SECRETARY of State Mike Pompeo is following a scorched-earth approach to foreign policy in the dying days of the Trump government. He has sanctioned umpteen Iranian, Russian and Chinese officials in the past fortnight, read the Riot Act to Venezuela and declared null and void all restrictions on US relations with Taiwan. But of acute interest to India is the declassification of an American strategy paper on the Indo-Pacific after just two years, instead of the mandatory 35 years. There is some amount of political haymaking as Pompeo is aiming to run for President in 2024. But this muddying of the waters is also aimed at ensuring that Biden will find it difficult to reverse the changes that Pompeo has rung in.
But as far as the Indo-Pacific is concerned, there is a bipartisan consensus in America. After all, it was the Democratic Party’s Barack Obama who gave up on China, 14 years after another Democrat, Bill Clinton, ventured to engage China rather than contain it. Besides, much water has flown in India since the Doklam standoff in 2017 and the Galwan Valley clashes in 2020. India’s appetite for a rapprochement with China has severely diminished, if not vanished. The US military-industrial complex too would push the Biden team to continue with what the paper promises — provide military, intelligence and diplomatic support to India — for obvious reasons.
The die has been cast. Even if Biden would want to turn the clock back, the other actors — India, Australia and Japan — will obviously point to the document and ask if China has not become more aggressive with each passing year. India, on its part, much like Australia and Japan, has taken a strategic decision on the Indo-Pacific. The speed at which this relationship has developed is not just stunning but also irreversible. By 2030, the world’s top economies, including the US, India, Japan and Indonesia, will be from the Indo-Pacific. With growing economic power will come strategic weight. The course has been set and this is one act of frenzy by Pompeo which will be hard for Biden to reverse.
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