Trump's support of India could have unintended consequences

Quietly, all but unheralded, Donald Trump has begun tilting significantly away from Pakistan and toward another South...

Posted: Feb 8, 2018 12:10 AM
Updated: Feb 8, 2018 12:10 AM

Quietly, all but unheralded, Donald Trump has begun tilting significantly away from Pakistan and toward another South Asian ally -- a counterweight to China that could help tip the balance, particularly in the region's potentially most sensitive flashpoint, the South China Sea. That enemy of my enemy is India, and it is not an inconsiderable friend to have. At the same time, though, Trump's actions have opened another door to a resurgent China that could prove even more dangerous down the road.

So, when did this relationship with India develop? The United States and India have been allies for a while, but Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have significantly strengthened their bonds over the few months. Modi visited Trump in Washington last June, kicking off a new set of talks between the nations. And then at November's ASEAN Regional Forum in Manila, Philippines, the two leaders resolved to strengthen the US-India defense partnership, discussed expanding Indian oil imports from the United States to help shrink the trade gap and agreed to expand a supply line to Afghanistan that India was developing.

All this plays to India's advantage. India is hoping to find a big-power ally that can help it become a viable force against China, while at the same time maintaining security of its sea routes to the east. After all, more than two-thirds of India's entire trade volume arrives and departs by sea.

India's new "Look East Policy" involves not only bulking up its blue water naval capability but also launching a new intercontinental ballistic missile that puts all of China within range of attack. China is not taking this news well. China has been concerned for a while with India's surging economic growth, military reach and population expansion. This new policy only irritates China more.

To complicate matters, India's growth is surging at the very moment that China's is beginning to plateau. Last month, the International Monetary Fund revised Asia's economic growth upward largely on the strength of India's performance -- projecting an expansion in India of 7.5% this year and 7.8% next year, an increase over the 6.7% growth registered in 2017. By contrast, China is heading in the other direction -- its growth dropping from 6.8% last year to 6.6% this year and 6.4% next year.

And there is no suggestion that the United States is prepared to squeeze India's foreign trade as it has already shown an inclination to take on leading Chinese exports, raising tariffs substantially on solar panels and washing machines. Of course, American two-way trade with India is a fraction of the trade with China, but it has been rising rapidly and the Indian government has been receptive to the Trump administration's pressure to reduce the size of its trade deficit.

Most smaller Southeast Asian nations are also eager to see a newly resurgent India as a trade partner, but especially as a reliable balance to China, which has loomed over the region militarily as well as economically.

In this respect, India is very much flexing its muscles. Last month, India successfully test fired an intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of 3,400 to 3,600 miles. It's also looking to double its fleet of 12 state-of-the-art American made P-81 anti-submarine patrol aircraft, able to detect submarine activity from the air. This comes just as China has offered India's neighbors -- Bangladesh, Thailand and especially Pakistan -- advanced Yuan class submarines at a fraction of the price of European or American models.

In its nuclear arsenal, India already is believed to have 120 to 130 nuclear warheads, compared with China's 270, according to the Federation of American Scientists. Building a deliverable nuclear capacity has been a vital concern to India, until recently as a deterrent to the nation it has long seen as its mortal enemy: Pakistan, with 130 to 140 nuclear weapons. Which makes the current strategic situation in the region especially fraught, because both nations are believed to be bulking up their arsenals still further.

This confrontation comes at the very moment the Trump administration has entered into a bitter war of words with Pakistan, once a loyal South Asian nation. As he has done in other parts of the world, notably the Middle East, where the President has thrown America's support firmly to Saudi Arabia, last month Trump announced that he was withholding some $2 billion of security aid from Pakistan as punishment for the regime allegedly harboring terrorists who are actively working to further destabilize Afghanistan.

Not surprisingly, the Pakistani government has begun actively seeking new strategic partners. And, according to Chinese state-owned media, China has eagerly stepped in to assist. Already, China has investments and loans in Pakistan surpassing $100 billion. China has also, as CNN reported, made a major move into India's offshore neighbor, Sri Lanka, with a 99-year lease on a major port facility and some $15 billion in investments.

