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The United States and Japan push New Delhi for an Axis to break Chinese movement in Indo Pacific region!
The United States and Japan push New Delhi for an Axis to break Chinese movement in Indo-Pacific!
The US and Japan have renewed their push for a loose multilateral coalition in the Indo-Pacific with partners like India, which has traditionally hedged its bets in the tense region, amid New Delhi's longest border stand-off with Beijing in three decades.
The nudge, articulated last evening Washington time by US secretary of state Rex Tillerson with Japanese officials next to him, follows closely the declaration of a new heavyweight strategic dialogue between India and the US, also focused on the same region.
India has in the past resisted the formation of a broad coalition of regional powers that can feed into China's suggestions of an American and Japanese-led effort to contain its rise. Instead, India - with its own worries about China - has preferred trilateral dialogue mechanisms, with Japan and the US, and with Australia and Japan, to supplement bilateral partnerships.
But India is at present locked in a border tangle with China at the Doklam plateau that both Thimphu and Beijing claim. New Delhi views the plateau as critical for its security because of its proximity to a narrow strip that connects the Northeast to the rest of the country.
To sections of the strategic establishment, the fresh push from the US and Japan for an idea India has traditionally resisted appears timed with New Delhi's need for staunch diplomatic support at the moment.
But other senior officials said the government was confident it could gain from the broader, shared desire for greater strategic cooperation with the US and Japan without rushing into a larger coalition.
"We feel there is great synergy in our strategic goals," foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to a question from The Telegraph today on an August 15 telephone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump.
The US and Japan had early this decade proposed a strategic "quadrilateral" - consisting also of Australia and India - to collectively balance China's increasing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific, where it is locked in disputes with six countries.
India, though reluctant, had indicated it may contemplate the proposal - but Australia, after publicly accepting it, had pulled out, leading to a collapse of the idea.
India has since been reluctant about joining such broader coalitions that China can label efforts aimed against it. Earlier this year, it held back on accepting Australia's request to join as a full member in the trilateral Malabar maritime exercises conducted by India, the US and Japan annually.
Part of India's reluctance, officials here said, stems from at times diverging priorities. At the moment, the Trump administration is focused on the tensions on the Korean peninsula following a string of missile and nuclear tests by North Korea.
"We will cooperate to advance trilateral and multilateral security and defence cooperation with other partners in the region, notably the Republic of Korea, Australia, India and other south-east Asian countries," Tillerson said after a meeting last evening with US defence secretary James Mattis and their Japanese counterparts, where the emphasis was on North Korea.
For Japan, the North Korean threat and China's regional assertion represent parallel long-term challenges. India has criticised North Korea in language stronger than ever, but China is its biggest concern - now and long-term.
Still, India, the US and Japan have managed to build a trilateral dialogue. Expanding it further, officials here said, could jeopardise the very point of the initiative - a sharply defined, common set of priorities.
The new bilateral mechanism Modi and Trump discussed during their phone conversation will be similar to the one Tillerson and Mattis held yesterday with Japan - with the Indian foreign and defence ministers in place of the Japanese.
That's a mechanism, officials here said, that India can use to emphasise the need for the US to stick to its role as a security guarantor in the Indo-Pacific.
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