The White House on Wednesday released a 10-page document outlining the Trump administration’s strategy as of 2018 for countering China — stressing the role of India as a new ally in Asia.
The document contains few surprises, outlining plans to support allies and boost the economic and counter-espionage efforts of neighboring states.
But US cooperation with India features prominently in the assessment.
“A strong India, in cooperation with like-minded countries, would act as a counterbalance to China,” it says.
“China aims to dissolve US alliances and partnerships in the region. China will exploit vacuums and opportunities created by these diminished bonds.”
The White House National Security Council report said the US will “[a]im to create a quadrilateral security framework with India, Japan, Australia and the United States as the principal hubs.”
The Trump White House released the document one week before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Critics accuse Biden of historically being naive during China’s rise, especially on trade policy.
President Trump at first cultivated a warm personal relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but the bond soured with a trade war aimed at forcing a deal to reform Chinese economic policy. Last year, Trump authorized sanctions against Chinese officials for eliminating Hong Kong’s political autonomy and for mistreating Uyghur Muslim minorities. He also vowed to “decouple” the US and China economically in response to deception in early data on COVID-19.
Unlike Trump as president-elect, Biden has not spoken to Taiwan’s president since he won election.
Trump visited India in February and in 2019 hosted a “Howdy, Modi!” rally in Houston with 50,000 Indian-Americans welcoming a visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The strategy document says the US will seek to “[a]ccelerate India’s rise and capacity to serve as a net provider of security and Major Defense Partner; solidify an enduring strategic partnership with India underpinned by a strong Indian military able to effectively collaborate with the United States and our partners in the region to address shared interests.”
The document says the US should “[p]artner with India on cyber and space security and maritime domain awareness [and] [e]xpand US-India intelligence sharing and analytic exchanges.”
The vision for boosting India also entails “[w]ork[ing] with India and Japan to help finance projects that enhance regional connectivity between India and countries of the region,”
The strategy, though outdated, emphases other traditional US priorities, such as protecting Taiwan’s de facto independence from China and persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Since the document was drafted, the Trump administration waged a largely successful campaign to discourage allies from using Chinese telecom company Huawei for 5G infrastructure due to spying concerns.
The document says the US should “[e]nable Taiwan to develop an effective asymmetric defense strategy and capabilities that will help ensure its security, freedom from coercion, resilience, and ability to engage China on its own terms.”
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