A dangerous drift?

The US’ overall geopolitical design is determined by three circumstances. First, in the opinion of the US analysts, it is in the APR that the geo-economic axis of the world economy is changing position; this is where the US interests — given the vast size of this region — need “special protection”. Secondly, given the economic growth of China and other APR countries, the US’ principal strategic purpose has become more complex: effective control over global space at a time when the US’ economic, military and political potential is relatively weak. Thirdly, the US’ main political aim is still “to hold China’s geo-economic and geopolitical expansion in check”. This aim has proved difficult to realise in light of Russia’s virtual refusal to act as a counterweight to China in the APR and beyond and given that a revival of the economy of Japan (as well as South Korea and other countries in Northeast Asia) depends on closer economic ties with China.

This explains why the Barack Obama administration has returned to pursuing a conception of “special relations” with India in order to actively restrain China.

This return to the Bush era’s India-US bonhomie has been received positively by three influential socio-political forces in India: 1) the private corporate sector which sees a “strategic alliance” with the US integral to plans to turn India into a “great economic power” by 2030 or 2035; 2) the growing middle class, primarily its most well-to-do segments, which have pinned their hopes on the US as an “outside guarantor” of its way of life in the face of the growing might of inscrutable China; 3) the generals and the officers’ corps, the overwhelming majority of which, Indian analysts say, are prone to see the US as a “producer of top military technology and a reliable supplier of state-of-the-art combat systems”. This influential elite, which enjoys access to top officials in the Ministry of Defense, is constantly asserting that India must relinquish Russia in favour of the US as its main supplier of military technology.

The effective link connecting Washington and Delhi is the affluent and politically active 3-million strong Indian community in the US. The Americans are forever instilling their ideas and notions in India’s scientific institutes and higher education on the assumption that the new generation of Indians is favourably disposed toward the US, its ideas and values.

“The American project” of reorienting India’s foreign policy is being carried out in a favourable internal political situation. Its main feature is a weakening of forces opposing the ruling Congress i.e. the Communists and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Finally, an indirect sign of Delhi’s inclusion in the geopolitical designs of Washington is the resurgence of the idea of an “alliance of four democracies” (the US, Japan, Australia and India) with the possible later inclusion of South Korea in “eastern NATO” (as this “project” is known in Beijing).

I think that the tendencies towards the “Americanization” of India’s foreign policy are evident, a view aggressively countered by India’s ruling coalition. Increasingly, Indian diplomats are talking about the “archaic nature” of Nehru’s ideas. After all, the “nuclear deal” and the prospects of acquiring from the US the most advanced types of weapons and military technology — these and other long-term initiatives come from the “very top” and are based on a particular system of geo-economic and geopolitical argumentation.

Andrey Volodin is a Chief Researcher at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow.

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