The Trump Administration in the US had envisioned a growing role of India in the Indo-pacific region, in an attempt to counterbalance China. It was disclosed in the recently declassified United States Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific, which talked about “accelerating India’s rise” and blocking China from establishing “illiberal spheres of influence”.
The strategy document prepared in 2018 was scheduled to be declassified after 30 years, which was marked as “secret” and “not for foreign nationals”. But in an unprecedented move, it was declassified this week, just a week before Trump administration leaves the White House.
The partially redacted document, which has been made available for the public, notes that a strong India, in cooperation with like-minded countries, would act as a counterbalance to China. It says that “China seeks to dominate cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence and bio-genetics, and harness them in the service of authoritarianism. Chinese dominance in these technologies would pose profound challenges to free societies.”
The Framework says “India maintains the capacity to counter border provocations by China.” It mentions that that India’s preferred partner in the security related issues is the USA, and the both nations cooperate to preserve maritime security and counter Chinese influence in South and Southeast Asia and other regions of mutual concern.
It envisions that India will remain preeminent in South Asia and will take the leading role in maintaining Indian Ocean security, increase engagement with Southeast Asia, and expand its economic, defence, and diplomatic cooperation with other U.S. allies and partners in the region.
The framework says that USA aims to Align its Inda-Pacific strategy with those of Australia, India, and Japan; and also aims to create a quadrilateral security framework with India, Japan, Australia, and the United States as the principal hubs.
Under the “India and South Asia” section of the framework, it notes its objective as “accelerate India’s rise and capacity to serve as a net provider of security and Major Defense Partner; solidify an enduring strategic partnership with India underpinned by a strong Indian military able to effectively collaborate with the United States and our partners in the region to address shared interests.”
The strategic framework for Indo-Pacific region talks about defence technology transfer to India, “to enhance India’s status as a Major Defense Partner; increase our cooperation on shared regional security concerns and encourage India’s engagement beyond the Indian Ocean Region”.
It says that the Trump administration supports India’s membership in the Nuclear Supplier’s Group, and offers “support to India through diplomatic, military, and intelligence channels – to help address continental challenges such as the border dispute with China and access to water, including the Brahmaputra and other rivers facing diversion by China”. It adds that USA supports India’s “Act East” policy and its aspiration to be a leading global power, highlighting its compatibility with the U.S., Japanese, and Australian vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The Framework also talks about partnering with India on cyber and space security and maritime domain awareness, and expanding U.S.-India intelligence sharing and analytic exchanges.
On infrastructure front, the USA plans to work with India and Japan to help finance projects that enhance regional connectivity between India and countries of the region.
Other than India, Japan and Australia, the USA also plans to enhance ties with South Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia and other “democratic partners” in the region.
The USA thinks that Russia will remain a marginal player in the Indo Pacific region relative to the United States, China, and India. It also says North Korea no longer poses a threat to the U.S. homeland or its allies, and the Korean Peninsula is free of nuclear, chemical, cyber, and biological weapons. However, the framework aims to help South Korea and Japan acquire advanced, conventional military capabilities, and draw south Korea and Japan closer to one another against North Korea.
The United States believes that China will take increasingly assertive steps to compel unification with Taiwan, and aims to help Taiwan in preventing that. It aims to “enable Taiwan to develop an effective asymmetric defence strategy and capabilities that will help ensure its security, freedom from coercion, resilience, and ability to engage China on its own terms.”