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US defence strategy puts Asia first

world Updated: Jan 07, 2012 01:56 IST
Yashwant Raj

The US on Thursday unveiled a defense strategy that makes Asia-Pacific the center of its new universe, with India as a long-term strategic investment in that region.

China, the other emerging power in that region, gets a wary nod as a challenger to be watched for its opaque militaristic goals, and not an ally to be trusted.

"We will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region," said the new defence strategy paper titled Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense. And India is going to be a partner.

“The United States is also investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region.”

The new defence strategy was forced upon the US military by reduced budgetary support, and a growing disenchantment with the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

“Now we’re turning the page on a decade of war,” Obama said, adding, the US had 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan till three years ago. That number is down by half now. The US will cut $487 billion over the next 10 years, and perhaps that double that amount if Congress and Obama fail to reach a compromise on debt reduction.

Post the new defence strategy, India can expect more from US. “New Delhi can expect the US to seek more — more defense dialogues, more joint exercises, more weapons sales, more military exchanges,” said Richard Fontaine, of the Center of New American Strategy.

The shift to Asia-Pacific has been Obama administration’s continued focus. The president spoke about it at length during a recent swing around East Asia, at the Asean and East Asia summits.

Though officials emphasise none of that was about China, apprehension its aggressive rise and territorial claims were clearly behind US push into the region. And that may not be such a bad deal for India.

“Washington’s rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific also marks an intention to ensure that China’s rise is peaceful and orderly,” said Sadanand Dhume, of the American Enterprise Institute.

What about the closest allies in Europe? They don’t need the US. “Most European countries are now producers of security rather than consumers of it,” said the document.