Providing more clarity on the current US administration’s worldview, President Donald Trump’s recently opened national security strategy (NSS) is perhaps the most vital American policy document of the year. It lays out what Trump’s ‘America First’ principle means in regard to Washington’s foreign policy and delineates friends, foes, and frenemies.
The overarching views behind the document is a rejection to accept that American power is fading in the international arena. It identifies Russia and China as countries that challenge American influence, traditions and wealth, perceives Iran and North Korea as rogue nations, and squarely acknowledges the threat posed by transnational terror groups and crime syndicates.
The document has a number of positives for New Delhi. India has been identified as a leading global power, with Trump administration stating it will deepen its strategic partnership and support India’s leadership role in maintaining security in the Indo-Pacific.
This is utmost important in the context of Chinese muscle-flexing in Asia which has led to confrontations with other Asian nations, including India – observe the 73-day Doklam standoff between New Delhi and Beijing accompanied by extraordinary Chinese belligerence. The document’s observation that China built its power through compromise of the sovereignty of other nations openly calls out Beijing’s aggressive tactics in the region.
As things stand, China leaves no stone unturned in taking advantage of the strategic ‘opportunities’ of increasing its power and pressuring neighbors. Given this scenario, it’s good to have the US in India’s corner as a counterbalance. Meanwhile, the US has been forthright about Pakistan’s role in fomenting terrorism, calling upon Islamabad to desist from destabilizing Afghanistan and end support to terror groups. Unlike previous US administrations, Washington’s new plan ends the practice of hyphenating India and Pakistan.
The problematic area in the new security strategy, though, is the tough line taken on Russia and Iran – both countries that India would like to work with. Russia, in particular, is a main strategically. Trump is known to be unpredictable, and may not follow through on all elements of the current NSS.
That would be bad if Washington drops the ball on pressuring Pakistan for nursing terror militias. But it would be better if it enables cooperation between Washington and Moscow. Unfortunately, with unique counsel Robert Mueller investigating Russian interference in US elections and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, the latter is a distant endeavor.