US must put allies first in the Indo-Pacific

New DelhiWritten By: Gravitas deskUpdated: Apr 13, 2021, 02:07 PM IST

(Representative image) Photograph:(Reuters)

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Europe may blindly follow Washington to war but Asia will not

Keeping alliances thriving is difficult work. In Second World War, USA, Britain and USSR were allies. But the cold war divided these nations into opposite camps.

The recent incident of US Navy's foray into India's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) near Lakshadweep island raises many questions about USA's ability to keep alliances in robust shape.

The US Navy dropped a big statement mid-week. Its warship USS John paul jones sailed in India's EEZ. And it was sailing 241 kilometres west of Lakshadweep islands. The US did not seek permission from India for this.

India protested this adventurism not by sending a warship to Hawaii but through diplomatic channels. India's position on EEZ has been clear. For military exercises involving weapons, consent is required.

It's a position Washington is familiar with but decided to ignore last week.

But if you ask the Pentagon. This operation wasn't targeted at any particular nation-state. It was intended to drive home a principle.

However, there are two issues with Pentagon's statement.

1. US Navy ship was sailing in India's EEZ. Navy's statement talks about checking India's claims. This clearly makes India a target.

2. The issue of principles

The only principle in question here is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

It guides how states interact on the high seas. The US itself is yet to ratify the convention. Washington is still basking in the glory of a unipolar order.

But the world has moved on. India, Japan, South Korea -- all these countries have their own democratic experiments, cultures and principles. The US must accept this.

Historically the US Has preferred clones over allies. It rebuilt western Europe in its image. But this is unlikely to work in Asia.

To beat back China, the US must let regional states take the lead. It must look at the bigger picture.

India's EEZ is peaceful waters. There is no comparison with the South China Sea. There are no disputes.

The US may be a superpower, but in the Indo-Pacific, it will have to put allies first. Europe may blindly follow Washington to war but Asia will not.