India ally, China foe in new US defence strategy - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Saturday 7 January 2012

India ally, China foe in new US defence strategy

China, not war on terror, will be the new big focus in Pentagon planning in the years ahead.

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 7th Jan 12

America will no longer remain mired in grinding counterinsurgency campaigns like Afghanistan and Iraq; instead, it will reshape its military for the challenge posed by an emerging great power rival: China.

That was the key message yesterday from US president, Barack Obama. Flanked by his military commanders in full dress uniform, America’s commander-in-chief unveiled the Pentagon’s new defence strategy in a made-for-television performance in Washington. With a re-election campaign looming and with Republicans painting Obama as weak on defence, the US president talked up his military successes --- including the killing of Osama bin Laden; the degrading of Al Qaeda; the Libya campaign; and the end of the Iraq war --- before announcing sweeping budget and manpower cuts.

“We’re turning the page on a decade of war,” said Obama before releasing the new strategy that committed the Pentagon to save half a trillion dollars in expenditure over the next decade through measures like reducing the army’s size from 570,000 to 490,000 soldiers.

Even while announcing this “peace dividend”, the Pentagon indicated its next big threat. “We will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region,” says the new strategy document (italics in original). Without naming China, the target area is identified as “the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia.”

India is key to this new focus. Besides expanding “networks of cooperation with emerging partners throughout the Asia-Pacific…. 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,” the strategy states.

America’s new strategy relies on significant military contributions from partner countries like India, while seeking to be their “security partner of choice.”

“Whenever possible, we will develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives, relying on exercises, rotational presence and advisory capabilities,” says the document (italics in original).

The strategy specifies that the US will “maintain its ability to project power in areas in which our access and freedom to operate are challenged.” This refers primarily to China’s anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) strategy, in which anti-ship ballistic missiles like the purpose-built Dong Feng 21-D, attack submarines, anti-ship mines and swarms of small vessels, attack US aircraft carriers that approach China’s coast in a war, such as a Chinese operation to “liberate” Taiwan.

Entitled “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” the new strategy dilutes the US military’s requirement to be capable of fighting two major wars simultaneously. Such a capability was already in question given the Pentagon’s difficulty in sustaining the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns together. The new strategy mandates a one-and-a-half war capability, specifying that “Even when U.S. forces are committed to a large-scale operation in one region, they will be capable of denying the objectives of –– or imposing unacceptable costs on –– an opportunistic aggressor in a second region.”

“Our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats,” Obama said.

To maintain a range of capabilities, the downsizing military will rely on a “Joint Force” that will retain its accumulated expertise and corporate abilities for mounting a range of missions, including those that do not appear probably at present. If the need arises those elements will be quickly expanded, drawing on the all-volunteer military as well as the National Guard and the Reserves.

Driving the new national defence strategy, says The New York Times, are three realities: “the winding down of a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a fiscal crisis demanding hundreds of billions of dollars in Pentagon budget cuts and a rising threat from China and Iran.”

This big picture restructuring goes hand-in-hand with newer, less manpower-intensive strategies that are already being implemented at the theatre level. In Afghanistan, for example, where the troop drawdown will no longer permit the manpower-intensive counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy that Obama had announced in December 2009, the US Army has already shifted in all but name to a strategy of “Advise and Assist”. This will see the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to take the lead in COIN operations, with the US forces confining themselves to training, advising and enabling roles. Instead of manpower intensive brigade deployments, the US forces will operate in 12-16 person teams, living and functioning with Afghan units. According to The Long War Journal, a blog that closely follows military events in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US 170th Brigade in Northern Afghanistan has already shifted to an “Advise and Assist” role. This year, most US forces plan to follow suit.


  1. Good! This strategy was the need of the day and also the need of the elections.

    It is in favor of India and India should judiciously take the advantage out of it.

  2. As Henry Kissinger used to quip, "While being America's enemy may be inconvenient, being America's ally is often fatal."

  3. The problem with the statement is, it assumes the following,
    1. India considers China its foe.
    2. India has capacity for a 2 front war.
    3. India is militarily prepared to take on China.

    Another policy assesment question for India to ask US is,
    1. Between Iran and Pakistan, which is the biggest, baddest evil.

