What does the US defence secretary want from India?

Last week's visit to India by the US Secretary of Defence Chuck Heigl continued the series of visits by senior American officials in the run-up to the September visit to the US by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Chuck Heigl’s visit to India was sort of comprised of two components.

One, the most obvious one, lay in the sphere of purely military-technical cooperation. United States offered India a number of deals. In particular, the sale of attack helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and portable anti-tank missile systems Javelin. In addition, Heigl did not hide the desire of the United States to take advantage of the recent decision by Indian government to raise the threshold of foreign participation in joint ventures in the defence sector to 49 % of the capital, says the expert of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Boris Volkhonsky:

“The interests of the main lobbyist of the US military-industrial complex in this area are clear: to create most preferential conditions for American companies in the promising arms market in India. Today India is a major foreign buyer of American weapons. And for the United States, whose economy is going through hard times, it is imperative to increase its share in this market.”

However, economy was not the main component of Heigl’s visit as he openly confessed. During a brief stop in Germany on his way to India, Heigl said: "I'll be there, working, yes, our specific issues, but it's larger than that ". And he added: "When we look at Asia-Pacific, the area of operation represents tremendous new opportunities, but challenges as well. We need partners. We need relationships."

And this is the key to understanding the true aims of the visit. They are not confined to the spheres of economy and military-technical cooperation. The bottom line is to try to build a new system of relations in the Asia-Pacific region and in Asia as a whole, in which countries of the region will play the role of conductors of interests of the United States, says Boris Volkhonsky:

“The "strategic turn" in the foreign policy of the United States announced in late 2011 has faced a number of problems. Chief among them is the fact that Washington, contrary to expectations, was not able to remove from the agenda of a number of outstanding issues in the Middle East. On the contrary, the situation there continues to deteriorate. And this has been supplemented by a number of problems in other parts of the world: for example, the apparent increase of problems in relations with the West European allies and attempts to solve them by creating and escalating the crisis in Ukraine.”

All this does not negate the main strategic goal of the "strategic turn," viz., to contain China. But while problems still persist in other parts of the world, it appears that the United States simply does not have the resources for a confrontation with its main geopolitical rival, says Boris Volkhonsky:

“In this context, the main strategic objective of the United States in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region is to shift the burden of confrontation with China on other countries with matching capacity and having problems in bilateral relations. The most obvious candidates for such a role are Japan and India. It is not surprising that Heigl made a statement during his visit to Delhi that the United States is interested in the expansion of Indo-Japanese cooperation in the security sphere.”

However, it becomes obvious even from the diplomatic wording of the statements made during and after the visit that the US Secretary of Defence failed to accomplish all his goals. In particular, his statement that India "need not choose between closer partnership with America and improved ties with China", indicates that this is what he was told by his Indian partners in negotiations.

Narendra Modi’s government is committed to the development of relations primarily with regional neighbors. In the near future Modi will pay a visit to Japan and the President Xi Jinping is to visit India. This clearly demonstrates that India is committed in its foreign policy to adhere to an independent course, and not become a tool in someone's hands.

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