New York: India and the US share an increasingly warm relationship and it is visible in tighter defense ties. Days after India’s cabinet committee on security approved the creation of a new military corps of 50,000 troops near its border with China, India shared its strategic perspective with a top US general.
US Army Chief General Raymond T. Odierno met Defense Minister A.K Antony and his counterpart General Bikram Singh on Wednesday in South Block. He was privy to a 20-minute presentation on India's security analysis of the volatile Af-Pak region and China, said defense sources.
India has been largely focused on its border with Pakistan, but plans for creating a new mountain strike corps costing $11 billion over seven years, shows India is now paying attention to the disputed Sino-Indian boundary.
Analysts say India’s decision to create a strike corps has been in the offing for over two years and reflects India’s growing concern that China is becoming increasingly assertive in its territorial claims. China claims 90,000 square kilometers of land in Arunachal Pradesh.
In April, there was a three-week stand-off on the disputed Sino-Indian border after Chinese soldiers brazenly pitched tents inside Ladakh.
India has fought a brief border war with China in 1962 and three with Pakistan, but not against both countries at once. India, however, can’t ignore the fact that China and Pakistan are regional allies. It mustn’t let its guards down and should ideally be prepared for a war on two fronts.
It would take five to seven years for a new mountain corps to be formed fully, as large numbers of soldiers would need to be recruited and trained for combat at high altitudes, say military planners.
US Army Chief Odierno also traveled to Udhampur on Thursday where he received another military assessment on regional security from Lt General Sanjiv Chachra who heads India’s northern command.
The US sees India as an important part of the Obama administration's pivot to Asia. US Vice President Joe Biden’s four-day visit to Delhi and Mumbai, which followed Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip by just a few weeks, was aimed squarely at strengthening economic and defense ties.
China has steadily developed infrastructure along the disputed Sino-Indian border. It has also boosted military spending and expanded its navy to rival the US and to fight territorial disputes with a number of East Asian countries including Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea.
Both India and the US share the common goal of not wanting an Asia that is dominated by China. Biden travelled from New Delhi to Singapore where both he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used visits to Singapore on Friday to press for action to ease rising tensions in disputed Asian waters where China is increasingly asserting territorial claims.
China has in recent months stepped up military patrols in the South China Sea, prompting the US to carry out joint naval maneuvers with allies in the resource-rich waters. India's increasing role in the Asia-Pacific has been supported by the US which is the region's premier naval power.
Since 2001, the US and India have conducted over 40 joint military exercises. In 2007, Singapore, Japan and Australia joined the US and India in “Malabar 2007,” which was one of the largest multilateral naval exercises ever held in the Bay of Bengal, prompting Beijing to issue demarches to all five participating countries.
According to defence experts, from China’s point of view, the coming together of these five navies marked the beginning of a loose anti-China naval barrier in the Indian Ocean region.
China has also advanced its influence in the region, with allies like North Korea, Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. It has established itself as a growing, and sometimes bullying, power in the Pacific, particularly in East Asia. Most countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have festering territorial disputes with China.
China has warned India away from exploration projects in the South China Sea. Much to China’s annoyance, India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp., plans to drill for oil in the international waters and India has signed joint agreements with Vietnam on energy projects in the South China Sea.
According to the government’s assessment, China’s unease stems from India having taken up exploration activity in an area close to Hainan, where a Chinese nuclear submarine base is located.
India is not going to be a traditional ally of the US, but they share the objective to structure a stable balance of power in Asia. Four thousand WikiLeaks cables from the US embassy in New Delhi reveal an increasingly warm relationship. Although, there are issues on which the two countries differ, such as Iran and several areas of tension – including US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan – but, on the whole, the relationship is good.