India’s Foreign Policy And US Strategic Directions Post-Afghanistan Talibanization 2.0 – Analysis


The United States and India conjoined with a Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership and QUAD Security Dialogue stand challenged in 2021 in wake of Afghanistan Talibanisation 2.0 by a militaristic & expansionist Communist China as a ‘Revisionist State’ in collusive virtual military alliance with a ‘Disruptionist Nuclearized Pakistan’ acting as ‘Force Multiplier’ for China’s strategic blueprint. 

United States and India’s strategic directions as 2021 nears its end will expectedly be more intertwined and dominated by intensified strategic convergences emanating from geopolitical churnings of 2021 in South Asia and Indo Pacific, both spinning around the impact of Afghanistan Talibanisation 2.0.

Geopolitical power-play so unleashed will dictate pressing imperatives on United States and India to review and calibrate their foreign policy and military blueprints to impose ‘China Deterrence’ and ‘Pakistan Deterrence’ on these two authoritarian nuclear weaponised States. 

 On the verge of 2022, United States should be convinced that China Threat and the China-Pakistan Axis are in full adversarial play to US National Security interests. Post- Afghan Taliban 2.0 Regime installed by Pakistan in collusion with China in Kabul, for India, the ‘Two -Front Wars’ threat scenario will increasingly weigh heavily on the perspectives of India’s foreign policy and national security establishment.

Initial pointers are already in play which manifest that the United States has set in initial motion ‘China Deterrence’ strategies manifested by Summit-level institutionalisation of QUAD, establishing AUKUS, and involving NATO more proactively in Western Pacific.. Bipartisan support exists within United States to adopt stern ripostes to any manifestations of China Threat. 

Similarly, India’s ‘Push Back’ against China in Eastern Ladakh,  a forceful ‘Act East’ policy translated into growing naval joint exercises in Western Pacific and Indian Ocean with QUAD Navies assert that India is alive to deterring the China Threat.

While strong convergences exist in United States and India on countering the China Threat, the United States now freed from its Pakistan-dependency in relation to Afghanistan, needs to seriously re-align its Pakistan policy formulations to incorporate India’s strong sensitivities on Pakistan’s disruptionism.

China and Pakistan will continue with their disruptionist policies emboldened by US Military Exit from Afghanistan perceived by both as successful strategies in taming the American Superpower. And, thereby more intensified policy challenges await the United States and India in relation to Communist China’s and Pakistan’s belligerence..

Unchallenged by United States and India, Communist China and Pakistan can be expected to indulge in more military adventurism endangering Indo Pacific Security and Indian Security, more pointedly.  

Contextually therefore United States and India’s policy establishments would need to review their existing foreign policy attitudinal reflexes and arm themselves to meet the intensifying military challenge of China Threat in Western Pacific impacting overall Indo Pacific Security and Pakistan increasingly tempted towards military adventurism against India secure in the belief that ‘Iron Brother’ China will bail Pakistan out of any strategic burning coals in consequence.

In stark simplistic strategic language what the China Threat and the concretised China-Pakistan Axis imply for United States and India is that no diplomatic or geopolitical space exists for either United States or India’s foreign policy formulations to retrieve China and Pakistan from the irretrievable adversarial stances that they have adopted to United States and India.

Consequently, in straight military language this implies that the China Threat and the China-Pakistan Axis Threat, both impacting Indo Pacific Security and Indian security will in 2022 and beyond, place a higher call on United States and India to synchronise their geopolitical and military responses arising from any manifestations of these two threats.

In 2022, China’s clashing military power trajectories seem to be headed towards an inevitable armed conflict, however unintended, but fuelled by fatal miscalculations of Chinese perceptions of US resolve. US-China armed conflict could be ignited by Chines military intervention against Taiwan or China in heady Chinese militarism denying access in South China Sea maritime expanses or air-space above it.

Needless to emphasise that China in doing so would be flinging a defiant gauntlet against the United States, US-led QUAD, and AUKUS along with NATO—- all committed to their declaratory assertions of a ‘Free & Open Indo Pacific’.

