Diplomatic Tightrope: India Sides with US Against China, Tries to Keep Russian Goodwill

By News18

US defence secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in India on March 19, early in the Joe Biden presidency, to take forward the US-India defence and security relations given a fillip by this month’s summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, dubbed the Quad.

Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, reminded him to also take up their concerns about human rights abuses and declining democratic norms in India. The other issue of equal concern to the United States is the continuing defence cooperation between India and Russia.

The Indian side denied that India’s human rights record was discussed, dissimulating that in fact the issue only came up in the context of concerns of minorities in Afghanistan in a post US troop withdrawal scenario. Secretary Austin in his media interaction insisted that “conversations” did occur on US concerns about India’s worsening record at home.

But clearly it was not a stumbling block to bilateral relations: the US is using it more to satisfy congressional concerns and employ it as a lever to press New Delhi on the other issue, i.e., Russian defence sales to India.

The US desire to rope-in India is driven by its China balancing strategy. In that sense, the Biden administration is merely continuing, albeit more smartly, Donald Trump’s China policy, involving rallying of select democracies of the Indo-Pacific by the revival of the four-nation Quad, consisting of Australia, India, Japan and the US, in 2017.

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