NEW DELHI: In a classified document made public after just two years, the US said its Indo-Pacific strategy had a “particular focus” on India.
The objective was to accelerate India’s rise by building stronger defence ties and also by offering diplomatic, military and intelligence support to help address continental challenges such as the border dispute with China.
In other words, the US had taken a strategic decision to build an alliance with India against China in 2018, when the document was prepared. This happened a year after the India-China confrontation in Doklam and two years before both armies clashed violently in eastern Ladakh in mid-2020.
The 10-page document, which explains the need to align US’ Indo-Pacific strategy with those of Australia, India and Japan, was released surprisingly early rather than after 30 years. Partly redacted, it sets out the Trump administration’s strategy for Indo-Pacific that was developed by the US National Security Council.
The four members of the Quad India, Australia, Japan and the US had elevated their discussions to the level of Foreign Ministers in 2019, a year after the US had prepared the document followed by a second ministerial in Tokyo last year.
The military part of the strategy sets out three aims (i) deny China sustained air and sea dominance inside the first island chain in a conflict; (ii) defend the first-island-chain nations, including Taiwan; and (iii) dominate all domains outside the first-island-chain.
The change of classification of the document in the last week of the Trump administration is a “gesture of reassurance to the United States alliance partners, including Australia, that we are not fading away but doubling down in the Indo-Pacific” and the language is likely to be seen to confirm to Beijing its claim that the US is seeking to contain China,” said reports quoting US sources.
“It is highly classified, secret, not for release to foreign nationals, and I think it is a signal about the kind of continuity that the permanent government of America, if you like, the officials, want to see in America’s relations with the Indo-Pacific, including in managing Chinese power,” said Australian National University’s Rory Medcalf, a consistently strong proponent of the Quad since his days with the Lowey Institute.
“This is very clear code for America holding its ground with Taiwan, with partners and allies in the South China Sea, with Japan, with Korea – really maintaining the integrity of those relationships and protecting them from Chinese assertiveness, from Chinese aggression,” he added.