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Thursday 24 Aug 2017 | 17:28 | SYDNEY
Thursday 24 Aug 2017 | 17:28 | SYDNEY

What's the US-India relationship all about?

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12 January 2009 15:15

Judah Grunstein from World Politics Review draws my attention to two Times of India articles indicating closer military relations between India and the US, one on the sale of American maritime patrol aircraft to India, and another speculating on a US-India MoU on ballistic missile defence.

I'm sceptical about the proposition that the Bush Administration's overtures to India are all about China, largely because, as a colleague once put it to me, the quickest way to clear a room of Indian strategic analysts is to tell them that their improved relationship with the US is all about China. My impression is that India will run a mile from any suggestion of China containment, or that it is part of an elaborate US 'hedging' strategy against China.

So do the two articles cited by Judah undermine my scepticism? The first one really doesn't. Judah says you could read it as a joint attempt to build India's anti-submarine forces against China, which may develop an Indian Ocean naval capability in future. But Pakistan has a fleet of nine submarines now, so that seems like a better explanation for India's purchase.

What about the possible ballistic missile defence MoU? Again, that could be Pakistan-related, since the Paks at present put nukes on ballistic missiles (though they are testing cruise missiles too). But yes, it can clearly also be read as a way to at least erode China's nuclear deterrent against India. It will depend very much on how the system is deployed. The Times says that will happen in 2011-12, but given the sorry history of Indian weapons development, that seems exceedingly optimistic.

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