What Lies Ahead For India & China As Donald Trump’s Loyalist Take Control Of The Pentagon?

As Donald Trump refuses to concede after the projected victory of the Democratic candidate Joe Biden as new President-Elect, Trump fired his Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper through a tweet and appointed Christopher C. Miller as the new Acting Secretary of Defense.


Reportedly, Esper had made it to the bad books of Trump after he opposed using military action against protests that rocked America over the custodial killing of a Black American man, George Floyd.

Following Miller’s appointment, Indian-American Kash Patel was named as the Chief of Staff to the new Acting US Defence Secretary. He replaced Jen Stewart, who resigned earlier on Tuesday. He has previously served as senior counsel for Counterterrorism at the House Permanent Select Committee.

Reportedly, Acting Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Dr. James Anderson, Under Secretary of Defence for Intelligence and Security Joseph Kernan have also submitted their letters of resignation.

Pentagon is gutted with fears over national security as the series of resignations have installed Trump’s loyalists at the Pentagon. One of them is retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata who will take over Policy as James Anderson has resigned. 

Tata was earlier nominated by Trump for Under Secretary of Defence for Policy but repealed the nomination in July after CNN revealed Tata’s tweets that were later deleted calling former president Barack Obama a “terrorist leader” and for referring to Islam as the “most oppressive violent religion I know of”, among other controversial statements, reported Politico.

Politico explained that the role of one of the most senior officials in the Pentagon, the undersecretary of Defense for Policy “is the principal adviser to the defense secretary on formulating the major national security and defense policy issues, from nuclear deterrence to missile defense to troop drawdowns worldwide.”

“It is hard to overstate just how dangerous high-level turnover at the Department of Defense is during a period of the presidential transition,” House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith. “If this is the beginning of a trend — the President either firing or forcing out national security professionals in order to replace them with people perceived as more loyal to him — then the next 70 days will be precarious at best and downright dangerous at worst.”

With about 70 days left under Trump’s Presidency, until Joe Biden takes over, reportedly, on January 20, 2021, the abrupt appointments of the new top brass of defense officials are ringing alarm bells on the other side of the world, in China.

With tensions running high in the South Asian region, India and the US have intensified defense cooperation, as China is locked in a standoff with India on Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh and the US allying with Taiwan, in the South China Sea. 

Pompeo and Trump

In view of strengthening diplomatic and military ties, New Delhi and Washington held their first 2+2 format dialogue between foreign and defense ministries in September. Esper was part of the 2+2 dialogue with the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, where the two countries inked several defense pacts. 

As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, the United States offered its F-18 Super Hornets for the Indian Navy’s requirements of combat jets for its aircraft carriers. The aircraft offered by the US government is believed to be the advanced version of the hornets which was on offer to the Indian Air Force for its requirement of 126 Multirole Medium Combat Aircraft. 

Military experts have raised concerns over accidental conflicts and adventurism with China in the disputed South China Sea. On Monday, the militaries of Taiwan and the US began a four-week training program which is a “routine Taiwan-US military exchange and cooperation training to improve the combat capabilities of Taiwanese troops,” said Taiwan Navy Command. 

A source close to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, quoted by SCMP, said that “Beijing had seen the joint training as a move to challenge its bottom line, and that there was the risk of conflict in the South China Sea.”

“The PLA leadership wonders if someone in the American military is going to take a risk and cause accidental conflicts with the Chinese military, especially in the South China Sea, following Esper’s termination,” said the source.

Experts say that the new chief Miller’s special forces background is also a cause of concern for the adversaries. Miller had participated in the special operation in Afghanistan and Iraq before being appointed as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism (SOCT).

He was responsible for overseeing special operations forces in counterterrorism, sensitive special operations, unconventional warfare, irregular warfare, direct action, special reconnaissance and foreign internal defense.

“Miller has a strong special forces background. He joined the special forces and commanded it and specializes in surprise attacks and adventure operations,” said Beijing-based military expert Zhou Chenming told SCMP.

Citing an anonymous expert, Chinese State-run tabloid, Global Times, said that while the probability of an incident occurring between China and the US is low, but Beijing should pay close attention to any abnormal movements in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits, adding “that it cannot be ruled out that Trump will make trouble with China and leave Biden with a mess to deal with.”

It is unlikely that the cooperation with India would be affected amid Esper’s firing. However, experts are worried that the Trump administration may create a difficult situation for Beijing that may lead to opening fire from both sides. Following military cooperation between India and the US, New Delhi might have to ally with the US in an event of a confrontation between the US and China.