    While China is a threat, China follows Sun-Tzu doctrine for strategy and not Communist. And as such, they will avoid all-out war on their homeland. As for India, we don't follow any strategy. Our goals are limited to getting back our lost territory in Kashmir. Once that is achieved, India would not want conflict with anyone. Unfortunately for China, it has picked the wrong partner. And a wound of defeat in war, is never completely healed, for example Pakistan. It cannot move ahead, without overcoming its last 4 defeats against India. Both Pakistan and China are of the same mentality, they never forgave or forget their past defeats. And in it lies their folly. India, Japan, Russia have all forgotten and forgiven their past, except China and Pakistan. To take on China would need nothing short of a WW3. Is India prepared for WW3? If our own R&D and manufacturing is incompetent, how can we imagine taking on an efficient China, as demonstrated by the Yiwu episode. We need an entirely different caliber of leadership to take on China, much like Narendra Modi and many more like him. Unfortunately America still prefers Pakistan over India, and making their worst mistake of taking on China without first eliminating Pakistan. I feel American administration cannot see clearly, they are fogged by their current economic and political situation. The only way to overcome China is to get Russia on-board. But that is an open question.

  4. I will still tread with caution.....trusting US is a big decision because unlike other countries it wud be really hard for India to Un-friend US..and when US enters into a friendship it asks for something in return and if u don't do tat u can't remain on its frndlist and if u do tat u become just another Canada or UK...without any independent foreign policy or even internal policy.....

  5. For ramifications on Asia and India as such before the US lobby goes gung ho about falling all over India our take at

  6. I am a strong supporter of the closer Indo-US strategic ties. Unfortunately we do not make the decisions around here. The man who needs to make the decisions is MMS whose only decision is indecision. I think he is ready to give the entire Kashmir to the pakis just to make his pind piraders happy.

  7. Obviously any strategy shall not be appreciated by India, which gives any prominence to the existence of Pakistan or undermines the interests of IndoRussian friendship.

  8. How much were you paid to publish this adertisement

  9. Oh crap! we will be the bitches for the US for some time..Not Good...
    see what happened to pakistan.. they were once bitches for the US against soviets...

  10. How can India be considered an ally when the US secretrary of defence still considers a raising India a challenge to the USA.... He even clubs India with Russia... See at the end of this recent interview...


    For the first time I appreciate the patience in policy making shown by our leaders across multiple years. India very well understands that American ally is not a great fruitful association and also for once they are also following the policy of American learnings, viz., when partnering be on the winner's side. Hence Indian foreign policy makers are trading the path beautifully today. Maintaining very good China and US relations, but with adequate distance. Cause who knows eventually who shall emerge a winner in this American-Chinese race to lead the world, infact will any one emerge a winner is also a question mark. One thing which is sure is that we shall play a decently impacting role in the context of world order in the years to come.

    This gives a good edge, for when the real testing time arrives, every country is on its own. No Russia, US or France will come to fight with us. Max some of them will support us by extending immediate arms fulfilments by advancing the manufacturing in their countries. Hence their is no risk of alienating any ally old or new, like Russia or US. Infact the only pact for such a cooperation was with Russia and with no one else so fa4r in India's history. Russia needs both India and China cause they are both his biggest arms market in the world, so taking side for them is difficult.

    I think we are strategically well placed in our defence procurements being multi sourced, so that any particular source gets cut-off at a mission critical time in future, we shall be able to hedge the risk of procuring and surviving from some other nations. This makes it very important for us to procure the MMRCA immediately and as a very imp weight against our sole dependency on SU-30MKIs.

    Attacking China or confronting China is a foolish thought, given our strength not only shall we lose as a nation but put the world or atleast Asia for sure behind by 50 odd years. This India-China war is a must have for the Americans to survive the next round of military supremacy and that is why they keep on arming Pakistan with F-16s and advanced Helicopters, even though it is a known rogue state.

    We are trading the path cautiously and it shall reap the benefits to us in the long term. And our medium term preparation like SU-30s, MMRCA, Arjun-I, Agni-II, III & IV, Brahmos etc. will ensure our srvivability to see the long term. One thing that needs a big overhaul is the submarine channel of defence/attack, this is an extremely fragile area for us.

  12. Agree with what Bikram said. Hope Indian government clearly follows as to which one is good in all available options in weapons purchase and not any political considerations. Taking care of your requirements first, should be the motto.

    -sudheendra s


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