue to play a crucial role in balancing the geopolitical changes in the region, say experts.

“The US policy toward South Asia is not new, but a tweaking of the earlier policy … And India’s relationship with China and Pakistan should not worsen because we think the Americans are on our side,” said former diplomat KC Singh at an event – The New US Policy toward South Asia: Implications for the Region – organised by Chaophraya Dialogue: India Chapter here on Tuesday.

Ambassador Singh said India should be very careful in coming under US’ radar when it comes to their strategy for Asia Pacific or offshore balancing.

“India will have to function within a shadow play in the bipolar world,” he added.

Within nine months into the Presidency, Donald Trump announced his much-awaited South Asia policy in August this year. While not deviating much from what his predecessor Barack Obama did with Afghanistan to promote the war on terror there, President Trump vowed to keep American boots on Afghan soil.

One of the main reasons, why President Trump did this was to ensure that withdrawal of international troops from there should provide an opportunity to terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda, ISIS or Daesh, Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) to make a comeback again into mainstream politics.

“India has welcomed Trump’s South Asia policy because it clearly mentions Pakistan as a safe haven for terrorists. America’s only objective is to get rid of the safe havens for terrorist organisations and preventing the nuclear armaments to come into the hands of terrorists,” said Gulshan Sachdeva, professor at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

He also believes that in return of India endorsing US’ South Asia policy, it can be asked of other things by America in terms of promoting trade and connectivity with war-torn Afghanistan.