India should partner with US in Asia: Expert

India should partner with the US in Asia to amplify its impact in the region and not see this as sacrificing its strategic autonomy, a noted American expert has said.

Washington: India should partner with the US
in Asia to amplify its impact in the region and not see this
as sacrificing its strategic autonomy, a noted American expert
has said.

"Partnering more closely with the United States in Asia
amplifies India`s strategic impact in a way that India cannot
have acting alone," said Amer Latif, visiting fellow with the
Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at Centre for
Strategic and International Studies, a prestigious
Washington-based think-tank.

"Rather than viewing such an endeavour as sacrificing its
strategic autonomy, New Delhi should view this as an
opportunity to augment its own capabilities until such time as
it can confidently act on its own and have strategic impact,"
Latif wrote in an article released by the think-tank recently.

Observing that Asia is currently experiencing a dynamic
and changing security environment, Latif said Asian countries
are rejuvenating regional security architecture through their
respective partnerships, not just with the US but with each
other, in response to China`s growing military power.

India has been a party to some of this change with the
US-India-Japan trilateral dialogue and its participation in
the East Asia Summit in Bali last year.

"But a country with India`s growing political, economic,
and military capabilities has more to offer than just
participation in multilateral forums.

"New Delhi knows that the security landscape in Asia is
rapidly changing, and it should act accordingly to prevent any
missed opportunities for playing a more decisive role in
Asia," he wrote.

"To that end, India should develop its own strategic
guidance for deploying its military and seriously consider
closer engagement with the US in shaping Asia`s evolving
architecture, he said.

Referring to the recently released strategic guidance,
which reflected the expected shift towards the Asia-Pacific
region, Latif said, "what was a bit unexpected was the
attention given to India in such a key document."

Long-standing Asian allies such as Australia, Japan,
Korea, and others were lumped under the label of "existing
alliances", while India was singled out with the following
passage: "The United States is also investing in a long term
strategic partnership with India to support its ability to
serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security
in the broader Indian Ocean region," he said.

The specific mention of India raises interesting
questions about how India fits into the United States` vision
for security in the Asia-Pacific region, he said, adding that
Washington and New Delhi have been actively building their
defence relations through defence sales, exercises, and
high-level military engagements.

India now conducts more exercises with the United States
than with any other country, and it is gradually integrating
US platforms and systems into the various branches of its
armed forces, he wrote.

"India has also performed admirably in counter piracy
operations off the Horn of Africa and elsewhere throughout the
Indian Ocean.

Commenting on India`s active role in fighting piracy,
Latif said, "It (India) has been actively engaging countries
throughout the Asia-Pacific region with ship visits,
high-level defence meetings, and the provision of military
equipment, and it has even demonstrated leadership by
establishing the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and organising
the MILAN naval exercises held every two years."

But despite the impressive progress in recent years, he
questioned India`s commitment and ability to be a security
provider in Asia.

"Each of New Delhi`s defence engagements abroad is
closely scrutinised and calibrated with an eye towards
available military capacity, the scope and optics of the
mission, and how a particular defence engagement will be
politically perceived at home.

"Rather than being guided by an overarching national
security strategy or strategic planning documents, these
decisions are usually made on a case-by-case basis," he wrote.