On Wednesday, October 17, former US defence secretary Ashton Carter said in a major policy paper that India’s nervousness over Chinese behaviour in the region played a pivotal role in forging close India-US defence ties.
Carter said that during the time when he was defence secretary, India was an active participant in regional security and US influence increased in South Asia.
Carter said, “Once deeply skeptical of US influence in South Asia, India became a more active participant in regional security during my two years as Secretary of Defence than at any time in its history”.
He said, “Growing nervousness over China’s behaviour from the South China Sea to the Himalayan border region played a pivotal role”.
Carter said that two steps were important that helped US in forging close defence ties with its traditional allies and to grow its network in South Asia to isolate China in the region, the first step was India’s initiative ‘Make in India’ under technology and industrial policy and second was US’ efforts to extend pacific rebalance to the west.
He said, “I called the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) our ‘handshake’ with Modi’s technology and industrial policy. India was also seeking to grow beyond its historic preoccupation with its neighbor Pakistan and follow a broader ‘Act East’ policy”.
Carter further said, “At the same time, of course, we were looking to extend the Pacific Rebalance to the west. The result was something I referred to as the ‘second handshake’”.
He added, “The two handshakes together forge a partnership with the potential to be as important to our two nations and to the region’s network as our alliances with Japan, South Korea and Australia. Clearly, the network is growing and strengthening. China, meanwhile, stands virtually alone”.
Carter warned that current US administration is losing confidence in the network approach and struggling to get support for the inclusive network. He said that in absence of US leadership and support this network may be replaced as China is seeking to erect a parallel network.
He said, “I fear our nation has lost confidence in the network approach. Over the last three presidential administrations, including the current one, we have struggled economically, diplomatically and militarily to muster coherent support for the principled, inclusive network”.