EAM S Jaishankar is visiting the United States since 24th May which is described as a bilateral event between the two nations. Climate change, defence talks and other trade issues are also on the agenda. However the visit is looked at by different lenses by experts and is said to have many other issues than vaccines that have come up between the two nations as there were supply problems from the US for vaccine raw materials  .
An article in Gulf news lists some such issues that are beyond vaccines.  . For, the United States is moving out of Afghanistan in September this year which will leave the field wide open for all the other players. So far India has remained detached from Afghanistan and has only helped in terms of infrastructure , food and supplying items rather than deputing a military over foreign soil. India has to clearly up the ante on this fronty and should be ready for the same.
But the visit is projected as even more than the US afghan exit. Behind the usual commercial and bilateral discussions the visit is said to also discuss the Indo Pacific and Quad. As noted expert C Rajaraman says, ” External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s visit to New York and Washington this week highlights the new India-US synergy between bilateral, regional and multilateral issues…..
Although the brief delay in the US response to the second wave of the pandemic in India generated much chatter, Washington has now come through strongly — by facilitating the release of essential items for vaccine production and delivering significant relief supplies.
That bilateral cooperation on pandemics has a natural regional dimension. Well before the virus began to surge in April, the Biden administration saw the partnership with India as a critical element in the regional effort to expand the production of vaccines and deliver them across the Indo-Pacific. That was one of the main outcomes from the first meeting of the Quad leaders at the summit level in March that Biden convened.
During the Cold War, India and the US ended up on opposite sides of most global issues. A great ideological divide limited the possibilities for international cooperation between Delhi and Washington. After the Cold War, Delhi tended to rally behind Chinese and Russian positions on multilateral issues. The idea that multilateralism is a natural domain for India-China cooperation took a big beating as Beijing blocked India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Delhi’s quest for a permanent seat at the UNSC. . To make matters worse, China has sought to get the UNSC intervention against India’s constitutional changes in Jammu and Kashmir. It also continues to protect Islamabad from international pressure on the question of Pakistan’s continuing support for cross-border terrorism in the region. It was the US that led the charge to end India’s nuclear isolation and France that took the lead in blocking China’s Kashmir moves at the UNSC.”.
Thus the visit of the foreign minister is being looked at from three lenses of bilateral, regional and multilateral angles.
Its very important visit as the US tightens its screws on China by announcing to investigate the origin of the virus in 90 days. Though India has done its bit to attract China initially the relationship is now under cold thanks to the doklam and then Ladakh stand offs between the two nations. Experts believe that these incidents have pushed India more towards the ‘Quad’ and US Indo Pacific strategy.
India has to be quick and act fast on its foreign policy front. Recently the US and Pakistan NSA have met , and discussed issues. IT could have been a necessity arising out of the US Afghan exit.
US is also trying to cosy up with Russia though the outcome of the same will be visible only after a time. But it should be remembered that during the cold war with the erstwhile USSR , America supported China and now the tables have turned. Its US versus China and Russia inow being lured by both.
Unfortunately Russia gets at loggerheads mainly in Europe and Middle east on many issues with the US as well as Europe.
We are expecting the competition between US and China to sharpen in the days to come. The BIden administration which was initially believed to play soft on China has belied such assumptions. The manner it has announced to investigate the origin of the virus is a case in point. This is an issue that makes the Chinese nervous as its wolf warrior strategy immediately starts criticizing everyone who tries to blame the country.
Unfortunately the twitter controversy has come at a very wrong time and will certainly dampen some of the bon homie between the two nations. While India must not allow Twitter to play its own game and interfere in Indian politics , the government has to make sure that its handled subtly so that it does not hurt us.
Overall one thing is certain. ASs the world moves to find the new champion and also to see who wins the country has a vast canvas to play its own strategy. From Afghanistan to Burma, and Sri Lanka to China we are all important in this part of the world. Being a dmeocratic country adds to our power. Its time that we start playing to our full capacity and stop hesitating like before or hiding behind non aligned theory.
Very soon we will be able to see events unfolding around the world that may leave us with choices and options . However it is time that we start defining our strategy before that so that we are not caught unawares.
Dr. Asheesh Shah
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