The Chinese media have accused India of playing a “Double Game” with China, Russia and the US to get benefits from all the three sides. While the US has adopted stiff sanctions against Iran and Russia which has affected almost everyone, but India has managed to get the best of both the worlds, according to Chinese Media Global Times.
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According to Chinese Media, the two plus two dialogue between the US and India took place in New Delhi, during which US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis held talks with their Indian counterparts – External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, over a variety of issues including bilateral defence cooperation, US sanctions against Iran and India’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defence system.
Prior to the dialogue, experts believed that the US demand to halt India’s oil imports from Iran and purchase of Russian S-400 air defence system would thwart US-India defence partnership. Surprisingly, Washington made concessions on both these issues. An important step forward, the US and India signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), and agreed to hold joint exercises involving the air force, navy and the army off the eastern Indian coast in 2019.
Even though the two plus two dialogue was postponed twice, but it was finally held demonstrates the urgent needs of both the US and India to deepen strategic defence cooperation. The Logistics Support Agreement, COMCASA, and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation are the three basic agreements that the US signs to form military alliances with other countries. Now only the third has yet to be signed between the US and India.
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The two plus two ministerial dialogue mechanism has long been established between the US and its regional allies such as Japan and Australia. With the establishment of the one between the US and India, it’s anticipated the Japan-India and Australia-India strategic cooperation mechanism will be further upgraded. If so, the formation of a quadrilateral security dialogue comprising the US, Japan, Australia and India is not far away.
One of the main reasons for the formation of the US-India two plus two ministerial dialogue and the inking of the COMCASA is to counterbalance, even contain, China’s rise. The US hopes to form military alliances to confront China and exclude it from the process of globalization as it did with the USSR.
As seen in the interactions between India and the US, there have been more and more convergences between India’s China strategy and the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy. India views China as the principal opponent in the region. It not only aims to counterbalance and contain China with help of US strength but also wants to overtake China. Therefore, enhancing defence cooperation with the US is India’s established strategy.
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The past few months have seen a rapprochement in China-India relations and sound interactions between the two. Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe concluded his India visit just several days before the US-India two plus two dialogue. But from the Indian side, this is just a tactical adjustment rather than a strategic one.
After the China-India Doklam standoff, India has been trapped in an awkward situation – relations with China and other neighbouring countries deteriorated; moving closer to the US didn’t exempt it from tariffs imposed by the Trump administration but led to an alienated India-Russia relationship.
The diplomatic predicament unquestionably would negatively affect Indian PM Narendra Modi’s election next year. In such context, Modi recalibrated his diplomatic policy, holding an informal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi while keeping a distance with the US at the Shangri-La Dialogue.
This won India diplomatic manoeuvring room and motivated Washington to make concessions over a range of issues in the US-India bilateral relations.