FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
US policies toward India and Asia need strategic coherence
Updated:Nov 12, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Alyssa Ayres , Frank G. Wisner 
 
President Donald J. Trump is on his first official trip to Asia, with stops in Japan, South Korea, China, and now Vietnam, for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) summit. In his address to the APEC CEO Summit, he outlined his stamp on Asia statecraft, which includes a vision of upholding a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” However, the United States cannot achieve that goal without strong Asian partnerships—including with India.
 
Though India is not on the president’s Asia itinerary, the nomenclature alone—Indo-Pacific rather than Asia-Pacific—suggests that New Delhi stands rightly to play a central part in the Trump administration’s larger Asia strategy. With long-standing allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia, India offers democratic and economic ballast to deal with the rise of China’s power. Sadly, US economic policy appears disconnected from the administration’s broader strategic goal. For the Trump team to succeed with the ambition of building a network of Asian partners which share our values, including India, the White House will need to corral its economic policies to match its strategic pursuits.
 
It is worth noting that the pursuit of a free and open rules-based order in a larger Indo-Pacific region represents the most purposeful articulation to date from the administration on Asia. Secretary of Defense James Mattis uses the phrase. Last month, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson delivered an entire speech about the concept, in which he called the United States and India “two bookends of stability” who can together “foster greater prosperity and security” in this broad region.
 
The Indo-Pacific idea recognizes that a rising China has become more assertive as well as authoritarian, and it elevates Washington’s ties with New Delhi as an alternative model to all that Beijing represents. By expanding Asia’s geographic net to include the world’s largest democracy, this larger region encompasses a greater balance favoring rule of law, freedom of navigation, open trade, and democracy. We commend this vision and see it as entirely in line with the Barack Obama and George W. Bush approaches to India and Asia.
 
To elevate India’s role, make it a full partner in our Asian network, and enhance Washington’s relations with New Delhi, the administration should help India gain a seat at the tables from which it is absent. In the security realm, Mattis has this part right, focused on tighter integration with New Delhi in joint exercises, defense technology, and sharing security perspectives in the region. In diplomacy, Tillerson also understands the important role India can play, and he has called for a partnership with India to develop financing that can provide an alternative to the market-rate Chinese Belt and Road infrastructure loans, which have caught smaller countries like Sri Lanka in a potentially insurmountable debt trap.
 
But to date, the administration has said little about what Washington can do to advance these interests. The “Quad” grouping that adds Australia to the robust trilateral of India, Japan, and the United States appears on the verge of revival, a positive step. In addition to strengthening ties to our traditional Asian allies, the president could start by clearly stating support for cooperative economic institutions like the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. He should call explicitly for APEC to offer membership to India. Asia’s third largest economy deserves to have a seat at the table, and it will help India to be more embedded in the premier regime focused on free and open trade in Asia.
 
To address the urgent need for infrastructure funding in the Asian region—a principal political and economic imperative —the president should also support a capital base expansion for the World Bank, something favored by countries around the world, but which Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin opposed during the Bank’s annual meeting this year. It’s hard to see where alternative support for development financing, especially financing for Asia’s massive infrastructure needs, will come from if Washington does not enable the World Bank to do more at the low interest rates that can actually help countries develop—and which offer a real alternative to the Belt and Road loans. In fact it is impossible to imagine China improving its Belt and Road loan terms unless it is faced with real competition from the United States, Japan, Europe and India.
 
In economic dialogues with India, the administration needs to keep its gaze on the strategic and not get buried in the transactional. At a time when China has emerged as the most powerful economic partner to virtually every country in Asia, including South Asia, we must have a stable strategic and non-contentious relationship with India. While we recognize India’s famously difficult stances on trade and market access questions, a narrow focus on the $24 billion trade deficit with India (compared to more than $300 billion with China), should not distract from this larger goal. Of course, we and India need to sort out market access problems and our difficulties with Indian intellectual property rights polices, but these questions are not strategic in nature.
 
Instead, we should identify realistic steps to enhance greater trade and investment with India—recognizing the time horizon might well appear farther than desired—and continue technical assistance to encourage New Delhi’s ongoing reforms, which will be the key to unleashing greater economic growth. The Commerce Department’s technical discussion with India on standards marks a great step in that direction. The trade deficit, a new favorite punching bag for the U.S. Trade Representative, does not.
 
To meaningfully support a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” the Trump administration will have to be creative in building broad Asian partnerships, especially with its India policy. We need all the allies we can muster. A strong, stable, democratic India committed to a rules-based order will indeed be a “bookend” for the region. Washington will have to alter its economic focus to get there.
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri, is a former top diplomat who retired as India's Permanent Representative at the United Nations. In his new political avatar, as an important minister in the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Puri told INDIA REVIEW & ANALYSIS that
 
read-more
Aimed at consolidating cooperation between the armed forces of India and Saudi Arabia and explore new avenues of defence cooperation, Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee and Naval Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, visited Saudi Arabia on from 4-8 February 2018, writes Anil Bhat
 
read-more
Campus placement season is here and the news is that graduates from the top campuses in India, especially the IITs, have received six figure pay packets and job offers in the US. However, looking beyond the top 200 engineering schools in India, pay packets are not looking too promising. The reason is the emergence of new engineering sc
 
read-more
Representatives from ten Asia Pacific governments, parliaments, civil society organisations (CSOs) and international institutions - including from six South Asian countries - gathered in Bangkok to reflect and share knowledge and learnings on climate change finance and gender-inclusion as part of the Regional Dialogue on Climate Resili
 
read-more
Maldives President Abdulla Yameen “conveyed that mediation was not wanted at this stage” when UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke to him last week, Guterres's spokesperson Stephane Dujrric confirmed Thursday, writes Arul Louis
 
read-more
Srinivasan leaves his office in Bengaluru where the lights and air-conditioners are switched off when sensors planted inside notice that he is leaving. He is prompted on his e-watch as to how much time it would take for the elevator to arrive on his floor, based on movement-recognition, writes Rajendra Shende
 
read-more

The Indian government is undertaking a project to enhance and install infrastructures related to trade and customs along its northeastern frontier, that include trading points with Bhutan.

 
read-more

Society for Policy Studies in association with India Habitat Centre held a lecture in the “China's Belt and Road Initiative: Nature, Implications and India's Response”

 
read-more
Column-image

What is history? How does a land become a homeland? How are cultural identities formed? The Making of Early Kashmir explores these questions in relation to the birth of Kashmir and the discursive and material practices that shaped it up to the ...

 
Column-image

A group of teenagers in a Karachi high school puts on a production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible— and one goes missing. The incident sets off ripples through their already fraught education in lust and witches, and over the years ...

 
Column-image

Title: Do We Not Bleed?: Reflections of a 21-st Century Pakistani; Author: Mehr Tarar; Publisher: Aleph Book Company; Pages: 240; Price: Rs 599

 
Column-image

From antiquity, the Muslim faith has been plagued by the portrayal of Muslim men regularly misusing this perceived “right” to divorce their wives instantly by simply uttering “talaq” thrice.

 
Column-image

'Another South Asia!' edited by Dev Nath Pathak makes a critical engagement with the questions about South Asia: What is South Asia? How can one pin down the idea of regionalism in South Asia wherein inter-state relations are often char...