‘Trump’s Independence Day gesture has political implications’: Why India-US talks are ‘rattling’ China

Source:-‘Trump’s Independence Day gesture has political implications’: Why India-US talks are ‘rattling’ China

The announcement of a new two-plus-two dialogue between the US and India by the White House after President Donald Trump rang Prime Minster Narendra Modi to congratulate him on India’s Independence Day is significant in more than one way.

Normally, countries send formal congratulatory messages to each other through diplomatic channels and there is no practice of a direct exchange between leaders. 


Even the routine congratulatory messages can be – and are – used on occasions to publicly demonstrate political closeness in a prevailing context by going beyond their normal, formal phraseology.

That Trump chose to speak to Modi personally on August 15 indicates that he wanted to make a special gesture that would carry political implications.

Obviously, the conversation was substantive between the two leaders because the White House later announced the two-plus-two dialogue.

Whether the current standoff at Doklam was discussed is not known, but the fact that an enhanced security-related ministerial dialogue was announced after the conversation has its own import.

One can reasonably assume that the two-plus-two format refers to the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries meeting together, although the White House announcement does not say so specifically.

The US has such a double dialogue format with allies like Japan and Australia but also with China at the initiative of the Trump administration.

It was during President Xi Jinping’s visit to the US in April this year that Trump and he agreed to set up a Diplomatic and Security Dialogue comprising of the secretary of state and the defence secretary on the US side and the state councillor and the PLA chief of the general staff on the Chinese side, and the  first meeting in this format has already taken place in Washington in June this year.

In fact, a comprehensive dialogue mechanism was established during Xi’s Florida visit, with three other dialogues that include a Comprehensive Economic Dialogue too.

The new US-China arrangements would suggest that the existing US-India Strategic and Economic Dialogue could be re-formatted and a separate stand-alone Economic Dialogue established in line with Trump’s focus on redrawing America’s trade relationships with other countries to its advantage as part of his America First agenda.

India is not unfamiliar with a two-plus-two dialogue involving the foreign and defence ministries, as it has such a dialogue with Japan, but it is at official, not ministerial level.

This arrangement with Japan does not attract much attention domestically and internationally for its geopolitical implications. Such a dialogue with the US, however, raises some questions domestically about the implications of entering into a stronger security relationship with the US and, at the international level too, the shifts in India-US ties are studied.


China’s concerns that the US is roping in India to constrain its rise are mentioned in this regard, with many Indian analysts buying into the argument that China’s toughening posture towards India is a consequence of this developing US-India entente beginning with the India-US nuclear deal.

The impact of our drawing closer to the US on our relations with Russia is also a subject of domestic debate, and a view is held that India should be cautious about Russian misgivings about the direction in which we are headed and consider the cost of loosening ties with a country in which we have  invested a lot of political capital for decades with good returns.

The China-related argument has no merit and is offered by those who look for reasons to explain Beijing’s stepped up hostility towards us, the underlying nuance being that New Delhi is to blame for this by its increasing pro-Washington DC tilt.

China-US ties are in reality far more extensive than India-US ties, and Chinese calls for a ‘great power’ relationship with the US – meaning US deference to China’s core interests and giving it space in Asia – is far more menacing for our national security than improved India- US security understandings are a threat to China.


There is more merit in the Russia-related argument, especially in the context of a very sharp deterioration in USRussia ties, but one can also argue that the increasingly closer Russia-China ties – which is a fall-out of US/EU/Nato pressures on Russia and not on account of anything India has done – has reduced our geopolitical leverage with Russia and exposed us more to the China threat.

In any event, there is a strong case for India to keep Russia in the loop about the logic and need for closer India-US ties which have no anti- Russian dimension at all.

The announcement of a two-plus-two dialogue is one thing, to extract the maximum from this for ourselves is another.




Source:- Daily Mail

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