US Report: Washington needs New Delhi to pose military dilemmas for China

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 28 January 2020, 22:25 GMT]
Washington, D.C.-based national security think-tank Center for a New American Security (CNAS) that carried out a Congressionally mandated study on US strategy in the Indo-Pacific to the Pentagon has recommended the US to pay particular attention to supporting India’s efforts to pose military dilemmas for China, thereby providing relatively low-cost means to complicate the ability of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to concentrate attention and resources on U.S. strongholds in East Asia and the Western Pacific. The study, titled “Rising to the China Challenge: Renewing American Competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific—to the Department of Defense,” which was handed over to the US Department of Defence in December 2019, has been released on the Internet on Tuesday. Interestingly, there was no reference to “Sri Lanka” in the 64-page long report.

CNAS study
The report was urging the US to upgrade and institutionalize high-level bilateral diplomacy with key Asian partners, particularly India, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

Through its dialogue with Japan and India, the United States should explore new opportunities for trilateral military exercises and joint defense research and development. The report seeks US to enlist European powers where practical.

“Specifically, the United States should work with France and India to stand up a new trilateral consortium to share information regarding the movement of Chinese military vessels in the Western Indian Ocean,” the report says.

Observing that India, Indonesia, and Vietnam, have long been customers of Russian military equipment, the report however says it would be counterproductive to sanction these countries, or threaten to sanction them, for buying Russian equipment that would improve their ability to counter Chinese coercion or deter Chinese aggression.

The geopolitical use of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) program comes to light in the report.

“U.S. policymakers should seek opportunities to deepen America’s economic ties with strategically important countries in the Indo-Pacific, including by offering special status under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. For instance, the United States has good reasons to strengthen its economic relationship with India in the context of U.S. strategic competition with China. If India addresses unfair limits on market access for U.S. firms, the United States should return India to the GSP program.”

Seeking more institutionalized cooperation and high-level bilateral diplomacy, the report says “[f]or India, the current two-plus-two mechanism involving U.S. secretaries of state and defense should be upgraded into something that broadly resembles what was formerly known as the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which also involved the Treasury secretary.” 

The report was urging Washington to engage the wide range of multilateral bodies across the Indo-Pacific and South Asia such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

The US is observer or dialogue partner in SAARC and IORA, but remained institutionally uninvolved in the IONS and BIMSTEC, the report observed urging to engage these organizations by designating a new or existing ambassador for these institutions or establishing diplomatic missions at those institutions interested in such an effort, as it has done with ASEAN.

“It will be critically important for the United States to consult with partners, particularly India, on whether and how to improve ties with these institutions”.

* * *

“In short, the United States needs a new American way of war,” the CNAS report said.

China was well poised for “systems destruction” warfare, it said.

“The China challenge—too often described as a problem for the future—is here and now,” the report said on approaching US strategic competition with China as an urgent priority.

“While the United States still retains an overall military advantage over China, the gap has closed considerably over the last two decades and, absent urgent change, the regional balance may tip in China’s favor by the late 2020s or early 2030s,” the report states.

“In certain scenarios, the military balance may already disadvantage the United States,” the report observed and urged the U.S. policymakers to “make America run faster and jump higher.”

Unlike the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the competition with China will not be waged principally in the military sphere, it said adding that sustaining deterrence would be essential but not sufficient.

The US should be proactive in building regional order in the Indo-Pacific, establishing new rules, norms, and institutions, the report proposes.

The lengthy report warns that attempts to construct an explicitly “anti-China alliance” would fail and proposes that the US policy should reflect the reality that the regional actors were viewing China to differing degrees as both an economic opportunity and geographic reality.

According to the CNAS, the study, which was mandated by the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, takes a comprehensive approach to long-term competition with China, offers principles for U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific and nearly 100 specific, actionable policy recommendations across seven critical vectors of American competitiveness.

The seven vectors were identified as 1) Sustaining Conventional Military Deterrence; 2) Securing Vital U.S. Technological Advantages; 3) Bolstering U.S. Economic Power and Leadership; 4) Strengthening American Diplomacy; 5) Competing Over Ideology and Narrative; 6) Promoting Digital Freedom and Countering High-Tech Illiberalism; and 7) Cultivating the Talent to Compete with China.

External Links:
CNAS: Renewing American Competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific



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