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Monday, November 23, 2020

Explained Ideas: Why close embrace of the US may be problematic for India

BECA: India-US ties are in the framework of a partnership, not an alliance, reminds Vivek Katju

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: November 3, 2020 2:34:01 pm
BECA, India US 2+2 doalogue, Narendra Modi, Donald trump, Rajnath Singh, Mike Pompeo, Indo-US defense ties, explained ideas, express explainedDefence Minister Rajnath Singh and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a press statement, at Hyderabad House in New Delhi. (PTI)

The India-US 2+2 mechanism is the primary vehicle to give meaningful content to the Bilateral Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership. Its third meeting in Delhi on October 27 was held with only a week to go for the US presidential elections on November 3.

But Vivek Katju, a former diplomat, believes that “the timing of this 2+2 session was most unusual especially because the election is, at best, tight for President Donald Trump — the polls indicate that Joe Biden, the Democratic Party candidate, is well ahead of him”.

Perhaps, the Narendra Modi government felt that it was important to seal the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) without delay and, for this purpose, disregarded the time-tested diplomatic convention of avoiding major bilateral encounters on the eve of a potential change in a partner’s government.

“What is more likely is the Modi government’s assessment that there is bipartisan support in the US for higher and positive bilateral ties,” writes Katju in his opinion piece in The Indian Express. But while he accepts that there is merit in this view, he provides a caveat: “while the overall framework and direction of the relationship are conducive, they cannot be entirely insulated from extraneous factors”.

“A close embrace of another country is always problematic,” he writes.

India-US ties will move positively forward but there will be imponderables ahead, principally arising out of US strategies towards China. Also, because of the lectures that a Biden administration may give the Modi government.

Opinion | Sanjib Baruah writes: Can Americans count on a peaceful transition of political power?

With regard to China, Katju says that while there is little doubt that a Biden presidency, should that be the choice of the American people, would seek to ensure that China’s rise is not at the cost of the US’s global pre-eminence.

“However, the strategy and methods it employs would be different from that of its predecessor. Further, even a Trump 2 administration, with the election done, may change course in its China approach. Hence, caution and prudence are good diplomatic watchwords. They do not imply either timidity or diffidence,” he states.📣 Click to follow Express Explained on Telegram

Moreover, Katju underscores that India-US ties are in the framework of a partnership, not an alliance. While some elements of both structures overlap, there is a major difference between them, apart from their legal frameworks.

The former may not be based on opposition to an outside element, the latter almost always is. Alliances also demand a much higher price than partnerships, through loss of autonomy if the ally is a bigger power.

“The crucial question Indian foreign and strategic policymakers have to ask themselves is: What would be the nature and content of India-US partnership should a Biden administration’s China strategy, unlike that of the current Trump administration’s, rely in part on showing concern for China’s sensitivities in areas that involve India’s concerns?” asks Katju.

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