Modi and Biden’s New Asia

Context: As the Indian Prime Minister heads to Washington for a state visit in two weeks, the unfolding geopolitical churn in Asia triggered by China’s rise will form a critical background to his talks with the US President. The Annual Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD):
  • It was first convened in 2002, the SLD has become the premium forum where defence ministers of Asia gather to publicly articulate their positions on regional security as well as conduct bilateral and minilateral defence diplomacy behind closed doors.
  • It has also become a venue in recent years for quiet consultations among the region’s intelligence chiefs. 
  • Recently concluded its 20th edition in Singapore, to capture the shifting strategic trends in Asia.
    • This year’s SLD highlighted the deepening tensions between the US and China.
    • SLD has also seen top billing to the Australian Prime Minister who outlined Canberra’s strategy of engagement with China while standing up to Beijing’s military bullying.
Asian Reaction:
  • Many Asian chancelleries are quick to criticise US actions but bite their tongue when it comes to China’s deeds.
  • China has been grabbing disputed territories from its neighbours and it is the US that is offering help to defend territorial sovereignty in Asia.
  • Yet, there is a reluctance in the region to jeopardise the deep economic relationship with Beijing and a deliberate effort to avoid politically offending China.
US Indo-Pacific strategy:
  • Removing the Asian fear by explicitly challenging China’s claim to regional hegemony has been at the core of the US Indo-Pacific strategy in the last few years.
  • This is beginning to generate rewards of its own, as many Asian nations step up political and military engagement with the US like the Quad and the AUKUS.
  • Despite the continuing crises in the Middle East and a major war in Europe, Washington has repeatedly reaffirmed that the Indo-Pacific remains the highest priority.
Building Coalition and Engagements:
  • Washington has a more difficult time convincing Europe, which is deeply tied to the China market.
  • But the premier European security institution, NATO, is now raising its game in Asia. 
  • The US has been encouraging Japan to raise its military capabilities, modernising the military alliance with South Korea, revitalising the frayed military partnership with Manila and enhancing security cooperation with Indonesia.
  • The more consequential initiatives have been in the Indo-Pacific. 
  • For nearly two decades, India and the US have talked of transforming defence cooperation. 
  • The sea change in the Indo-Pacific and the shared interests in stabilising the Asian balance of power are objective realities demanding a solid India-US defence partnership.
  • Building a stronger strategic partnership with India has been a high priority for the US administration.
  • US talks with the Indian establishment have apparently produced a “road map” for a significant elevation of bilateral defence cooperation, including technology transfers and joint defence industrial production.
Source: The Indian Express

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