India is increasingly concerned with China’s expansion into South Asia and is working much more closely with the United States. The United States and India recently concluded their third round of security dialogues. There are also bilateral meetings between the United States and Indian military chiefs and regular exercises between the United States, Japan and India under the “Malabar” trilateral partnership framework. The ties have grown in the armaments cooperation area with India purchasing more defense systems from the United States and signing new agreements; although India is not moving quickly. In general U.S.-India defense cooperation is growing.
Now that UNGA and the ICJ are part of the Chagos dispute, it behooves the United States to proactively find ways to defuse the matter. Part of that includes addressing the issues of the former residents of the Diego Garcia and some of that includes liaison with the government of Mauritius; notwithstanding the fact that the United States is only a tenant on DGAR. If the United States could work with Mauritius—ideally in open partnership with the UK and India—to meet the spirit of the original Landcaster agreement to find employment opportunities for former Mauritian Chagos residents, and to create secure access to fisheries, then it may go a long way to assuage some of the political concerns and build trust.
As much as the Indian armed forces wish to build a much closer relationship with their U.S. counterparts, there are other forces within the Indian government, and perhaps the Parliament that are urging a more restrained approach. As Chinese money continues to pour into South Asia, and artificial islands in the South China Sea continue to be militarized, India needs to ask itself whether it has the luxury to stay on the fence much longer. To help solidify Indian partnership vis-à-vis continued U.S. presence on DGAR , the United States should consider inviting the Indian Navy to make port visits to DGAR and even go so far as to establish a logistics office on DGAR. Similarly, the United States needs to be very clear with India that DGAR is critical to the defense of South Asia and that its support in this endeavor is not only desired but essential.
Mark E. Rosen, SVP and General Counsel, CNA Corp. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author alone and do not reflect the views of CNA or any of its sponsors.
Image: File photo of Diego Garcia,largest island in the Chagos archipelago and site of a major United States military base in the middle of the Indian Ocean leased from Britain in 1966. Exiled inhabitants of Diego Garcia began a challenge July 17 to a British government decision to kick them off the remote island 30 years ago to make way for the U.S. base. Thousands of islanders from the 65-island Chagos archipelago, many of them born in exile in Mauritius, want Britain to return them to their homeland.clh/HO/U.S.