India is closely examining the implications of a press release by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the US is reviewing its global troop deployment to make sure it’s “postured appropriately” to counter the growing Chinese military threat to countries like India, Malaysia, Indonesia and therefore the Philippines, two people conversant in the developments said Friday.
There was no comment from the Indian foreign ministry on Friday but the statement comes at a time of high tensions between India and China with thousands of troops ranged against one another across the three ,488 kilometre Line of Actual Control border (LAC) despite talks at the extent of senior military commanders and diplomats.
Pompeo who was responding to an issue during the virtual Brussels Forum 2020 of the German Marshall Fund on Thursday, said: “We’re getting to confirm we’re postured appropriately to counter the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). we expect that the challenge of our times, and we’re getting to confirm we’ve resources in situ to try to to that.” The force posture review was being done at the direction of President Donald Trump and as a part of this, the US was reducing the amount of its troop numbers in Germany by almost half — from about 52,000 to 25,000.
The new force posture would be dictated by ground realities, he said adding: “In certain places there’ll be fewer American resources. there’ll be other places – I just talked about the threat from the Chinese Communist Party , so now threats to India, threats to Vietnam, threats to Malaysia, Indonesia, South China Sea challenges, the Philippines” consistent with a US statement department transcript.
The comments come against the backdrop of China speedily expanding military and economic influence within the Indo-Pacific region, triggering concerns. it’s engaged in territorial disputes within the South China Sea and therefore the East China Sea – both of which are said to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources besides being vital for global trade. Beijing has built and militarised islands and reefs it controls there.
Along the India-China border, tensions have spiked dramatically since early May. during a strong statement on Thursday, India acknowledged that it had been China that first mobilized its troops and arms on the border in violation of a key pact signed in 1993. India’s troop deployment was to counter the Chinese deployment, the statement said. Besides this, this point around, the Chinese obstructing Indian patrols and therefore the conduct of their forces while doing so also as Beijing’s “untenable claims” on Indian territory, all pointed towards a serious shift in China’s position and intent vis a vis its border dispute with India, the Indian statement indicated.
While there was speculation in some quarters that Pompeo’s comments should be seen within the context of Trump trying to send a message to his domestic audience with presidential polls due in November, one line of thinking within the Indian establishment is that Pompeo’s comments meant that Washington was taking the battle to its adversary.
According to Harsh Pant, a professor of diplomacy at the London based King’s College, the US statement might be interpreted in some ways including as a “pretext for doing things Trump has always wanted to do” ie reduce US troops presence round the world. It could even be a message to Europe that they might got to lookout of their security themselves.
“It could even be putting pressure on China signaling a militarisation of the connection ,”Pant said pointing to the very fact that till now tensions were confined to the trade domain with the US imposing economic sanctions. With the US presidential polls looming, it could even be a move to place Democratic Party winner for president, Joe Biden, on the backfoot, Pant said. as long as Southeast Asian countries had complained that despite all the talk about the US “rebalance” towards Asia during the previous Obama administration, Trump are going to be seen because the president who effected the rebalance, he said.
Whether or not these assumptions were true, for India, the comments might be seen as “helpful” despite the unpredictability folks policies under Trump, Pant said.
“The situation (along the India-China) is clearly not very pretty for India. Against this backdrop, if the US is opening up a replacement front vis-a-vis China, it could relieve some pressure off India” within the current state of tensions, he said.
To be sure, India neatly sidestepped a suggestion of “mediation” or “arbitration” from US president Donald Trump last month when tensions were bubbling over between India and China. New Delhi has within the past refused any kind of mediation in its bilateral disputes with Pakistan from Trump et al. .
“With the important possibility of escalation of this situation into a conflict, any leverage here is sweet ,” Pant said.