Global Affairs Desk

Tue Jun 18 2024

USA's National Security Strategy and Implications for India

~ By Aarush Joshi on 5/6/2023

USA's National Security Strategy and Implications for India

In its National Security Strategy (NSS), the Biden administration has identified China as the only power with the intent and capability to reshape the international order and made it clear that outcompeting China is a top priority along with constraining Russia.

Released on the 12th of October, the first national security strategy released by the Biden administration since it took office, mentions the centrality of the Indo-Pacific as the world’s most significant region, highlights the need to connect America’s allies and partners in Europe and the Indo-Pacific, and refers to India as a key partner.

“As India is the world’s largest democracy and a Major Defence Partner, the United States and India will work together, bilaterally and multilaterally, to support our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the strategy says. It also refers to the various multilateral and plurilateral mechanisms of which India is a part along with the US.

The new NSS outlined the ways in which the US will advance its vital interests and pursue a free, open, prosperous, and secure world: “We will leverage all elements of our national power to outcompete our strategic competitors; tackle shared challenges, and shape the rules of the road.”

Focus on China

  • To achieve its objectives, NSS identifies three broad goals:
  • Invest in the underlying sources and tools of American power and influence;
  • Build the strongest possible coalition of nations to enhance its collective influence to shape the global strategic environment and to solve shared challenges;
  • Modernise and strengthen the US military so it is equipped for the era of strategic competition.

It speaks of the strategic competition between the USA and China; the most pressing challenge “we face as we pursue a free, open, prosperous, and secure world is from powers that layer authoritarian governance with a revisionist foreign policy”

“We will effectively compete with the People’s Republic of China, which is the only competitor with both the intent and, increasingly, the capability to reshape the international order, while constraining a dangerous Russia,” it says.

The NSS also mentions “shared challenges”: “People all over the world are struggling to cope with the effects of shared challenges that cross borders — whether it is climate change, food insecurity, communicable diseases, or inflation. These shared challenges are not marginal issues that are secondary to geopolitics. They are at the very core of national and international security and must be treated as such.”

Cooperation with India

India is mentioned in the NSS in relation to cooperation with democracies and like-minded countries, especially in the context of the Indo-Pacific and Quad. “As India is the world’s largest democracy and a Major Defense Partner, the United States and India will work together, bilaterally and multilaterally, to support our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it says.

“We will deepen our cooperation with democracies and other like-minded states. From the Indo-Pacific Quad (Australia, India, Japan, United States) to the US-EU Trade and Technology Council, from AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom, United States) to I2-U2 (India, Israel, UAE, United States), we are creating a latticework of strong, resilient, and mutually reinforcing relationships that prove democracies can deliver for their people and the world.”

The revitalized Quad, the NSS says, “addresses regional challenges and has demonstrated its ability to deliver for the Indo-Pacific, combating COVID-19 and climate change, to deepening cybersecurity partnerships and promoting high standards for infrastructure and health security”.
India is also mentioned in the context of the G7: “The G7 is at its strongest when it also formally engages other countries with aligned goals, such as at the 2022 summit where Argentina, India, Indonesia, Senegal, South Africa, and Ukraine also participated.”

On India and the war in Ukraine, it says: “Putin’s war has profoundly diminished Russia’s status vis-a-vis China and other Asian powers such as India and Japan.”
From India’s perspective, the most important framing is that the NSS recognizes that China presents “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge” and “Russia poses an immediate and ongoing threat to the regional security order in Europe…but it lacks the across the spectrum capabilities of the PRC”. This framing is especially important at a time when Indian and Chinese troops are locked in a border standoff in the Himalayas for the last two-and-half years.

Terrorism and Afghanistan

Pakistan-based terrorist groups did not find a mention in the NSS, though it spoke about ending US' war in Afghanistan. It also emphasised and reiterated "that it will ensure Afghanistan “never again serves as a safe haven for terrorist attacks on the United States or our allies and we will hold the Taliban accountable for its public commitments on counterterrorism”.

The NSS said, “We ended America’s longest war, in Afghanistan, having long ago achieved our objective of delivering justice to Osama Bin Laden and other key leadership of Al-Qa’ida. We are confident in our ability to maintain the fight against al-Qaeda, ISIS, and associated forces from over the horizon, as we demonstrated with the operation to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri.”

It also said that today’s terrorist threat is more ideologically diverse and geographically diffuse than that of two decades ago and Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and associated forces have expanded from Afghanistan and the Middle East into Africa and Southeast Asia.

Pertaining to India's mention in the NSS, it is worth highlighting that India-US relations will continue to progress and move forward across various domains. India is a country which offers the US a large market. Additionally, the Indian diaspora is one of the largest in the USA. Moreover, India is the only country in South Asia which stands up to and has the ability to counter China's aggression in the region. In this case, it becomes increasingly necessary for the US to ramp up its partnership with India and engage more proactively with India in arrangements like the Quad.

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