India as a swing power state

Dr Muhammad Khan

The Indo-US strategic partnership is inched closer in April 2016 during the visit of US Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter to New Delhi. This visit paved the way for finalisation of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). This defence agreement will enable the fighter aircrafts, warships and personnel of both countries provision of logistic on each other’s military bases. US has been pursuing this agreement for the past one and half decade. Earlier, India was reluctant to sign this military Logistic Support Agreement (LSA) on the political pressure of some political parties.
The negotiations on the pact were kept secret, until April 12, 2016, once US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and his Indian counterpart announced that, both countries have agreed “in principle” to conclude the agreement (LEMOA) soon. The agreement is expected to be signed soon, will give access militaries of both countries for fix and resupplies. In order to avoid the backlash, the Indian Defence Minister said that, US troops will not be allowed to be stationed in Indian military bases.
However, in the meeting between US Defence Secretary and Indian Prime Minister, Narindra Modi, it was decided to take concrete steps for the implementation of “US-India Joint Strategic Vision for Asia-pacific and Indian Ocean Region.” India and US signed this agreement in January 2015 on the eve of President Obama’s visit of India as a Chief Guest for 66th Republican Day. Apparently, the agreement has three salient features; an increasing regional connectivity, freedom of navigation and collective security. At this occasion, both leaders shown their concern over the issues of Asia-Pacific and particularly the South China Sea, where China is still maintaining its strong hold.
It is worth mentioning that, the former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has proposed and indeed emphasised a major Indian role in the emerging security architecture of Asia-Pacific. On July 20, 2011, Hillary said in Chennai (India) that, “India’s leadership has the potential to positively shape the future of the Asia-Pacific… and we encourage you not just to look east, but continue to engage and act east as well. This is not a time when any of us can afford to look inward at the expense of looking outward. This is a time to seize the emerging opportunities of the 21st century. This is a time to lead.”
The statement not only incites India for a bigger global role, but also paved the way for an ultimate signing of Joint Strategic Vision for Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region. The essence of this agreement is to containing growing Chinese role in the Asia-pacific and particularly in South China Sea. China responded this agreement and with lot of concern. Chinese FM spokesperson Hua Chunying said that, “We maintain that relevant disputes in the South China Sea should be peacefully resolved through dialogue and consultation between countries directly concerned.” It was also emphasised by China that, extra-regional countries should not interfere in the regional affairs, “to uphold peace and stability of the South China Sea and keep the serenity of the South China Sea.”
A careful analysis of Indian ambitions versus capabilities would reveal that, it has assumed for itself a role bigger than its potentials. Its so-called Blue Water Navy, fall short of operating in open seas, a pre-requisite for “projecting power to areas of strategic interest.” Apart from shortage of strategic ships and aircraft carriers, Indian Navy has shortage of; 1322 officers, 11257 sailors and has undergone many accidents of its ships and submarines. Perhaps, more than New Delhi itself, it is Washington, trying to push India for a major role of net security provider in Indian Ocean as well as in the Asia-Pacific region, through the newly conceived concept of Indo-Pacific.
With the beginning of 21st century, India is behaving as a Swing State. The US concept of swing state is, “swing states are those whose mixed political orientation gives them a greater impact than their population or economic output might warrant.” Indeed, India is projecting itself more than its true potentials. Nevertheless, it is a major country in South Asia and its strategic partnership with US is rapidly transforming it as a regional hegemonic power; threatening the sovereignty and integrity of other regional states including China.
The logistic support agreement being finalised in the form of Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) between US and India will endanger the regional peace. The agreement meant to establish Indian hegemony in South Asia, Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific. US needed such an agreement on urgent basis for the implementation of its strategic plans and to counter the growing military might, particularly the maritime power of China.
US is using India as an instrument and on its part, India is consolidating its power to become a major power, a win-win situation for both, but causing instability in South Asia in particular and Asia in general. With a disagreeable past, the convincing efforts of Indian Defence Minister and NSA Doval may not assuage the Chinese concerns. Moreover, Shushma Suwaraj, the External Affairs Minister may not be able to dispel the Russian concerns over the growing Indo-US strategic engagement.
The terrorist activities of Indian spying network, RAW inside Pakistan have taken a new turn, endangering the strategic and economic interests of Pakistan. CPEC is the new target of RAW, as revealed by arrested Indian terrorist, Kulbasun Yadev. In this regard, the Afghan soil is being used against Pakistan and China. RAW and NDS are collaborating in the promotion of terrorism and separatism in various parts of Pakistan. RAW is also sponsoring Uzbek’s, Chechens, Tajiks, ETIM and other terrorists groups including Daesh to create unrest in Pakistan and Sinkiang, the Chinese Autonomous region. RAW and NSA Doval has their secret contacts with ISIS leadership and also contacted disenchanted Taliban elements to join Daesh in Afghanistan. Indeed, Indian activities are cause of serious concerns for Pakistan and other countries of the region, which need to be countered for a stable and peaceful South Asia as a region and Asia as a continent.
— The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.

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