[op-ed snap] Look beyond Af-Pak

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Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Malabar exercise, Act East policy, Indian Ocean Conference

Mains level: India US relations and way forward


Context

  1. The sentiment in the Donald Trump administration about US-India relations has been generally positive and upbeat
  2. President Trump in his South Asia policy speech came down heavily on Pakistan, warning that it has “much to gain” from partnering with the US in Afghanistan, but “much to lose by continuing to harbour criminals and terrorists”

The US wants India to play a significant role in the Indo-Pacific region

  1. This year’s Malabar exercise was most complex till date
  2. The largest vessels from American, Indian and Japanese navies demonstrated their power together in the Indian Ocean for the first time
  3. It set a clear example of the combined strength of the three Indo-Pacific democracies

Change in stance

  1. Until now the phrase in vogue has been “Asia-Pacific”
  2. For India, the repeated use of the phrase “Indo-Pacific” marks a shift in the US position
  3. It implies that the US acknowledges the centrality of the Indian Ocean to global peace and security

Indian Ocean region and India’s ambitions

  1. India has great ambitions in the Indian Ocean region
  2. It realises the potential that the Indian Ocean offers to it, economically and strategically
  3. India’s Act East policy involves strengthening its engagement in the Indian Ocean region
  4. India enjoys certain advantages in the region because of its centuries-old civilisational and cultural linkages with a number of countries
  5. The Indian Ocean Conference that is co-hosted by countries in the region like Sri Lanka, Singapore and India is steadily emerging as a forum for engagement of stakeholder countries

US expectation and India’s role

  1. The US seems to be looking at India’s role in the Indian Ocean region as a counter-balance to China
  2. For India, its regional role involves managing relations with all the countries, including China, while at the same time adhering to basic principles like rule of law and freedom of navigation etc
  3. Its regional ambitions are propelled by its security concerns on one hand and its trade and commerce imperatives on the other

Need of the hour: One South Asia policy

  1. The South Asia policy for the US leadership is actually only Af-Pak policy
  2. The South Asia policy needs to anchor around not just Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also India
  3. US military divides Af-Pak and India into Centcom and Pacom respectively
  4. The State Department has to bring both under one South Asia policy
  5. India’s views and sentiments also need to amply reflect in this policy
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States
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