Since the Second World War, the United States spurred global economic growth and made substantial investments in Europe and Asia. As European nations face a crisis in Ukraine, China seeks to be the preeminent power in the Western Pacific and consolidate Asia into an exclusive bloc that is deferential to Chinese national and security interests. India’s economic rise since the 1990s has created the potential to transform it into a 21st Century Great Power. India-US cooperation at this historic moment is pivotal to maintain an international order of peace and security where nations can harmoniously rise together to meet the challenges of the future.
On March 16, Gov. Jon Hunstman, Chairman, Atlantic Council and Mr. Fred Kempe, President and CEO, Atlantic Council, spoke on US-India relations and India’s role in the emerging world order at Ananta Aspen Centre in New Delhi, India.
In 2012, the Obama administration announced that it was going to be intensifying its focus to the Asia-Pacific in a policy popularly known as the “rebalance to Asia.” The objective was to address the fact that the balance of powers in the Asia-Pacific region shifted in China’s favor following the 9/11 attacks and the U.S. war on terror. The policy signaled that the US would be refocusing its interests and resources toward the Asia-Pacific region by investing and developing new capabilities, strengthening existing alliances and investing in key partnerships. This “concert of democracies” strategy involved courting democracies in the region to manage the uncertainties caused by a rising China.
Currently, it is unclear whether there will be any formal version of a policy such as the Quadrilateral Strategic Dialogue (QSD) that was unveiled in 2007 by the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. But what is clear is the bilateral relations between Asia’s maritime democracies — India, the United States, Australia and Japan — are stronger than ever. These four countries interact regularly at a military-to-military level as well share intelligence regularly.
The United States’ “rebalance to Asia” was always going to be complicated because of the special nature of the U.S. relationship with China. While the United States and China compete on geopolitical and military terms, they are also deeply dependent on each other economically. To add to the complexity, China has slowly but steadily replaced the United States as the largest trading partner for almost all the Asian states, and many of these states consider China as an important vehicle for their future growth. Thus, the United States and its allies in Asia find themselves in a difficult situation: they want the United States to protect them from any Chinese aggression but at the same time also want the United States to be sensitive to Chinese interests.
There is no denial that the U.S. presence in Asia provides stability and certainty to India. There is also increasingly less doubt that India finds comfort in a U.S.-centric world order based on shared values and mutual perceptions of stability. The U.S. presence in Asia ensures peaceful resolution of disputes as well as economic progress. It is unclear if India has the capacity or the resources to address challenges posed by a rising China on its own or with the cooperation of its other allies. For this reason, it is important that India and the United States deepen their engagement on military, economic and security levels to make the U.S. rebalance a success.