A brutal day of hand-to-hand combat on the India-China border last month may accomplish what years of Pentagon and White House outreach has struggled to achieve: draw the U.S. and India closer militarily.
U.S. strategists have long wanted to get India firmly on America’s side, seeing the nation of 1.3 billion as a powerful counterweight to China. But while India has historically tried to balance its ties among global powers, the clashes with China at 14,000-feet (4,300 meters) laid bare the potential longer-term risks of not having the U.S. more clearly behind it.
“My former Pentagon colleagues see the India dust-up as nothing you’d want but a great opportunity for further strengthening U.S.-India cooperation,” said Randy Schriver who stepped down as assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Affairs in December. “Our defense strategy is really getting a boost from all this.”
Closer ties would represent a big strategic win for Donald Trump. The American president has courted Prime Minister Narendra Modi since taking office in 2017. In 2018, the two nations signed a defense agreement that allowed India to purchase advanced American weapons and share sensitive military technology. In 2019 the U.S. approved the largest defense deal between the two countries in four years when it confirmed the sale of $1 billion in naval guns to India.