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Sunday, August 19, 2007

U.S. and India Consider 'Asian NATO'

NewsMax.com Wires Thursday, May 29, 2003
WASHINGTON – Discreet talks were under way today between senior advisers to the Pentagon and to the Indian government on the prospects for a new security system for Asian-Pacific republics, a kind of Asian NATO, anchored by the United States and India.
The idea comes as the Pentagon is preparing major shifts in the deployment of its forces in the region, including the movement of U.S. Marines from bases in Okinawa, Japan, to Australia, and the use of new basing facilities in Singapore and the Philippines.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz left Washington today for a five-day trip to Japan, South Korea and Singapore, where this re-alignment of U.S forces in the Pacific will be high on his agenda.
Wolfowitz is expected to stress that these troop movements reflect no dilution in the U.S. security commitment to Japan and South Korea, but that relocation could ease local political irritants of the American presence. The U.S. forces in South Korea, remaining at the current force level of 37,000 troops, are expected to shift southward from fixed bases in Seoul and near the tense border with North Korea. Relocating some of the Marines from Okinawa would not affect the other 28,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan.
The talks between Andrew Marshall, director of the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment and high-level Indian civilian advisers have not been publicized, but they reflect an important warming of the U.S.-Indian relationship.
Non-aligned throughout the Cold War, with close economic ties to the Soviet Union, India was long seen in Washington as a less-than-friendly and impoverished nation. Now a nuclear power, with a thriving high-tech sector in a growing economy increasingly tied to the United States, India is seen as a key strategic player in Asia and a potential ally that already sends its troops and naval forces on joint exercises with the United States.
The United States has to "strengthen political, economic and military-to-military relations with those Asian states that share our democratic values and national interests. That spells India," argues the outgoing U.S. ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, a strong advocate of a U.S.-Indian alliance.
Militarily, the United States and India are already virtual allies and share a strong military relationship with Israel. The Bush administration earlier this month gave the go-ahead for Israel to sell India three Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control Systems aircraft, an advanced technology the Bush administration stopped Israel from selling to China.
China and 'the Islamic Bomb'
Israel expects the Bush administration to approve its proposal to sell India the Arrow-2 anti-missile system, jointly developed by Israel and the United States. Between them, the Phalcon and the Arrow-2 deal could shift the balance of power in Asia, threatening to make India invulnerable to missile attacks from Pakistan or China.
Israel and India share a concern about Pakistan's nuclear weapons, sometimes called "the Islamic bomb."
Indian naval ships mounted escort patrols for U.S. ships through the Malacca Straits in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. American warships routinely refuel in Chennai and Mumbai. The U.S. and Indian defense intelligence agencies have instituted a formal relationship, the Indian and American Army Training and Doctrine Commands have begun a formal exchange on doctrinal matters, and Indian experts participated in a missile defense simulation in Colorado last year.
The Office of Net Assessment, the Pentagon's key think tank, conducted its first seminar in India last year with counterparts from India's Integrated Defense Staff, the connection that led to this week's discussions on an Asian version of NATO.
Professor Madhav Nalapat, an adviser to India's National Security Council and director of the School of Geopolitics at the Manipal Academy, India's largest private university, and one of the Indians involved in this week's talks with the Pentagon, has long argued in favor of a formal U.S.-led security system for the Asia-Pacific region. He suggests it should be called NAATO, for the North America-Asia Treaty Organization.
"What is needed is for Washington to take the initiative in creating an Asian NATO, that would defend democratic values and exclude countries with authoritarian structures or religious states," he wrote in a recent essay that attracted attention in Washington. "The test (for membership of such an alliance) has to be whether people of all faiths are given equal rights under the law, and whether they enjoy the democratic freedoms NAATO is intended to defend."
Nalapat's proposal suggests that the United States and Canada, India and Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, Australia, the Philippines and South Korea - along with pro-Western and reform-minded Arab nations such as Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar - are natural potential members of the new security system.
More controversially, Nalapat also sees Taiwan as a potential member, which is likely to heighten fears in Beijing that the new U.S.-Indian friendship is largely aimed at containing China. Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes is on record as saying that India's nuclear arsenal, although a deterrent, is aimed more at China than at Pakistan, and India is testing long-range Agni missiles that can reach Shanghai.
India's Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Madhavendra Singh expressed concern last week at the Chinese navy's "close interaction" with other Indian Ocean countries and said the navy was "closely monitoring" Chinese naval movement off the Pakistan coast.
India fears that China's modernization of Myanmar (Burmese) naval bases in the Bay of Bengal and its development of Pakistan's port of Gwadar represent a potential threat to India's vital sea communications. Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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