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Trump strategy calls India ‘leading global power’, wants Pakistan to take decisive action against terror

Donald Trump’s new National Security Strategy released Monday also says the US will increase quadrilateral cooperation with India, Japan and Australia.

world Updated: Dec 19, 2017 21:12 IST
Yashwant Raj
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets US President Donald Trump in Manila, Philippines.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets US President Donald Trump in Manila, Philippines.(PTI File Photo)

The United States welcomed India’s rise as a “leading global power” and would step up quadrilateral cooperation with it and Japan and Australia, according to President Donald Trump’s first National Security Strategy released on Monday.

This was the first reference to “quadrilateral cooperation” in an American National Security Strategy (NSS) document, that is aimed at containing and managing China’s aggressive rise without calling it so.

It was also the first time that an NSS document, which every administration is statutorily mandated to submit to Congress, used the phrase “Indo-Pacific” as a geopolitical construct, which the Trump administration has begun using to much alarm and irritation in Beijing.

The document, which branded China and Russia as main competitors of the US and called them “revisionist powers”, also spelt out clearly that Washington will continue to press Pakistan to do more on counter-terrorism and be a “responsible steward” of its nuclear assets.

“Our new strategy is based on a principled realism, guided by our vital national interests, and rooted in our timeless values,” Trump said in a speech unveiling the strategy on Monday. “We face rogue regimes that threaten the United States and our allies. We face terrorist organisations, transnational criminal networks, and others who spread violence and evil around the globe.”

He added, “We also face rival powers, Russia and China, that seek to challenge American influence, values, and wealth.”

Focussing on South Asia, the strategy document said the US “continues to face threats from transnational terrorists and militants operating from within Pakistan” that the other big concern was the “prospect for an Indo-Pakistani military conflict that could lead to a nuclear exchange”.

In his remarks, Trump said, “We have made clear to Pakistan that while we desire continued partnership, we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating on their territory. And we make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help.”

In the section on Indo-Pacific, that took precedence over other regions in the chapter titled “The strategy in a regional context”, the document noted: “We welcome India’s emergence as a leading global power and stronger strategic and defence partner. We will seek to increase quadrilateral cooperation with Japan, Australia, and India.”

The last National Security Strategy document of the Obama administration released in 2015 had called India a “regional provider of security” and had stated the US will support it in that role and “its expanded participation in critical regional institutions”.

While all four members of the quadrilateral cooperation — or the Quad, as it is called — strenuously deny its is aimed at containing China, which has been seen to be upending the rules and regulations of global order, their officials have felt not compunctions admitting privately it is anything but.

The president’s new strategy will also say the United States will “expand our defence and security cooperation with India, a Major Defence Partner of the United States, and support India’s growing relationships throughout the region.” That refers to increased cooperation in defence co-production and trade.

The document added: “We will deepen our strategic partnership with India and support its leadership role in Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader region.”

As laid out in the South Asia strategy Trump had announced in August, the document released on Monday reiterated the need for India to do more to help grow Afghanistan’s economy through more investments in infrastructure and development, as mentioned by senior administration officials previewing the speech.

“And we will encourage India to increase its economic assistance in the region.”

On Pakistan, the president’s national security strategy continued the trajectory laid out by him in multiple speeches, echoed by his officials such as secretaries of state and defence Rex Tillerson and James Mattis from various platforms.

“We will press Pakistan to intensify its counterterrorism efforts, since no partnership can survive a country’s support for militants and terrorists who target a partner’s own service members and officials,” the document said.

It added: “The United States will also encourage Pakistan to continue demonstrating that it is a responsible steward of its nuclear assets.”

There has been growing concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, which is said to be the world’s fastest growing, its record on proliferation and fears of its nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists operating on its soil.

The document said “revisionist powers” China and Russia, who are challenging the status quo and the international order, “are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.”

“These competitions require the United States to rethink the policies of the past two decades — policies based on the assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners,” the document continued. “For the most part, this premise turned out to be false.”

The other two groups identified as threats in President Trump’s new strategy document are “rogue regimes” such as North Korea that has tested this administration with missile and nuclear tests and rhetoric from the start, and Iran. The third comprised of “transnational terrorist organisations”, which export violence in support of their “wicked” ideology.

The strategy will present a helicopter view of Trump’s policies at home and abroad without getting into the weeds, country-wise.

An official briefing on background had said earlier that though the document identified China as a “strategic competitor” because it competes with America “across political, economic military and informational domains in ways not duplicated by other competitors, the US is working with China and “we do not rule out cooperation”.

The official said the US recognises it needs China to work on the “DPRK problem” — referring to North Korea by its official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The strategy will be based on four broad pillars — “America’s vital interests”, as an official described them.

First, protecting homeland, strengthening the border, fixing immigration and dealing with the threat of terrorism, including internal radicalisation

Second, promoting American prosperity through trade deals.

Third, preserving peace through strength, which would entail sharpening military edge and readiness, increased lethality.

And fourth, advancing American influence around the world.

There is nothing terribly new from what previous administrations have done, an official said, but the emphasis would change, specially in the context of a competitive world in which, the strategy will argue, the US has not been competing as well as it should.