By Sunil Dang
After a fortnight of speculation about the US President Donald Trump being invited as Chief Guest at the 2019 Republic Day celebrations in India, finally the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders cleared the air citing, “Trump has received an invitation to visit India, but no decision has been taken yet.” The invitation has significance as this would be the last Republic Day in the five year tenure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Its timing too speaks volume as just a fortnight ago, the US President granted India a waiver from the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a law primarily aimed at Russia but broad enough to envelop both friend and foe. This waiver would allow India to buy Russian military equipment’s in spite of the sanctions imposed on Russia.
This waiver has helped India to inch closer to the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) and hence, the Indian invitation for Chief Guest of the Republic Day is indicative enough that India is happy with the US waiver and wants further pro-active approach by Washington in making India a permanent member of the NSG. Till date, the US President hasn’t been vocal about Indian claim to the permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council better known as P5. When the US President Barak Obama came over as Chief Guest in the 2015 Indian Republic Day, he too refrained from delivering any such statement. If the Indian government has sent this invitation with these majors in mind, it’s a welcome move. But, what about the losses that Indian incurred in Iran after US’s unilateral decision to come out of the Iran Deal? While dealing with the US, Indian diplomats must keep in mind that like New Delhi, Washington too has some expectations. Can the Modi government afford to fulfill those expectations?
The US wants a stranglehold on India. That is why they are insisting on a slew of agreements. The Modi government has recently signed Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), an agreement that the US government signs only with those countries with which it has strong military ties. LEMOA gives access, to both countries, to designated military facilities on either side for the purpose of refueling and replenishment. The agreement covers four areas — port calls, joint exercises, training and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. If we go by current situation, New Delhi and Washington doesn’t have that kind of strong military tie that the US has with the NATO members.
Since, India is a non-aligned nation and its chances of becoming a NATO member are quite bleak, US wants India to become a non-official NATO member. And for this, the US (read Trump administration) wants India to sign two more agreements — Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and BECA. Under COMCASA, US will be able to transfer high-tech avionics, encrypted communication and electronic system to India. The US can then track and snoop on Indian warships and aircraft equipped with this system. Under BECA, US digital sensors will be positioned on Indian soil. This means they will have complete control. India has its own systems in place. So, the intentions are pretty clear.
The US wish for India to become an unofficial NATO partner, is not in the interest of either India or the region. Unnecessary tensions will mount and we will fall into the trap of an arms race. The Trump administration in future would want India to completely break defense ties with Russia. This is also not good as we have to maintain a balance. We should not forget that the former Soviet Union and present Russia has been our defense partner from the beginning and helped us in times of crises. Because of the antics of the present government, for the first time in history, Russia has started supplying weapons to Pakistan. New Delhi will have to be mindful of these calculations while taking further steps towards, if any, Washington.. Whether Trump accepts our invitation or not becomes redundant when it comes to our age old NAP policy and vow to peace in the Indo-Pacific region.