Published: 12:31, June 20, 2024
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US-India forging tenuous ties of convenience
By China Daily
US security advisor Jake Sullivan attends the plenary session during the summit on peace in Ukraine, in Stansstad near Lucerne, Switzerland, June 16, 2024. (PHOTO / REUTERS)

The joint statement of the United States and India and a series of technology cooperation agreements released during US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan's visit to India earlier this week serve to elucidate that the only consensus, if any, that the two sides have is "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".

A core mission of Sullivan as the first senior US official to visit the South Asian country since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi started his third consecutive term earlier this month, and who met with not only his Indian counterpart, but also Modi and the Indian foreign minister, as well as business and industry leaders during his two-day visit, was to ensure that the Modi government does not drift away from its assigned role in Washington's China-targeted "Indo-Pacific" strategy.

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By taking the initiative to offer to remove some "long-standing barriers" that the US has intentionally maintained and which have hindered high-tech cooperation with India, Sullivan tried to show New Delhi that Washington is willing to up its ante to persuade India to not only sustain its in-spirit presence in its anti-China gang but also play a substantial part in it.

By ignoring India's sizable and fast-growing trade with Russia and New Delhi's stable relations with Moscow, which suffice for Washington to smear Beijing as an accomplice of Moscow in the Ukraine crisis, as well as recent reports that Indian government agents conducted covert missions to commit extra-judicial killings in Canada and the US, Sullivan laid bare the special favor Washington is willing to show India in exchange for the latter's participation in the US administration's "Indo-Pacific" strategy.

As the potential of high-tech cooperation between India and China remains untapped, Sullivan's demand that India work together with the US to "prevent the leakage of sensitive and dual-use technologies to countries of concern" indicates Washington's condition for it to lower the "barriers" to bilateral high-tech collaboration.

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In other words, the US is urging India to surrender its long-term strategic autonomy in diplomacy in exchange for the promise of US high-tech cooperation. That explains the lukewarm response of New Delhi, as well as the Indian business community, to the US' bid to try and shackle India to its anti-China bandwagon, as India's losses will dwarf the rewards the US is offering while also making India a piece on its game board against both China and Russia. Those prospects undermine the nationalist and jingoist approach that is an essential prop for the Modi government.

Washington should not forget that India pulled out of its "Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity" two years ago after the US refused to open its market to it while demanding India to open its to the US, which is also why negotiations on a bilateral free trade deal have stalled for long.

Nor that India's desire for multipolarity, in which it is a leading player, is fundamentally at odds with the US' goal of maintaining its pride of place in the international system. While there may appear to be grounds for a partnership of convenience between the US and India, those grounds are shaky and there are no sound foundations.