chapter  7
21 Pages

The US maritime strategy and India: Foundation for a maritime entente?

In October 2007, the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard unveiled their first joint Maritime Strategy, titled A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower. In this chapter we return to the Clausewitzian concept that the “grammar” of war “may be its own, but not its logic.”1 While the document was published late in the George W. Bush administration, the logic of its Indian Ocean component derives in large part from a shift in South Asia policy instituted much earlier in the Bush presidency. To oversimplify somewhat, previous administrations had pursued two overarching goals in South Asia. First, they sought to manage the always volatile relationship between India and Pakistan, keeping a lid on regional conflict. Second, they sought to stringently enforce the principle of nonproliferation. While it was an early proponent of nonproliferation, New Delhi has remained aloof from multinational arrangements such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Following the 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, accordingly, the William J. Clinton administration levied sanctions against New Delhi and Islamabad as a punitive measure. Recognizing the value of cordial ties with South Asia’s leading power, President Clinton began softening the US stance vis-à-vis India before leaving office in 2001. President Bush continued and stepped up this process, striving to “dehyphenate” US relations with India and Pakistan while striking a compromise between nonproliferation and good relations with India. Declares Ashley J. Tellis, a South Asia specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, this shift of “revolutionary import” involved setting aside the longstanding “singular US focus on nonproliferation in South Asia.”2 The administration regarded India as a rising world power, a potential counterweight to China, and a worthy ally or partner – provided Indo-US relations were handled properly. US State Department officials vowed “to help India become a major world power.”3