US Suggests India For NATO Plus Membership: Balancing Global Influence And Regional Relations

The United States is keen to woo India ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington. US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti has hailed New Delhi as “one of Washington’s closest allies” and highlighted the need to deepen defence cooperation. However, some experts suggest that the US is more interested in shaping public opinion in favour of its own Indo-Pacific security architecture.

Furthermore, they warn that if India were to lean towards NATO membership, it would have a detrimental impact on its strategic autonomy and its relations with neighbouring countries.

Although India’s official stance on NATO Plus membership remains unknown, the US House Committee has passed a policy proposal to include India in NATO Plus in order to “deter China’s aggression” towards Taiwan. The alliance aims to strengthen defence and intelligence ties between NATO and five aligned nations: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and South Korea.

Qian Feng, Director of the Research Department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, has suggested that the US wants to replicate its confrontation with Russia through the NATO framework in the Asia-Pacific region, using India as a crucial link in its Indo-Pacific strategy. India may want to increase its influence through the use of the US and NATO framework. However, India is wary of being pushed into direct confrontation with China by the US, even though relations between China and India are currently strained due to a border standoff.

The US’ moves to woo India come ahead of Modi’s state visit to Washington on 22 June. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will also meet with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on 5 June in order to “further deepen” defence partnership between the two nations. Although the possibility of closer India-NATO cooperation is not to be ruled out, India may be reluctant to become involved in a direct confrontation with China by aligning itself with a US-led alliance.

Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, has suggested that the US is attempting to create a favourable political environment ahead of a possible establishment of a closer relationship between India and the NATO mechanism in the future. However, it is in India’s best interests to maintain a moderate balance among the great powers in order to maintain strategic autonomy and not take sides.

Moreover, if India were to become part of the US entourage by leaning towards the NATO mechanism, it would have a significant impact on India’s global leadership ambitions, its position as a major power, and its diplomatic manoeuvring.

All eyes will be on Modi’s visit to Washington and the potential for further cooperation between India and the US. However, it remains to be seen whether India will choose to become part of the US-led NATO alliance or whether it will maintain its strategic independence.

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