Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

NATO+5 Status and India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NATO+5

Mains level: Read the attached story


Central Idea

  • As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Washington, the US Senate is set to introduce legislation that aims to grant India ‘NATO plus five’ defence status.
  • However, India’s External Affairs Minister has already rejected this framework for India.

What is NATO Plus?

  • NATO Plus is a coalition consisting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and five countries, namely Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, and South Korea.
  • The primary objective of this group is to enhance global defense cooperation.
  • Membership in NATO Plus would offer several advantages to India, including seamless intelligence sharing among member countries, access to cutting-edge military technology without delays, and a strengthened defense partnership with the United States.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

  • NATO is an alliance composed of 31 North American and European countries with shared values and interests.
  • The organization was established through the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty, also known as the Washington Treaty, on April 4, 1949.
  • The main purpose of NATO is to safeguard peace and ensure the territorial integrity, political independence, and security of its member states.
  • Article Five of the treaty stipulates that an armed attack against one member shall be considered an attack against all members, and the alliance will provide assistance, including the use of armed forces if necessary.
  • NATO’s headquarters is located in Brussels, Belgium.

Why is the US keen to introduce India to NATO?

The US is keen to introduce India to NATO for these reasons:

  • Counterbalancing China: India’s inclusion in NATO would help counterbalance China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Strengthening defense ties: It would deepen defense cooperation between the US and India.
  • Enhancing regional stability: India’s participation would contribute to regional stability and improve defense capabilities.
  • Expanding NATO’s reach: Including India would expand NATO’s global presence and address security challenges in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Promoting a rules-based order: It aligns with shared values of democracy, human rights, and freedom of navigation.

Benefits if India’s ever joins

Joining NATO + 5 would offer several advantages to India, including:

  • Enhanced security cooperation: India would benefit from increased security cooperation and intelligence sharing with NATO and its five partner countries, namely Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, and South Korea.
  • Access to advanced military technology: India would gain access to the latest military technologies and equipment through streamlined transfer processes, allowing for quicker modernization of its defense forces.
  • Strengthened defense partnership: Becoming a member of NATO + 5 would further strengthen India’s defense partnership with the United States and other NATO allies, leading to closer collaboration on various defense initiatives.
  • Improved regional security: India’s participation in NATO + 5 would contribute to regional security, especially in the Indo-Pacific region, by fostering cooperation among like-minded countries to address common security challenges.
  • Enhanced deterrence against adversaries: Being part of this defense framework would enhance India’s deterrence capabilities against potential adversaries, particularly in light of increasing security threats in the region.

Details of the Bill

  • The proposed legislation seeks to upgrade India-U.S. defence ties by adding India to this arrangement, enabling the transfer of defence equipment with minimal bureaucratic interference.
  • The move comes following a recommendation from a U.S. House of Representatives committee on China, suggesting India’s inclusion in the club.

India’s Response

  • India’s External Affairs Minister stated that the proposed template does not apply to India, appreciating the sentiment but clarifying that it was not suitable for the country.
  • The distinction between India and the proposed framework is well understood by the Biden administration.

Reasons for India’s Denial

India is unlikely to join ‘NATO-Plus’ for the following reasons:

  • Non-aligned policy: India has traditionally pursued a non-aligned foreign policy, which prioritizes strategic autonomy and avoids formal military alliances.
  • Regional partnerships: India prefers forging strategic partnerships with countries in the Indo-Pacific region based on shared interests, rather than joining broad-based military alliances.
  • Unique security challenges: India faces specific security challenges in its region and tailors its defense priorities accordingly, making a broad military alliance less suitable for its needs.
  • Diverse foreign policy objectives: India pursues a multi-faceted foreign policy approach, focusing on a range of objectives beyond security alliances, such as economic cooperation and climate change.
  • Avoiding provoking China: India seeks to manage its relationship with China pragmatically and avoid actions that could escalate tensions, making joining a US-led military alliance potentially provocative.

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