US strategy paper: China the most important challenge, India a partner

By Sanjay Kumar

The Biden administration’s first full- fledged National Security Strategy (NSS) underscored India’s centrality in America’s vision for “a free and open Indo-Pacific” and its vision for democracies  that “can deliver for their people and the world”.

In 2021, the Biden regime presented an interim NSS which was an abridged version of the latest strategic statement.  The focus of the NSS is China and how it is the “most consequential geopolitical challenge”.

With India locked in an intense border conflict with China in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, such a strategic formulation is very reassuring for New Delhi in the event of an escalation of tension with Beijing. New Delhi and Washington have been working on a joint strategy in the Indo-pacific region for quite some time. The latest NSS is just an iteration of what is very much in the public domain.

“As India is the world’s largest democracy and a Major Defense Partner, the United States and India will work together, bilaterally and multilaterally, to support our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific”, the NSS said. The US sees India not only as a strategic defense and geopolitical partner it also views the South Asian republic as a comrade for propagating the values and vision for democracies in the globe as a counter to autocracies around the world.

“We will deepen our cooperation with democracies and other like-minded states. From the Indo-Pacific Quad (Australia, India, Japan, United States) to the US-EU Trade and Technology Council, from AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom, United States) to I2-U2 (India, Israel, UAE, United States), we are creating a latticework of strong, resilient, and mutually reinforcing relationships that prove democracies can deliver for their people and the world”, said the NSS.

The new NSS frames Russia as a degrading power and it reduces its geo-political stature vis-a-vis Asian players like India and Japan. It said that “Putin’s war has profoundly diminished Russia’s status vis-a-vis China and other Asian powers such as India and Japan”. “Russia poses an immediate and ongoing threat to the regional security order in Europe…but it lacks the across the spectrum capabilities of the PRC ( People’s Republic of China)”, said the new security document.

The NSS also mentions India in the context of the G7 when it says that “the G7 is at its strongest when it also formally engages other countries with aligned goals, such as at the 2022 summit where Argentina, India, Indonesia, Senegal, South Africa, and Ukraine also participated”.

India would, however, not be pleased with the USA leaving Pakistan based-terror groups out of the NSS when the security draft talks about terrorism and Afghanistan. To assure India and other allies Washington tells them that it would “hold the Taliban accountable for its public commitments on counterterrorism”. It said that Washington would ensure that Afghanistan “never again serves as a safe haven for terrorist attacks on the United States or our allies and we will hold the Taliban accountable for its public commitments on counterterrorism”.

“We ended America’s longest war, in Afghanistan, having long ago achieved our objective of delivering justice to Osama Bin Laden and other key leadership of Al-Qa’ida. We are confident in our ability to maintain the fight against al-Qaeda, ISIS, and associated forces from over the horizon, as we demonstrated with the operation to kill Ayman al Zawahiri”, said the NSS.

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