BY: KATHERINE GAN, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR
In late 2011, President Obama announced his intentions of rebalancing the United State’s foreign policy by pivoting towards Asia. Most noticeably, the United States shifted to the Asia-Pacific region to counter China’s growing influence, signified by interference in the South China Sea and the development of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). However, throughout this drastic change, one country seemed to be left in the dust: India. While China is a vital ally in the Asia-Pacific region, the United States should recognize that India holds untapped potential in the context of foreign and economic policy.
It is important to recognize that India shares concerns of the United States regarding safety and deterrence in the Asia-Pacific. Specifically, India understands the necessity of preventing further Chinese hostility in the South China Sea. This is crucial due to the land claims of numerous American allies such as the Philippines, Japan, and Vietnam as well as the large amount of trade that occurs in the sea, totaling $5.3 trillion dollars. Therefore, the United States and India should take cooperative measures such as bilaterally asserting freedom of the seas and building the capabilities of claimant nations. This method allows both countries to achieve their mutual goal of impeding China’s takeover of islands in the South China Sea, while fostering future coordination on other international issues of relevance.
One of the United State’s prominent foreign policy goals is to thwart terrorism in the Middle East. Yet, often, the only individuals involved in dismantling ISIS or other organizations are those in the region such as Syrians, Kurds, or Iranians. India has a vested interest in hampering ISIS’ expansion, as the organization has begun to break out in South Asia, due to their loss of land in the Middle East. Moreover, India has proven to be a vital breeding ground of terrorist recruitment from the likes of Al Qaeda and ISIS, as disgruntled Indian Muslims are vulnerable to the propaganda and promises of terrorist groups. This is why Al Qaeda and ISIS rival each other in winning the hearts and minds of the large Sunni population in India. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Narenda Modi and President Obama fail to reconcile and bridge the gap of stalling recruitment and mobilization of these groups. Both countries have a clear interest in inhibiting further strengthening of terrorist groups, not only in the Middle East, but also in South Asia; it’s time to reach out to India and achieve foreign and domestic goals.
In an era of increasing globalization, the United States has been able to trade goods and services faster and cheaper than ever. As part of the Obama administration’s pivot towards Asia, American businesses have invested in countries ranging from China to Japan to Vietnam. Although there are numerous sectors that would benefit from a bilateral economic relationship between India and the United States, no formal agreement has been forged. Direct economic collaboration between the two countries will result in access to India’s globally competitive information technology pool, allowing numerous American businesses to innovate and advance in their fields. Additionally, India is building up its manufacturing industry, which will allow the United States to diversify itself from China. The relationship between the two countries will not be one-sided; America’s investment in India will allow for further development of green energy, infrastructure, and the power to progress as a nation. Furthermore, scholars have argued for a joint economic trilateral relationship between India, Pakistan, and the United States. Specifically, the United States could offer lower tariffs on textiles to both nations, dependent on the condition of free trade between India and Pakistan. This is vital in restoring Pakistan/Indian relations and allowing for greater coordination on security measures such as terrorism and nuclear energy. Taking an economic approach would serve advantageous to both businesses and citizens in all three countries, allowing for an easing of hostility and additional joint action in the future.
The “pivot to Asia” has been crucial in opening American businesses to new markets and fortifying relationships between the United States and Asia-Pacific nations. However, this pivot should also include India, as collaboration on shared interests, both foreign and domestic, will enhance international peace and security.