How was India's defense system

"Milestone in Relationships"


India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has called the agreement with the US on enhanced cooperation in nuclear technology and missile defense a "milestone" in bilateral relations. US President George Bush announced on Monday (January 12th, 2004) on the sidelines of the America Summit in Monterrey, Mexico, that both sides also want to cooperate more closely than before on the nuclear issue.

The term "milestone" is justified insofar as the USA suspended all cooperation in the nuclear and high-tech sectors after the Indian nuclear tests in 1998. It is true that high-ranking US government officials emphasize that the cooperation does not extend to India's nuclear weapons and missile program. But the US now seems to accept India's nuclear power status, and through the planned cooperation in the area of ​​the missile defense programs "Theater Missile Defense" (TMD) and "National Missile Defense" (NMD) they are at least indirectly supporting the Indian defense strategy.

Cooperation in missile defense

For India, too, allied with the Soviet Union for decades, the close relationship with the USA means a reorientation. "During the Cold War we could never have even thought that India would support something like the American TMD and NMD programs," says Indian political scientist B.M. Jain from the Toda Institute of Peace and Policy Research in Hawaii. "Now these two are important to the Indian defense system, because missile defense has become an important part of our strategy with which we face threats to our security."

But also politically, the two largest democracies in the world have come closer together over the past few years. It is noticeable that the strategy papers of the leading think tanks from the USA always rely on long-term cooperation with India, while they judge developments in Pakistan much more critically and want to combine US support with numerous demands on Islamabad.

Pakistan worries

"Pakistan is a little concerned about the growing strategic and military ties between the US and India," says B.M. Jain about that. "And the Pakistanis, especially to George W. Bush, have also voiced these concerns. China is also a little worried because the US is drawing so close to India."

It seems quite conceivable that the United States, with closer ties to India, will also want to create a counterweight to a possible Chinese supremacy in Asia in the long term. On the other hand, the announcement of close cooperation coincides with a dramatic improvement in Indian-Pakistani relations - last week the warring South Asian neighbors announced that they would be negotiating with one another again. India and China are just making a new attempt in Beijing to resolve their border disputes. In this environment, Indian-American cooperation in the region should certainly not be understood as a new bloc formation.