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Significant announcement

In a significant development on Thursday, India was accorded the designation of “major defence partner” of the United States after a meeting between Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter. A joint statement released after talks had said the designation was unique to Delhi. As per the joint statement issued, this designation is unique to India and institutionalises the progress made to enhance greater defence trade and technology-sharing with India at par with that of the United States’ closest allies and partners. Despite the announcement, no specific details of the benefits that will accrue to India under the designation were provided. Even in the advent of a Trump Presidency, this agreement will hold, according to news reports, as the US Congress is likely passed legislation to this effect.  The strategic implications of this announcement are very clear. The Obama administration wants India to become a major player in its “Pivot to Asia” doctrine. Prime Minister Modi seems happy to play along, considering China’s recent economic and military concessions to Pakistan. Beijing has worked overtime to undermine India across international forums. Apart from blocking India’s passage into the NSG, China has used its veto powers in the Security Council to assert that Pathankot attack mastermind Masood Azhar does not qualify as a terrorist who would have to face UN sanctions. Nonetheless, India must be careful not to enter into a one-sided relationship with the US and isolate China. Washington’s track record with its allies in the developing world does not inspire much confidence. There is a reason why commentators, in particular on the left, criticise any move that seeks to develop closer ties with the US. One only has to look at Pakistan to understand the consequences of such a one-sided relationship with the US. The Logistics Support Agreement, which would let US soldiers use Indian military bases, is one such agreement that seems to tilt the balance too much in favour of the US. During his reign as Prime Minister, Modi has often invoked Vajpayee’s legacy. He would also do well to learn from Vajpayee’s decision to temper relations between “natural allies”.
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