US President Donald Trump’s administration declassified a report that focused on Indo-Pacific strategy, including “accelerating India’s rise to power,” preventing China from establishing “illiberal spheres of influence” and maintaining “US strategic primacy” in the region, a report published by Axios stated.
As per details, the 10-page report which was penned down in 2018, directed the US in its approach to China, India, North Korea and other countries in the Indo-region over the past three years. It is an official framework for viewing China and India as part of the same strategic region the Indo-Pacific, starting with its national security strategy in 2017.
The publication of the report highlights the geopolitical and security challenges that will be faced by the US President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
Combatting China’s growing influence
The report described China as the main state actor followed by North Korea and aims to combat China’s growing influence globally by enhancing strategic ties with its allies and partners, supporting a “liberal economic order” in the region and working to “inoculate” the United States and its partners against Chinese intelligence activities.
The Trump administration also focused on building an international consensus that China’s industrial policies and trade practices are damaging the world trading system. The document also suggested expanding America’s counterintelligence and law enforcement to counter China’s intelligence activity in the US, and expand intelligence sharing with allies to help them do the same.
It stressed on developing military and asymmetric warfare strategies to aid Taiwan in its long-standing and strained relations with China and work with allies and partners to try to prevent the Chinese acquisition of military and strategic capabilities.
Support to India
The report also shed light on US strategy for a major expansion of military, intelligence and diplomatic support to India as the main regional ally against China.
It revealed that with the assistance and intelligence sharing by US, India will be able to counter conflict with China, including border disputes and water rights in the Himalayas.
However, the relationship between India and the US is of complex nature. During the Cold War, India refused to place itself squarely on the Western camp, opting instead for the leadership of the non-aligned movement. The United States, meanwhile, has often looked to Pakistan for cooperation.
On January 5, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien wrote in a note included with the strategy document: “The declassification of the Framework today demonstrates, with transparency, America’s strategic commitments to the Indo-Pacific and to our allies and partners in the region.”
As part of the policy and stated goals, the Trump administration managed to achieve several of its key objectives regarding China, India and in particular the South Asian region over the past three years. However, some of its targets faced headwinds.
The US strategy repeatedly calls for greater engagement with countries in the region, particularly the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In some instances, the United States has in fact withdrawn from the region, including through Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the snobbery of ASEAN summits.
The goal of showcasing the benefits of US democratic values as a counterweight to China in the region has also taken a heavy blow with the recent armed insurgency on the US Capitol. These events prompted the resignation of one of the strategy’s main authors, former National Security Deputy Matt Pottinger.
Similarly, the U.S. Pacific Command was renamed Indo-Pacific Command in 2018, to an extent widely seen as a response to China’s rise to power.