US Strategy On Indo-Chinese Border Conflict

The idea of nonalignment does not signify that a state ought to remain passive or even neutral in international politics.

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President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Naredra Modi have tea in the garden gazebo at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, Jan. 25, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


Despite India’s reluctance to be drawn into American intention to be an active partner in its fight with China notwithstanding the Indo-Chinese border conflict Indian position continues to remain at arm’s length from the US pressure to join in the fray. In an article (May 21 2023-America’s bad bet on India) Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace writes “ Although China is clearly India’s most intimidating adversary, New Delhi still seeks to avoid doing anything that results in an irrevocable rupture with Beijing. Indian policymakers are acutely conscious of the stark disparity in Chinese and Indian national power, which will not be corrected any time soon. New Delhi’s relative weakness compels it to avoid provoking Beijing, as joining a U.S.-led military campaign against it certainly would. India also cannot escape its physical proximity to China. The two countries share a long border, so Beijing can threaten Indian security in significant ways—a capability that has only increased in recent years. Consequently, India’s security partnership with the United States will remain fundamentally asymmetrical for a long time to come. New Delhi desires American support in its own confrontation with China while at the same time intending to shy away from any U.S.-China confrontation that does not directly affect its own equities. Should a major conflict between Washington and Beijing erupt in East Asia or the South China Sea, India would certainly want the United States to prevail. But it is unlikely to embroil itself in the fight.”


 One has to remember that when in 1048 India got its independence from the British Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru of India along with President Sukarno of Indonesia, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Joseph Broz Tito of Yugoslavia and Gamal Abdul Nasser was instrumental in forming the non-aligned Movement that refused to join then US-Soviet Union cold war contention. Encyclopedia Britannica summed up the philosophy of the movement as follows—”As a condition for membership, the states of the Non-Aligned Movement cannot be part of a multilateral military alliance (such as NATO) or have signed a bilateral military agreement with one of the “big powers” if it was “deliberately concluded in the context of Great Power conflicts.” However, the idea of nonalignment does not signify that a state ought to remain passive or even neutral in international politics. On the contrary, from the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement, its stated aim has been to give a voice to developing countries and to encourage their concerted action in world affairs.” The independence of countries like India was recently displayed in the UN Vote on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. India along with several developing and few developed countries abstained from criticizing the Russian invasion of Ukraine and wanted a peaceful solution to the conflict.  Some analysts favor the Russian position that Ukraine should not join either a Western-sponsored group or the Russian orbit. Unfortunately, Ukrainian President Zelensky goaded mainly by the US and other Western powers is playing the role of spoilsport and is dancing to the tune set by the West.


While the world does not want a situation of the combatants falling into a Thucydides Trap, a solution that would favor the Russian face would be the best solution. The Western attempts to bypass the Russian security position and ignore the fact that Russia still remains a nuclear power.  It would also be foolish to ignore the words uttered by the immediate past President of Russia Dimitry Medvedev and who now serves as deputy chairman of Putin’s powerful security council. He said that “The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may trigger a nuclear war,”.  A Reuters report of January this year states that such apocalyptic rhetoric is intended to deter the U.S.-led NATO military alliance from getting even more involved in the war.


But the explicit recognition that Russia might lose on the battlefield marked a rare moment of public doubt from a prominent member of Putin’s inner circle. “Nuclear powers have never lost major conflicts on which their fate depends,” said Medvedev. In any conflict between India and China, support from the US would be crucial. According to a fact sheet The United States is committed to a long-term strategic partnership with India. The US respects India as a regional and emerging global power as well as a provider of regional security. The US sees a growing convergence with India on strategic outlook for the Asia-Pacific region and India’s role in shaping the Asian landscape. The past decade has seen S President Barak Obama to New Delhi as the Chief Guest for India’s 66th Republic Day celebrations. Barak Obama’s visit resulted in several key defense outcomes, including finalizing the 2015 Framework for the U.S.-India Defense Relationship. This Framework provides two nations with guiding principles for defense engagement for the coming decade, including military exchanges and exercises, a promising outlook on defense trade, and increasingly close consultations on regional security issues and maritime security.


As strategic interests continue to converge in the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific regions, both President Obama and Prime Minister Modi have highlighted maritime security as a key area of cooperation. Naval engagements, such as the bilateral MALABAR exercise, improve the cooperation of U.S. and Indian maritime forces and contribute to both sides’ ability to counter threats at sea, from piracy to violent extremism. These engagements also present opportunities to engage with other partners. During President Obama’s trip to India, the US President and Prime Minister Modi launched the U.S.-India Knowledge Partnership in Defense Studies. The leaders welcomed the initiative as a new area of defense cooperation that would serve to expand bilateral defense relationships, build greater linkages in the field of professional military education, and strengthen our people-to-people ties. The error made by the Obama administration was its assumption that if China can be elevated to a higher level of growth then more affluent Chinese would be inclined to support a freer society. What the Obama administration had not considered was the rise of XI-JINPING and his absolute control over all facets of life in China. XI-JINPING moved beyond Mao Tse Tung and appointed himself for a third successive term as President and surrounded himself with people whom he could trust completely regardless of their competence in politics. How this will play out in US-China relations remains to be seen. So far as India is concerned China will remain a thorn in its body added to Pakistan which regards itself as the ultimate homeland of Indian Muslims, a belief further strengthened by the anti-Muslim policy tolerated by his government.  

Kazi Anwarul Masud

Kazi Anwarul Masud is a retired Bangladeshi diplomat. During his tenure, he worked in several countries as the ambassador of Bangladesh including Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Germany

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