In the above contingency, India’s foreign policy and its strategic responses can no longer indulge in Non-Alignment 2.0 posturing. India would have to stand solidly and substantially with the United States, QUAD, AUKUS & NATO Allies as they militarily confront an expansionist China.

India in such a contingency would need to be prepared to expectedly add more ‘teeth’ to QUAD or any other such US-led democratic coalition to ensure Western Pacific security against China’s predatory strategies.

Indian foreign policy planners need to recognise that a secure Western Pacific with United States in a commanding predominance capable of applying coercive strategies against China existentially restrains China from disruptive strategies and military aggression against India on its Northern Borders with China Occupied Tibet and also will limit Chinese Navy disruptive operations in Indian Ocean.

United States policy establishment likewise needs to recognise that India’s strong military postures and ‘pushback’ against China on its Northern Borders coupled with Indian Navy sea-denial capabilities in India Ocean reinforces United States ‘China Deterrence’ strategies in Western Pacific.

Concurrent with the above is United States reset of its Pakistan-policy premises. Pakistan’s CPEC facilitation provides China to bypass and overcome its strategic ‘Malacca Dilemma’. Pakistan would use CPEC to provide China with external military logistics and flow of war-needed energy supplies without China running the gauntlet of QUAD Navies interdiction. 

The United States needs to initiate strategies to neutralise Pakistan acting as a ‘Force Multiplier’ for China in its hostile confrontations with United States and India whether in South Asia or Western Pacific. Strong pro-Pakistan lobbies generated by Pakistan Army ISI intelligence through highly paid lobbyists needs to be countered by Washington. 

Pakistan and more noticeably the Pakistan Army is now in the ‘strategic cross-hairs’ in United States South Asian policy radar. With Pakistan having gambled away its Afghanistan-centric strategic utility for US Military in preference for Communist China alignment, the United States should logically be disciplining Pakistan by economic coercion via economic sanctions. Should the United States not fully go down that route, even then, United States policy on Pakistan will change. The main ingredient of such a change will be United States not pressurising India to exercise strategic restraint in face of Pakistan military and proxy war terrorism adventurism.

Consequently, United States will expect that India should take ‘Hard Line; policy stances on Pakistan without wanting United States to do what India as an Emerging Power should do on its own.

While on this subject, one also needs to dwell on Russia’s policy attitudes on China, Indo Pacific Security and Pakistan as the changed geopolitical context following Afghanistan Talibanisation 2.0 has positioned Russia more firmly alongside China and Pakistan.

The impact of this is more on Indian foreign policy than on United Stats foreign policy. It is a ‘given’ in US policy formulations that Russia is also in adversarial stances to US interests and influence, though not to the same degree as those of China.

India has to painfully accept that Russia has lost its “Strategic Asset” value for India. India’s continuing military dependency on Russian military hardware is now transitory and would afford more manoeuvre space for India’s foreign policy. India has to convey that in today’s changed geopolitical scenarios, it is Russia that would need India and not the other way around.

Concluding, it needs to be reiterated that both United States and India need each other not only as existential counterweights acting in unison but also as two pivotal powers in Indo Pacific prepared to impose ‘China Deterrence’ and ‘Pakistan Deterrence’ on the two strategically wayward disruptive Nations of Asia—-China and Pakistan— both besieged from within and without.

Dr. Subhash Kapila

Dr Subhash Kapila combines a rich and varied professional experience of Indian Army Brigadier ( Veteran), diplomatic assignments in the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Bhutan. Served in India's Cabinet Secretariat also. He is a Graduate of Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley, UK, Msc Defence Studies from Madras University and a Doctorate in Strategic Studies from Allahabad University. Papers have been presented by him in International Seminars in Japan,Turkey, Russia and Vietnam. Credited to him are over 1,500 Papers on geopolitical & strategic topical issues and foreign policies of USA, Japan, India, China and Indo Pacific Asia. He has authored two Books : "India's Defence Policies & Strategic Thought: A Comparative Analysis" and "China-India Military Confrontation: 21st Century Perspectives"

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