The way the security landscape of South Asia has been unfolding is one of the most important areas of focus for US defence industry and its international security cooperation programmes. With the changing contours of the world order and the skepticism revolving around the peaceful rise of China and expected strengthening of terrorism, the alterations in Washington’s attitude are inevitable. As stated in Joint Operation Planning document of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Security cooperation is the means by which Department of Defense (DOD) encourages and enables countries and organisations to work with us to achieve strategic objectives. It consists of a focused programme of bilateral and multilateral defence activities conducted with foreign countries to serve mutual security interests and build defense partnerships.”
While all the countries of South Asia have a role in influencing regional stability (whether positively or negatively), the most significant countries are China, India and Pakistan. China’s growing assertiveness in South Asia and its plans for dominance in the region will decide the course of regional stability or instability. Furthermore, the Sino-Pak alliance is an association with potential to threaten stability of the region. India’s rising economy and prominence in the international arena is another aspect that will influence the future course of action. On the other hand, it is important to state that Pakistan’s political future is currently uncertain and the risky situation makes it inevitably tough to predict its positive contribution to regional stability. Rather, further deterioration of the country would only worsen acts of terrorism, hence hampering the security scenario of the region. The future of Afghanistan will also play an inevitable part of regional stability. Nevertheless, Pakistan currently remains indispensible for the US as a strategic partner and it is important for the US administration to pamper them so that Obama’s objectives in Afghanistan are met.
Considering the recent developments in the world order, the idea of a fading US hegemony is surfacing strongly and the US attempting to align regionally to maintain their standing. Evidently, the traditional challenges that the US is facing from emerging powers such as China, has compelled it to seek alliances with those who can ensure continued US dominance. A tough decision for Washington would be to balance its equation with both India and China. Obama’s visit to India reflects Washington’s desperation in seeking alliances, especially in business, in order to balance its still-so-precarious economic situation.
The recently confirmed deals between Indian and US companies are worth more than $10 billion and will create almost fifty-thousand jobs in America. The most prominent among them are the $2.7 billion deal with Boeing for 30 Boeing 737s and $5.8 billion for the purchase of 10 C-17 Globemaster aircraft for the Indian Air Force, in the offing. Evidently, the US has found a new market for its hi-tech goods. It is ironical that while they are flooded with Chinese goods, the US cannot convince China to buy its goods. China’s unpredictable conduct is a source of both, concern and befuddlement for the Obama administration. China’s labile attitude reflected through recent incidences makes it unlikely to be considered a robust ally of the US. However, any overt inconsonance with China may snowball into a weaker economy owing to the American economic dependency on China.
Under these dynamic and complex circumstances, it is incumbent on Washington to carve out security cooperation programmes that can counter Chinese influence and ensure US supremacy. An US alliance with India to balance China has been been talked of in both countries. However, Indo-US relations face periodic fluctuations that tends to hinder the upward trajectory. Nonetheless, both countries have come to an agreement on security cooperation and are likely to follow it up in the coming future. The road map of Indo-US defence relationship for the period from 2005 to 2015, has been set through the New Framework for US-India Defence Relationship signed in June 2005.
Apart from this, a prominent change in the American stance comes in the wake of the US’s national security report that was released in May 2010. Obama administration emphasised on the need to look beyond the military might and employ diplomatic tools and international partnerships/cooperation to achieve their security goals. The report stressed on increased diplomacy with other countries and economic discipline and stated that the armed forces of the US will always be a cornerstone of their security but it needs to be complemented. With this recent stand in view, one will be able to perceive the prominence of diplomatic tools as opposed to sole military might in future international security cooperation programmes formulated by the US. The pessimism and damages of US’s military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is undoubtedly a pivot for the present change in US diplomatic-speak.
While diplomacy will continue to be an important policy tool, the rise in nuclear trade and nuclear cooperation is evident. Nuclear industry is on the rise globally and would continue to do so even in the future. With more and more countries wishing to use the nuclear option for meeting their energy needs, the nuclear cooperation programmes will inevitably overpower other industry sectors. The world demand for energy is projected to rise by about 50 per cent by 2030 and to nearly double by 2050. Specifically in case of India’s fast-growing economy, the energy needs are bound to expand. Experts estimate that India’s civil nuclear energy sector will need at least $100 billion worth of investment in the next 20 years and therefore countries are signing agreements with India to reap the benefits. The commercial benefits and strategic options will have to be carefully deliberated upon, keeping in view the short term and long term implications of any move. The security dynamics of the region and the domestic strategic environment of the United States will test their ability to employ a balanced strategy framework for security cooperation programmes and defence cooperation in the future.