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Senator Menendez, help defend the Indo-Pacific

It is substantially in the hands of Bob Menendez whether or not the resolution recognizing Arunachal Pradesh as part of India passes the US Senate, writes Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat

The Achilles Heel of the Biden Administration is that the President of the United States has stuffed the higher echelons of his administration with wannabe Europeans. Among policymakers, Europeanists act as though Europe and the US were a single entity separated only by the waters of the North Atlantic.

Paraphrasing EAM Jaishankar, while the rest of the world’s problems (barring of course the US itself) are usually not considered America’s problems, Europe’s problems immediately are seen as America’s problem. Donald J. Trump may not be the most popular person in Senator Bob Menendez’s party (or, less openly, in its main rival in the political arena), but he was the first US President in a long while to call out the Europeans for putting in a mere penny to assist Washington in its geopolitical forays, but always expecting a dollar from the US where their own issues were concerned.

Whether it be in matters of defence or getting the US to act as the spearhead of European efforts to retain primacy in those parts of the world that had in the past been colonies of states in that continent, Washington has run an extra ten to each of Europe’s mile. The visit of every US President to Europe has been an exercise in unsubtle flattery from the hosts accompanied by a list of demands.

Ukraine is different, for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy skips the flattery while constantly upping his demands from the Atlantic Alliance. In days past, V.K. Krishna Menon used to say that if you wanted anything from the Americans, “don’t beg them, kick them”. Zelenskyy has shown that Menon was right, given how President Biden is showing the generosity of a trillionaire Santa Claus by shovelling ever more equipment and help to Ukraine free of cost.

This is in contrast to the much more meagre help given to other democracies endangered by an authoritarian state. Neither India or Taiwan has been given even a single artillery round gratis by Joe Biden. Instead of enough of the much-needed advanced—repeat, advanced—defensive and offensive (for the first is useless without the capabilities of the other) missile and aircraft systems, the US sent Taiwan House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and will soon send Speaker Kevin McCarthy. A wonderful pair, to be sure, but of limited value in case a kinetic conflict were to ensue across both sides of the Taiwan straits.

Why India must fast-track its railways in Arunachal to deter China(in)

Senator Bob Menendez needs to avoid showing that he is one with President Biden in subliminally considering himself to be a European who has swum across the pond, and not an American, or part of a people who are not European, Asian, South American or African but a blend of all four of these continents and its peoples. It was the wannabe European in the White House that would have motivated Senator Menendez to demand that the alliance with India be torn to shreds by President Biden through imposing CAATSA sanctions after S-400 systems were purchased by India from the Russian Federation.

Senator Menendez should instead have asked Donald Trump why the US THAAD defence system was not offered to India on concessional terms (given that they would be useful to US security as well) while the S-400 deal was being negotiated by Delhi with Moscow. Is it that “Panda Huggers” in both the Trump as well the Biden administration would fret that their friends in Beijing may pull a long face at any such offer of the THAAD system to India ?

After all, if Bob Menendez is so unhappy about Russia’s land grab in Ukraine as to have signed up to Victoria Nuland’s “Let’s Punish India” policy, why is the same anger missing at China’s land grabs in Asia? This is, after all, Cold War 2.0, not Cold War 1.0. In such a context, having India as an ally in the Indo-Pacific against the PRC is essential for the security of the US. Fortunately, there are others in the Biden administration who understand where the principal threat to the US is coming from, President Biden had their wiser counsel, and refused to do what would have delighted both Beijing and Moscow, which would have been to place CAATSA sanctions on India.

It is substantially in the hands of Bob Menendez whether or not the US Senate resolution recognizing Arunachal Pradesh as part of India passes the Senate, before being sent to the House of Representatives and finally to the White House for assent. Should the Arunachal bill get signed into law, it would be an affirmation that the US is with India in resisting the expansionism of the authoritarian superpower rampaging in the Indo-Pacific.

Both the Sino-Wahhabi and the Sino-Russian lobbies in Washington will seek to stifle that partnership against tyranny, including by following Nuland’s advice to make its passage conditional on India joining hands with those European powers who are committing hara-kiri on themselves by cutting off from the natural resources of Russia, which comprises half the land area of Europe and of Asia combined.

Given the times they lived in, a Zbigniew Brzezinski or a Bill Casey could be forgiven their pro-China tilt. During Cold War 1.0, the PRC was invaluable in assisting the US to stymie the USSR. In the era of Cold War 2.0, a partnership with India is even more of an essentiality for the US than that with China in the past, a memo the Nulands in the Biden administration appear to have ignored. The Arunachal bill, should it become law, promises to be a game changer in India-US relations. Both in the Senate and House, and even in the White House if not yet in Foggy Bottom, this needs to be understood and actioned. Over to you, Senator.

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