Yesterday, in my article on Bangladesh, I noted that the behaviour of its rising Islamists "is slowly forcing the US and India together over common strategic concerns."
Actually, Bangladesh is just one of many - and this week, The United States and India signed a 10-year agreement paving the way for stepped up military ties, including joint weapons production and cooperation on missile defense. Titled the "New Framework for the US-India Defense Relationship" (NFDR), it was signed on June 27/05 by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and India's Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
This is a big deal. A very big deal.
Our readers know that Winds has covered India with enthusiasm and promoted a US-India alliance for a number of reasons. Many of us are fans of the Anglosphere concept, and we also see the economic & cultural trends, historical and geopolitical logic, and moral sense behind such an alliance. I've even advocated a leaf from the British historical playbook via a "Mumbai Doctrine" for the Indian Ocean basin. As Pavitr Prabhakar could tell us, after all, "with great power comes great responsibility."
This agreement doesn't go that far, but it is a very important step. Under the NFDR, Washington has offered high-tech cooperation, expanded economic ties, and energy cooperation. It will also step up a strategic dialogue with India to boost missile defense and other security initiatives, launch a "defense procurement and production group," and work to cooperate on military "research, development, testing and evaluation." Given India's broken military procurement system, the know-how transfer will be every bit as valuable as the technology transfer - maybe more so.
And the agreement doesn't stop there...
During the ceremonies, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed India's position that all military technology restrictions should be dropped. He won't get his wish immediately, but they'll be eased coonsiderably, from fighter aircraft to the even more important maritime patrol category. Those barriers will diminish even further as trust and cooperation grow.
In the area of missile defense, for instance, efforts will begin with efforts to secure approval of Patriot PAC-3 missiles for India (prevous offers had involved less advanced PAC-2s). No word on whether India's previous requests for Israeli-American Arrow THAAD missile defense system would also be approved.
Furthermore, the MFDR envisages joint and combined exercises and exchanges between both sides, naval pilot training... and increased cooperation in the areas of worldwide peacekeeping operations and expansion of interaction with other nations "in ways that promote regional and global peace and stability."
If a Mumbai Doctrine does arise, that last bit will be its first seed.
During Dr. Rice's March 2005 visit to India, the United States talked about helping India become a "major world power in the 21st century" even as it announced moves to beef up Pakistan's military. This agreement shows that Washington was serious. Very serious.
By now, I'm sure you're all asking where China fits in. Actually, India took great pains to avoid any semblance of targeting China with this agreement, and the USA is denying up and down that this has anything to do with China.
(thanks to General Quarters)
It doesn't get much stronger than being a geopolitical strategic partner of the United States. China doesn't have to be challenged directly or even mentioned to have its options hemmed, and that's what just happened.
"In their joint statement released after the talks, the two leaders agreed to strengthen bilateral and multilateral co-operation on trans-national issues, including the global fight against terrorism, crime, narcotics, and trafficking in persons, and to deepen co-operation on health and humanitarian issues, including the prevention of pandemics, especially of HIV/AIDS and Avian Influenza.
They reaffirmed their governments' determination to implement fully the commitments made under the Vietnam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement. President Bush expressed strong support for Vietnam's accession to the World Trade Organisation."
Cam Ranh Bay is a very fine port - I wouldn't make a move just yet, but down the road it might make a fine foreign base for a naval ally with strong interests in the area.
Pretty soon some sad-eyed Chinese politician will have to campaign for election on a platform of being "stronger at home, and more respected abroad." Oh... right. Nevermind.
Still, you get the idea. Cooperation between India and the USA can be expected to start blossoming at all levels. I think Robin can expect to meet a few Indian cadets on future West Point R-Days, for instance, though India's ties with the British military system will also continue. The two countries tech sectors will continue to tighten ties already forged by entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, expatriates, and re-patriates. Cultural relations will expand, and political ties will deepen just as the Desi community in the USA itself begins to furnish rising stars like Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and flex its political muscles. The relationship will have its ups and downs, as many in India are still wary of the USA due to US sanctions over India's nuclear program, remnants of Soviet-era mindsets, etc. Agreement on every issue isn't necessary, so long as the broader relationship continues to evolve.
As the Times of India notes:
"Indicative of New Delhi's broader goals is a paragraph in the agreement that talks of the two sides working "to conclude defence transactions, not solely as ends in and of themselves, but as a means to strengthen our countries' security, reinforce our strategic partnership, achieve greater interaction between our armed forces, and build greater understanding between our defence establishments."
May that understanding bloom, grow, and spiral beyond to new horizons. Together.
SIDEBAR: Having offered an overview and analysis, I'm going to end this piece with something unusual: a thank-you.
There's a man out there who deserves serious recognition for these developments, but won't get it because it came after his time. Ambassador Robert Blackwill's advocacy and efforts an a truly excellent representative (and poet) during his recent term in India played an important role at a critical time, from 9/11 to the Shuttle Columbia disaster and beyond. His piece on the future of U.S.-India relations is an excellent recap of that history, and may prove prophetic. If this alliance develops the way I think it will, he'll be one poet who really did help change the world.
Thank you, sir.
Additional Readings and Sources
- Desiblogger Nitin Pai adds some thoughts and analysis, including some future irritants etc. Loved the star-crossed lovers quote from the Economist.
- More Indian and Desi thoughts over at the Bharat Rakshak India defence message board. Reaction varies from "show me" to positive, and they have shown interest in your comments as well as this article. As our Silicon Valley team member Tim Oren put it: we are all diplomats now.
- Agence-France Presse (June 29/05) - U.S. India Sign 10-Year Defense Pact.
- Times of India (June 29/05) - India, US Sign Defence Pact
- NewIndiapress.com (June 29/05) - India, US sign 10-year defence pact
- Financial Times.com (June 29/05) - US signs formal defence pact with India. Note the comments re: India, containment of China, and non-alignment, and also this article which comments on some of the divided opinions within India.
- Winds of Change.NET (June 6/05) - India's Big Naval Move: INS Kadamba
- Winds of Change.NET (April 12/05) - That India Fighter Deal. See also my follow-up discussion with Bill Rice, now blogging at our affiliate blog The 4th Rail.
- Defense Industry Daily - India Topic Category
Finally, the US-India Institute is a good place to go for ongoing briefings. It has been established to promote a lasting alliance between the world's two largest democracies, an alliance rooted in stronger economic and national security ties between the two countries and reflecting their common commitment to preserving democratic freedoms.