WASHINGTON: US should expand India’s access to its high-tech weapons systems to help the country deter Chinese and Pakistani provocations and secure its borders, a top American think-tank has said.
In a memo, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) warns a China-India conflict could endanger US interests. Although a large-scale conflict between China and India is unlikely, persistent suspicions and border disputes could have dire consequences, it said.
“A border clash could inflict dozens of casualties, jolt global markets, hurt regional economic growth, and undermine cooperative China-India efforts on regional and global issues of concern to the United States,” wrote Daniel Markey, CFR adjunct senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia.
A dispute at the India-Pakistan border could, for example, lead to a potential spillover in the region.
“Given that Pakistan has failed to dismantle the terrorist groups most likely to attack India, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its affiliates, and that Indian defences against terrorism can never be foolproof, another major strike is a realistic possibility, “writes Markey.
“Moreover, even under normal circumstances China’s desire to demonstrate its regional military superiority and maintain Pakistan as an ally suggests that China would take military action to help Pakistan escape any significant defeat at India’s hands,” the memo said.
In the memo, Markey recommends that US policymakers maintain and expand the US military presence in the Indo-Pacific.
“To keep pace with China in the Indo-Pacific, the United States should consider a combination of new strategies and larger naval budgets for weapon systems to maintain presence and reassure allies and partners like India,” it said.
“US policymakers should expand India’s access to US high- tech weapons systems in ways designed to discourage Indian military adventurism that would provoke a hostile Chinese reaction. US arms sales should help India deter Chinese (and Pakistani) provocations, defend India’s borders, and clarify the US commitment to long-term strategic partnership,” Markey said.
The memo also calls for conditioning a portion of US military assistance to Pakistan on the country’s progress in combating terrorist groups.
“Because another India-Pakistan standoff would increase the potential for an armed confrontation between China and India, the United States should better signal its grave concerns about Pakistan’s inadequate efforts to clamp down on LeT, its affiliates, and successor organisations,” it said.
“President Obama should invite his Chinese and Indian counterparts to a trilateral summit to set the terms for subsequent working-level trilateral meetings and, if successful, to establish a permanent forum for the world’s three most populous states,” Markey said.