The Biden administration needs to address India’s ties with Russia and its “downward trend of democratic values and institutions” as the US focuses on the strategically important Indo-Pacific region, said a report by the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.
The report released by the Democratic Party has called for supporting a strong and democratic India, as China flexes its muscles in the dynamic region.
Senate Foreign Affairs Chairman Senator Robert Menendez said the US needs to approach the Indo-Pacific with a well-resourced, whole-of-government approach that synchronises the military-security elements with diplomatic, economic, and civil society elements to ensure the greatest chance of success.
Menendez’s remarks came as he released the “Strategic Alignment: The Imperative of Resourcing the Indo-Pacific Strategy”, a Majority Staff Report, on Thursday.
“I believe that President (Joe) Biden’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, released one year ago, adopts this whole-of-government approach. If fully equipped with the tools that it needs to be successful, this strategy will underpin the United States’ leadership in the most consequential and dynamic region of the world in the 21st century,” Menendez, a top Senator from the ruling Democratic Party, said.
The report said the Biden administration was correct not to make its Indo-Pacific strategy solely about competition with the People’s Republic of China. But to succeed, it has to grapple with the realities of this competition for the US and the challenges it poses for its regional allies and partners, it said.
The United States under its Indo-Pacific strategy is committed to an Indo-Pacific that is free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient.
The US along with Australia, India and Japan had in 2017 given shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the “Quad” or the Quadrilateral coalition to counter China’s aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.
In its seventh and last recommendation, the report calls for supporting a strong and democratic India.
The Indian government has been asserting that India has well-established democratic practices and robust institutions to safeguard the rights of all.
“Even as the administration rightly treats India as an important security partner, it will need to address the very real complications of India’s continued ties with, and dependence on, Russia for defence equipment and its recent downward trend of democratic values and institution,” it said.
The ties between India and Russia remained strong notwithstanding Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
India’s import of Russian crude oil has gone up significantly in the last few months despite increasing disquiet over it in many Western countries.
The US has also been discouraging India from relying on Russia, its largest defence supplier, for its defence needs.
In October 2018, India signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems, notwithstanding a warning by the U.S. that going ahead with the contract may invite U.S. sanctions under the provisions of Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
The S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system. The US has already imposed sanctions on Turkey under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for the purchase of a batch of S-400 missile defence systems from Russia.
According to the report, the United States and China vie for the position of India’s largest trading partner.
India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry reported in June 2022 that trade with the US exceeded that of China, an important marker in the increasingly close ties between Washington and New Delhi, the report noted “Indeed, the relationship between the world’s two largest democracies has been on an upward trajectory for more than two decades, overcoming Cold War antagonism and division over India’s nuclear programme and the country’s testing of a nuclear device in 1998,” it said.
Security ties have deepened dramatically in recent years as both countries are increasingly concerned about the implications of a more assertive China, the report said.
“The US and India are now major defence partners and the two countries have launched a new Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies to enhance cooperation on quantum computing, 5G and 6G networks, space, semiconductors, biotech, and artificial intelligence.” The report follows up on Chairman Menendez’s 2014 Democratic Staff report, which underscored the importance of increasing diplomatic and development resources in the region.
It offers a comprehensive examination of US diplomatic and development agencies’ investment in the Indo-Pacific region since 2014. It also makes a series of recommendations to advance the administration’s capacity to meet the IPS’ objectives and to enhance US national and economic security.
“In the nine years, two administrations, and numerous strategies since my last report, little progress has been made to advance US diplomacy and development efforts in the Indo-Pacific, all while the PRC continues to expand its influence through aggressive impositions on states’ sovereignty, localised disinformation campaigns, and predatory economic investments,” Menendez said.
“If we are serious about advancing US interests in Asia and competing with the PRC (People’s Republic of China), we must match ambitious policy with ambitious resourcing,” he said.
The report recommends that the Biden Administration must significantly increase funding for diplomatic and development agencies across the US government and dedicate a larger portion of the Department of State operating budget and Washinton’s foreign assistance to advance priorities in the Indo-Pacific.
Congress should be made an active partner to ensure sufficient allocation of resources to the Indo-Pacific, to provide new authorities if and when needed, and to engage in effective oversight, it said.
The Indo-Pacific Strategy must include a substantive and action-oriented economic agenda that is commensurate with US interests and responsive to our allies’ and partners’ calls for increased US economic engagement, it said.
Seeking to deepen engagement with the United States’ network of allies and partners across the region, the report says that the US and its partners must strive to provide alternative financing and economic development projects to compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the Digital Silk Road.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)