The Center for Security Policy hosted a lecture “India and International Security” July 16 by Jeff M. Smith, a Kraemer Strategy Fellow and member of the American Foreign Policy Council. The lecture focused on U.S.-India relations and broader Indian security concerns. Smith described how the two countries had shared an estranged cold war relationship, but had grown closer since 9/11 due to actions of the Bush administration. He claims these efforts are again becoming strained.
Quite simply, Mr. Smith believes that these strained relations are resulting from the Obama administration not giving India adequate attention or having enough meaningful strategic dialogues. In addition, Indian leaders are upset about US relations with China (India’s key regional competitor) and with Obama’s desire to appoint a special envoy to the controversial Kashmir province.
Furthermore, the two administrations do not agree on the issue of global warming and many Indians have concerns about US withdrawal plans from Afghanistan. With India’s concern over a resurgent Taliban and their close proximity to Afghanistan, they are concerned with such plans.
The second half of Smith’s lecture focused on India’s national security policies and priorities. Smith highlighted the opposition China presents to India, with Chinese claims to Indian territory. The Indian response has been to raise two new mountain divisions with massive military mobilization geared towards addressing the opposition that China presents. According to Smith, India has even drafted plans for fighting a two-front war. Other Chinese threats include the establishment of naval posts in the Indian Ocean and the selling of arms to Pakistan. Furthermore, Smith noted Chinese plans to build nuclear power plants in Pakistan despite these plans violating international law as Pakistan is not nuclear NPT compliant.
The other major national security threat facing India comes from the Naxalites, a Maoist group responsible for multiple ambushes on Indian troops and for roughly 900 deaths last year. The Indian Prime Minister has called this India’s greatest national security crisis and has plans to switch from state police to the army in an effort to resolve this issue.
Overall, the major theme of Smith’s presentation was to recognize India’s importance as a growing regional power and as a permanent ally in the fight against Islamic extremism. The future of U.S.-Indian relations may be in flux, but much of it depends on how the Obama administration handles future encounters.