Quad Quandary: Modi, Trump step up strategic connect in balancing Asia

Amid the mutating strategic landscape in Asia and the new geostrategic configuration of Quadrilateral as a backdrop, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi held wide-ranging talks with US President Donald Trump in Manila that focused on bolstering India’s military capability and enhancing strategic connect in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Modi-Trump meeting at a glitzy hotel in Manila on November 13 was watched closely in the region amid a collective effort by the leaders of ASEAN and East Asia Summit countries to shape an inclusive regional architecture and China’s declared ambition to be a global power.
The meeting between Mr Modi and Mr Trump lasted for 52 minutes, much beyond the allotted time, signalling that despite a slew of back-to-back meetings both leaders had serious business to discuss. “There was a broad review of strategic landscape in Asia,” India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar told reporters at Manila Marriott hotel, where PM Modi with his entourage is staying.
Mr Trump was all praise for Mr Modi, suggesting a deepening personal chemistry between the two leaders. “He’s become a friend of ours and a great gentleman doing a fantastic job in bringing around lots of factions in India — bringing them all together,” he said.
Bonhomie and backslapping apart, the overarching thrust of the discussions was on spurring the rise of India as a major global power and enhanced coordination in the Asia-Pacific, with an eye on containing China.
The White House read-out on the Trump-Modi meeting underlined “shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
They pledged to enhance their cooperation as Major Defense Partners, resolving that two of the world’s great democracies should also have the world’s greatest militaries,” said the White House.

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Amid churn in Indo-Pacific, US plays India versus China game

Ahead of his maiden visit to India, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has projected the US as the reliable partner India needs, positioning New Delhi and Washington as two “two bookends of stability” in the Indo-Pacific region which is being challenged by China’s “irresponsible” rise.

Courting India ahead of his first official visit to New Delhi next week, Mr Tillerson projected an upbeat trajectory of the India-US relations that have been on an upswing ever since President Donald Trump assumed office earlier this year. In a defining foreign policy speech at an American think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Tillerson said that the US is “determined to dramatically deepen ways” to build an “ambitious partnership” with India, particularly with an eye on the Indo-Pacific region and China, which will have “far-reaching implications for the next 100 years.”
Going by Mr Tillerson’s comments, it would appear that the US is pushing for a renewed China containment strategy, with India as a key balancer against China’s assertiveness. Should India offer to be part of this strategy? Opinion is divided among India’s strategic establishment. Meera Shankar, India’s former ambassador to the US, has struck a note of caution. “It’s a culmination of the trend of strengthening strategic partnerships in the region by the US to balance China,” Mrs Shankar told India Writes Network. “A stronger India will ipso facto act as a balancer, without getting into overt containment strategy,” she said. The US should help to bolster India’s rise and capabilities, she said.

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Why India-Japan nuclear concord is a big deal

Marking the transformative moment in India-Japan relations, Asia’s second and third largest economies signed a historic nuclear pact that signals a new dawn in their burgeoning relations, and makes Tokyo an indispensable partner in India’s development journey.
In Kantei, the stately glass-and-wood office of Japan’s prime minister, there was an atmosphere of quiet celebration as Tokyo made a leap of faith and exceptionalized India by signing its first nuclear deal with a country which hasn’t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe smiled as India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Japan’s ambassador to India signed the pact and shook hands warmly.
It was an India-plus exception and underscored New Delhi’s growing profile in Tokyo’s strategic calculus. For Mr Abe it wasn’t an easy decision given Japan’s entrenched nuclear non-proliferation orthodoxy and its singular experience of being attacked by nuclear negotiations, but in the end his strategic vision of the potential of the world’s fastest growing economy and an emerging security provider won.
The text of the nuclear agreement has not been made public so far, but Mr Jaishankar underlined “striking similarities” with the 123 agreement India signed with the US. It’s an improvised and updated version of the 123 agreement, albeit with Japan-specific features.
The deal’s importance goes much beyond nuclear commerce, and paves the stage for a marked acceleration of India-Japan relations in all areas, including trade and investment, green energy and connectivity. This was clear from the signing of 10 agreements and a soaring vision of India-Japan relations which will draw Asia’s two leading democracies in a tighter strategic embrace in the Indo-Pacific region. The deal also signalled a more proactive and expanded role by Japan in key schemes of national renewal, including Make in India, Digital India and Skill India.

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