There are no freebies in international politics. The US decision to waive CAATSA to India reflects the grim reality that it needs India as much as India needs it in the changing world order.
The US knows that as a growing military and economic power, China poses one of the most potent threats to its hegemony and joining hands with India is the only viable answer that Washington has.
Over the last two decades, China’s military modernization and expansion have placed it on the brink of becoming one of the most dominant forces in the world. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is now the numerically largest in the world.
Already having employed coercive measures in much of the South China Sea, it is now only a matter of time until Beijing uses its PLAN to do the same in the Indian Ocean, the next stage on which it hopes to upset the international order.
As of 2020, the PLAN has amassed 355 ships, 145 of which are major combatants, six nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, six nuclearpowered attack submarines, and 46 diesel-powered attack submarines.
According to US assessment, in the near term the PLAN will cement its global power projection capabilities through the ability to conduct long-range land strikes with cruise missiles fired from submarines and surface ships.
Beijing is buying its way to being able to sustain forces indefinitely in the Indian Ocean. China has invested in port facilities in Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Pakistan, Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, the United Arab Emirates, and Australia.
The Indian Ocean carries more than 75 per cent of the world’s trade; borders resource rich areas in East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa; and is home to over 14 per cent of the world’s wild-caught fish.
Fortunately, the rejuvenated IndiaU.S. military-to-military relationship could provide an instrument to push back against additional Chinese gains. In 2016 the United States and India concluded the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement or LEMOA. Under LEMOA, the nations’ respective forces can support themselves from their respective military facilities.
The US and India exercised LEMOA in 2020 when US P-8 Poseidon submarine-hunting aircraft refuelled for the first time at India’s base in the Andaman Islands, thereby extending the reach of submarinehunting aircraft into the Indian Ocean.
The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, signed in 2018, gives India a pathway to highend sensitive equipment to most effectively employ on the P-8i and MH60R aircraft acquired from the United States – just in time to track Chinese warships. The Boeing F-18 Super Hornets have undergone testing for use as the Indian Navy’s next carrierbased fighter.
The harsh reality is that India-US strategic relationship and the resultant security and economic stability is in danger from the looming threat imposed by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Failure to grant India a waiver will reset the relationship to the last time the United States placed India under sanctions, after the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests. As a result, India suspended bilateral naval exercises with the United States, deepened its partnership with Russia, and halted momentum in cooperation that has only just reaccelerated.
Just as India decided to go forward with nuclear testing in 1998, it will continue to make national security and foreign policy decisions squarely in its interests. The United States imposed the resultant sanctions during the post-Cold War, post-Desert Storm era, where no single threat to US hegemony existed. All nations were content with the economic benefits they reaped from worldwide security. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Now, the US sanctions on India would place the global order at risk