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Dr Tara Kartha, Former National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), penned an article criticising US Senator Mark Warner for claiming India is unwilling to confront Beijing. She suggested the US has failed to learn from the Cuban missile crisis during the Cold War in regards to how New Delhi and Beijing operate. Opening her article, Dr Kartha pointed to the deadly clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Ladakh earlier this year.
Dr Kartha wrote in her article for The Print US officials were wrong to say India has not taken the initiative in tackling Chinese aggression.
She said: “The Indian Army is engaged in an eyeball to eyeball confrontation with the People’s Liberation Army in Ladakh, and is spending billions of rupees that it cannot afford in shoring up defences.
“That’s hardly ‘sitting on the fence’. But apparently, that’s not good enough for US officials.
“Deciphering what exactly they want is no easy task.”
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The former NSCS member suggested a broader alignment between US and Indian relations, proposing a “league of democracies”, while also examining where the two countries differ in how they challenge Beijing.
Countering American criticism that India remains diplomatic with Beijing, she said: “The reality is that relations are never cut off, especially during a crisis, as the US should know from the Cuban missile crisis.”
Dr Kartha conceded however “it might be useful to keep the US briefed about the intent and outcomes of these meetings on a case by case basis”, adding: “Sometimes, transparency can speed up movement of files, and prevent nasty comments in Congress.”
She concluded her article by calling for more coordination between India, the US and their Quad allies Australia and Japan, but said: ”Coordination is key for all concerned, including the US whose tendency to lecture others on issues that it has little or no understanding of, tends to push the boat in the opposite direction.
“That could be called ‘sitting on the fence’ too, one which would be mighty uncomfortable to accept.”
Democratic Senator Mr Warner said earlier this month the Indian government needs to show “its commitment to democracy in India” by being more aggressive towards Beijing.
He said to US-India Strategic Partnership Forum president Mukesh Aghi: “India will need to get off the fence and realise that the authoritarian capitalism model that China is putting out, you can’t be on the fence on that, you have got to decide whether you are going to align with democracies.
“Clearly India is the world’s largest democracy and I believe it will align with that group.”
He added later over Kashmir disputes: “I’ve expressed concerns privately to the Indian Government on how this is played out and I do think the Indian Government’s going to be needing to be more aggressive on making its case and that some of the changes in terms of the Indian federal charter for these two regions will actually mean more advancement and more long-term freedom and not as simply an effort to silence communities that may be Muslim-majority.”
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India and the US have enjoyed close relations under President Donald Trump, but recently tensions have flared over a 2018 arms purchase by New Delhi from Russia.
The US could sanction India over their purchase of five S-400 air defence systems from Russia, with New Delhi and Moscow signing a $5.4 billion two years ago and delivery expected by the end of 2021.
R. Clarke Cooper, US State department assistant secretary said over sanctions on Turkey for a similar arms deal: “We would caution other US partners against making major purchases of Russian defence equipment in the future that would also put them at risk of sanctions.”
Indian defence officials told Indian media outlet the Hindi however: “The S-400 is a high technology platform and is a priority procurement and the US understands that.”
Around 20 Indian soldiers died in a hand-to-hand brawl with Chinese forces in the border region of Ladakh in June.
The border brawl sparked outrage in India, with both New Delhi and Beijing moving troops to the disputed region in retaliation.
India banned more than 50 apps from China, including TikTok, as well as carrying out major military drills along the Line of Actual Control and with the Quad in the South China Sea.
China has also held military drills along the LAC, and recently a team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai attempted to blame India for the coronavirus pandemic, saying the virus originated in the summer of last year.
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