All this has led a number of Asian nations, already skeptical of Trump after his withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership, wondering how committed the United States is to providing a counterweight to Chinese hegemony across the region. While India could eventually prove to be such a counterweight, China has a significant head start.

Somehow, the United States has to find a way of choosing its friends more judiciously. It must also appreciate the consequences of choosing sides in a complex diplomatic and military game. At this point, though, the administration seems to have little understanding of the rules of the game, let alone the stakes involved.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 604184

Reported Deaths: 7620
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1248631774
Ramsey52480895
Dakota46804470
Anoka42746458
Washington27416291
Stearns22552224
St. Louis18137312
Scott17548135
Wright16370149
Olmsted13391102
Sherburne1201295
Carver1066448
Clay825892
Rice8196110
Blue Earth762543
Crow Wing681594
Kandiyohi667885
Chisago619752
Otter Tail585884
Benton582998
Goodhue483874
Douglas475381
Mower470733
Winona461251
Itasca459263
Isanti439964
McLeod430361
Morrison424662
Nobles407950
Beltrami407561
Steele397616
Polk389072
Becker386655
Lyon363853
Carlton352756
Freeborn346932
Pine335023
Nicollet331045
Mille Lacs311654
Brown307840
Le Sueur297226
Cass286032
Todd285632
Meeker263142
Waseca238023
Martin235332
Roseau211021
Wabasha20783
Hubbard196441
Dodge18783
Renville182446
Redwood176338
Houston174616
Cottonwood167124
Wadena162823
Fillmore157410
Faribault154419
Chippewa153938
Pennington153820
Kanabec146828
Sibley146810
Aitkin138837
Watonwan13579
Rock128719
Jackson122612
Pipestone116726
Yellow Medicine114920
Pope11296
Murray107010
Swift106918
Koochiching95217
Stevens92411
Clearwater89016
Marshall88817
Wilkin83213
Lake83120
Lac qui Parle75622
Big Stone6044
Grant5938
Lincoln5843
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned48293
Red Lake4017
Traverse3775
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 370914

Reported Deaths: 6048
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58232640
Linn21204339
Scott20306247
Black Hawk16119312
Woodbury15238230
Johnson1461585
Dubuque13506211
Dallas1128999
Pottawattamie11223174
Story1071448
Warren583991
Clinton561493
Cerro Gordo553593
Sioux517074
Webster515494
Muscatine4880106
Marshall486676
Des Moines467271
Wapello4337122
Buena Vista426940
Jasper421172
Plymouth402981
Lee382356
Marion366076
Jones300957
Henry294637
Bremer288261
Carroll286852
Crawford268540
Boone268434
Benton259655
Washington256751
Dickinson249344
Mahaska232351
Jackson225242
Clay216627
Kossuth216166
Tama211871
Delaware210943
Winneshiek198535
Page194522
Buchanan193733
Cedar192223
Hardin187444
Fayette186543
Wright185940
Hamilton181851
Harrison179973
Clayton171057
Butler166235
Madison164619
Mills163724
Floyd163342
Cherokee159338
Lyon158841
Poweshiek157036
Allamakee152652
Hancock150234
Iowa149824
Winnebago144531
Cass139255
Calhoun138913
Grundy137333
Emmet135841
Jefferson133435
Shelby131537
Sac130920
Union129935
Louisa129749
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126643
Chickasaw124717
Franklin123323
Guthrie123232
Humboldt119626
Palo Alto113523
Howard104922
Montgomery103638
Clarke100924
Keokuk96532
Monroe96330
Unassigned9560
Ida91535
Adair87332
Pocahontas85822
Davis85225
Monona82931
Osceola78916
Greene78011
Lucas77923
Worth7598
Taylor66812
Fremont6269
Decatur6169
Van Buren56418
Ringgold56324
Wayne54423
Audubon53411
Adams3444
Rochester
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 74°
Mason City
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 75°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
77° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 79°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 75°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 75°
Another round of thunderstorms possible on Friday
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events