India's growing bonhomie with the States

The recent visit of the Indian Prime Minister to the United States was once again met with much enthusiasm among the political circles. Whe...

The recent visit of the Indian Prime Minister to the United States was once again met with much enthusiasm among the political circles. Whether it was in Washington DC, or rather close back home in Delhi, the political pundits predict that PM Modi is aggressively pushing for improved bilateral ties between the US and India. On the third errand to the United States, as a part of a bilateral summit with President Obama, Modi was permitted to address the State Congress. Modi's repertoire of diplomatic tricks is, in a sense, unorthodox: he emphasizes on personal relations between State leaders. However, the big question is: Will this camaraderie with the States work out as an ideal solution for India? We will also analyse the probable ramifications that the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) can hold for India's defence sector.

The answer to the above question requires analysis of the current, present-day situation in Asia. China is undoubtedly the sole power, outflanking everyone by their technological might and economical strength. With its eye fixed on the South China Sea and its associated islands, China would look at the growing Indo-American relations with an eye of suspicion. If at all this works out as an informal military alliance, Beijing's plans of regional dominance will be crushed. That doesn't mean it will curl back- the probabilities for China to try and expand its influence will be ever more increasingly pestering. Another important clog in the wheel is that India is possibly endangering any hope (there wasn't any really, but still as a last measure) of wooing Beijing to support India's application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 48-nation strong group of countries with nuclear capability. For decades, India has refused to be drawn into defence deals with any of the big powers. However, under Modi, India looks wary of China's truculent nature: Whether it be unprovoked aggression in what was the former NEFA- or deliberate intrusion into Ladakh territory over a number of times- Xi Jinping, the President of the People's Republic of China, has refused to tone down the diplomatic heat.

Even if we ignore the potent threat that China is, we cannot ignore Russia. Statistically, Russia still remains the largest arms supplier to India. Even if the Western media chides the Putin administration for losing out on some contracts, one cannot overlook the glaring fact that India had decided to purchase one hundred and fifty Mi-17 choppers from the former-Soviet state. Moreover, it would be worthwhile to note that Russia is the only one to take up the "Make in India" campaign as the foundation stone for its defence sales with India. However, now that in the reverie of suppressing China has India entered into pseudo-military pacts with the USA, Russia might reconsider its decision to impart sophisticated technological defence information and know-hows with India. Russia has been for long the old, time-tested partner for India- whether it be in the area of modernization, defence, investments, or even securing support for various clauses at the UNGA. The concern among veteran diplomats is, Mexico should not misread India's growing tryst with the US as a cause of worry for it.

The Logistics Exchange Memorandum Of Agreement (LEMOA) signed by India and the States looks superficially beneficial for India. As in the sugary coating that America is known to induce on the deals it makes with others, the terms go like this: India can access any of the American naval bases to refuel, restock and repair any of their INS-batch operational carriers, but so can America access the Indian bases in the Indian Ocean.With Obama contending to vanquish Chinese ascendancy in the South China Sea, this pact is crucial to their success. An alternate perspective is also financially demoralizing for the Indian armed forces- the US Forces have also the right to use the Indian military bases for pre-informed routine tasks, without necessarily having to pay in cash for the requisitioned services. With the military budget by the current government pegged at 2.6% of India's GDP, additional expenditures with regard to foreign use may be detrimental to India's cash reserves.

The Foreign Affairs ministry might have a busy schedule at this moment, but is it safe to conclude that Modi's strategies will bear fruit? To me, the principle cause of worry is that America is known to bat for its self interest during the most crucial of times- deserting even her allies for her sake. Will extending this bonhomie over a cup of coffee with Obama really benefit India, especially taking into consideration that Obama is at the fag end of his Presidential term? I leave it upon you to decide it for yourself.

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