• Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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US ties with India ‘critical’ to deal with strategic adversaries China, Russia: Ro Khanna

He said it was unreasonable for Washington to expect that New Delhi will block the Strait of Malacca during a conflict with Beijing but it can be aggressive on its borders.

Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

THE United States’ ties with India are “critical” in dealing with “strategic adversaries” such as China and Russia, Indian American Democratic lawmaker Ro Khanna has remarked.

Speaking to radio talk show host Huge Hewitt on Tuesday (29) following his return from where he led a bipartisan Congressional delegation, said, “China and Russia are clearly two strategic challenges, adversaries. That’s why the relationship with India is going to be so critical in dealing with it. I think China and Russia aren’t always going to march lockstep and there are opportunities there, but by and large, we should be clear-eyed about what they’re doing.”

The 46-year-old politician said it was unreasonable for Washington to expect that New Delhi will block the Strait of Malacca during a conflict with Beijing but it can be aggressive on its borders with the northern neighbour in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh to open a two-front war if China invades Taiwan.

The Strait of Malacca is a waterway connecting the Andaman Sea (Indian Ocean) and the South China Sea (Pacific Ocean). As the link between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca is the shortest sea route between India and China and hence is one of the most heavily travelled shipping channels in the world.

Khanna, who is currently co-chair of the Congressional India Caucus, did not agree with Indian American presidential candidate from the Republican Party, Vivek Ramaswamy, who said on Tuesday that he would wish India to close Malacca Strait in the case of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

China views self-ruled Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be reunified with the mainland. China has not ruled out the possible use of force to achieve this objective.

“We should be clear-eyed about what India will or will not do. I mean this is another important point. The idea that they’re going to block the Malacca Strait is just unreasonable to expect. Japan and South Korea wouldn’t go along with that in India,” he said.

“From the conversations we had, we aren’t going to go do that because you can bypass that through the Lombok or Sunda and you wouldn’t get Asian support for that,” Khanna said.

Lombok is an island in West Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia. It forms part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with the Lombok Strait separating it.

“What can we expect India to do? We can expect India to be aggressive at their borders in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh so that China then has a two-front concern. They have to worry about the borderline of control with India and not just put all of their resources into a Taiwan potential invasion and into deterring the freedom of the seas,” he said.

“So, understanding what our Indian partners are willing to do, not willing to do, and where we can actually deter China is going to be critical to having a coherent foreign policy,” Khanna said.

He said the American delegation, during its meeting with India’s external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi early this month, also discussed India’s purchase of arms from Russia.

Khanna said Jaishankar noted that India’s dependence on Russian arms started after the US stopped selling weapons to India after 1965.

“Now, when we pressed the matter with minister Jaishankar, he said, look, America stopped supplying us arms after 1965, and we did that because President Nixon needed Pakistan to normalise relations with China.

“In that historical context, you can understand why the United States wanted to normalise relations with China to be able to counter the Soviet Union. And (Henry) Kissinger and (Richard) Nixon made that decision,” he said. Khanna said India was left with a border that was unsecured with China, with America not selling it any arms post-1965, and they had to go to the Russians to get arms both to defend themselves against China and Pakistan.

“That was almost a 40-year history. Now we’re building the defence relationship, but he said, you can’t expect a switch overnight. They want to switch. They understand our stuff is better and we need to work with that,” he said.

(With PTI inputs)

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