An Indo-US agreement giving the two nations access to each other’s military bases across the world can cause strategic troubles for New Delhi and may not make it any more secure, Chinese state media warned on Tuesday.
The agreement does not extend ship ‘basing rights’ and gives access only to logistics such as fuel, for joint exercises and relief, humanitarian operations.
But bells of worry could be ringing in Beijing with nationalist Chinese tabloid Global Times putting out an editorial with a note of caution for India, hours after defence minister Manohar Parrikar and United States defence secretary Ashton Carter signed the Logistics exchange memorandum of agreement (LEMOA).
“This is undoubtedly a leap forward in US-India military cooperation. US media highly applauded this deal, with Forbes hailing it as a ‘war pact’ and believing that India is shifting away from Russia, its Cold War ally, toward a new alliance with the US,” the editorial said.
But it is not good for Sino-India relations or relations between India and other countries in the region, it said.
“If India hastily joins the US alliance system, it may irritate China, Pakistan or even Russia. It may not make India feel safer, but will bring strategic troubles to itself and make itself a centre of geopolitical rivalries in Asia,” the commentary warned.
What is under threat is India’s traditional policy of non-alignment in foreign policy, the newspaper said, adding that New Delhi seems to be gradually succumbing to the US’s overtures.
“India has practiced the principles of non-alignment since independence, which have been advocated by Indian elites. However, in recent years, Washington has deliberately wooed New Delhi to become its quasi ally so as to impose geopolitical pressure on China. It is possible that the Modi administration is trying an unconventional way to lean toward the US with the logistics agreement,” it said.
But will the returns of such a strategy be substantial? The newspaper didn’t think so, at least in India’s neighbourhood.
“But how close the US-India relationship can be and what geopolitical values it can get remains a question,” the commentary said.
Despite expanding India-US ties, the newspaper was optimistic that India will not change its independent foreign policy.
“Due to its non-alignment policy, India has been given attention from all the major powers such as the US, Japan, China and Russia in recent years,” it said.
“Now is arguably a time when India has the most room for strategic maneuvering. During Shinzo Abe’s first tenure as Japan’s prime minister, Japan hyped the concept of a quadrilateral alliance between the US, Japan, Australia and India; however, New Delhi remained cool to the idea,” it said.
“Therefore, India will not lean toward the US, because it will not only hurt India’s self-esteem, more importantly, India can gain more strategic benefits by striking a balance between China and the US.”