The two things that leaders in the Asia-Pacific region wish to hear and see from President-elect Donald J. Trump are an assurance that the United States will continue to provide and underwrite security in the Asia-Pacific and that it will remain a benign hegemon, opening its economy to friends and allies. Without this confidence, Asian leaders could turn to other expedients, and to China, for the prosperity and security they seek.
The greatest strategic challenge confronting leaders in the region is whether the United States and China will be able to resolve their strategic competition and arrive at a new equilibrium peacefully. No Asia-Pacific country wants to have to choose between the United States and China. During the past two centuries, the United States has had a proven record in the region as a benign hegemon. China does not.
But over the past decade, US presence and attention have been sporadic, and since 2008, US willingness to open its markets and lead the economies of the region has been in question.
Two steps that would rapidly change this impression and provide reassurance to America’s Asia-Pacific neighbors would be:
- For the United States to take its “pivot” further by suggesting a set of practical security measures for the region—such as confidence-building mechanisms; crisis management institutions; or dialogue mechanisms on maritime security, cyber security, and military doctrines and deployments. This could be done through the East Asia Summit (EAS), jointly with all the countries of the Asia-Pacific that are willing to participate.
- To open up the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to other states and to renegotiation to make it a more inclusive trading arrangement rather than a smaller regional alternative with different standards from the globally agreed-upon ones. Through this step, the United States could help make the TPP an arrangement that trades up to a globalized economy rather than down to US special interests.
Why are these two steps the most urgent? Because, for the first time in several generations, there is a real possibility that issues of peace and security could threaten the phenomenal economic achievements of the Asia-Pacific region.
Today, we have seen the rekindling of maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and other areas; we see increasing military buildups and arms races; we see the rise of ultra-nationalism fueled by economic and political uncertainty; and we see an absence of effective institutions or habits of cooperation that have enabled other regions to cope with increasing geopolitical uncertainty. The global commons in outer space, cyber space, and the high seas are increasingly contested. Rapid shifts in the balance of power, resulting from the simultaneous rise of several powers, led by China, have created a crowded geopolitical environment. The Democratic Republic of Korea’s nuclear weapons program threatens to have consequences well beyond the Korean peninsula. Further complicating these challenges is the overlay of Sino-US strategic contention, which makes this evolving situation of increasing unease and insecurity more difficult to manage.
The question now facing the United States and others is how to ameliorate this insecurity. The existing security architecture based on the US hub-and-spoke model can no longer ensure security, as rising powers seek to adjust the order to accommodate their own expanding interests. It therefore behooves the United States, as the predominant power that has underwritten security in the region for more than four decades, to take the initiative to address these issues by building a new workable architecture—on both the economic and security fronts.
The suggested initiatives presented earlier would be important steps toward this goal. Given the new distribution of power in the region, the presence and participation of all the other major powers in this crowded area will be essential to the architecture’s success. Hence the suggestion that any new dialogues or agreements be inclusive, and open to all the countries of the region that wish to participate.
Importantly, any new initiatives the United States pursues cannot be based on freezing the status quo, or “strategic stability,” for that is precisely what the rising powers wish to change. Fortunately, none of them has an alternative order to propose. India and China are among the greatest beneficiaries of the open, liberal trading and investment environment that flourished before the crisis of 2008. They now see the TPP and the US pivot as changing the rules of play of that order, and potentially fragmenting the globalized market that benefits them.
Given their interest in adjusting and preserving the open order, a genuine effort to create an inclusive order that gives them a greater say and addresses the major security challenges would certainly improve the security climate in the region, serve the interests of the major global trading powers, and progress common goals.
Such initiatives will not result in a new order immediately; but by taking steps to address the real issues, they would certainly ameliorate the present climate of uncertainty. I would therefore suggest that any new security dialogues address military doctrines and postures, cyber security, and maritime security, all of which are crucial to the world’s major trading powers that are parties to the EAS.
These initiatives are necessary because the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia, while laudable in intent and welcomed by most countries in the region, with the exception of China and the DPRK, has been under-resourced. It has also failed to convince Asian observers in the face of the US obsession with the Middle East—a region with little to contribute to US interests in the global order, or to global economic growth, or to peace and security in parts of the world that are far more consequential to US interests.
These proposed steps would carry conviction if President-elect Trump were to personally announce them in the first days of the administration and if his first visit abroad were to friends and allies in the Asia-Pacific region. Asia-Pacific leaders will closely watch US actions in the early days of the administration, including US policy on issues such as the defense budget and military deployments, the South China Sea issue, and the DPRK’s nuclear program, to judge whether there is indeed a new wind in Washington. As Asians, they are unlikely to express their opinions publicly but will display their beliefs about US credibility and determination in their dealings with China and each other.
The coming years will not be easy for a new Trump administration looking to preserve US credibility and leadership. Mr. Trump will find a less congenial atmosphere abroad for US leadership, particularly in terms of the ideas and values that have been the professed basis of US policy for many years.
Today, the Asia-Pacific, like Europe, is mostly led by conservative, authoritarian leaders who project strength and rely increasingly on a stronger version of nationalism for domestic legitimacy and appeal.
This is true of Japan, China, India, and others. In several countries, liberal values and institutions are under attack. While this phenomenon is primarily driven by domestic factors, it has also been facilitated by the US absence from the region’s concerns, righted to some extent in the last few years of the Obama administration. As a result, US leaders will have to contend with a new wave of ultra-nationalism and find economic and security solutions attractive to the new, more aspirational, younger generation that will determine domestic politics in the Asia-Pacific for some years to come.
There are, nonetheless, bright spots in the strategic environment. For New Delhi, relations with the United States are better than they have ever been. India-US strategic congruence is playing out in joint efforts in maritime security, defense cooperation, counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing, and other areas.
India shares the US interest in a predictable, rules-based international order, which can provide the security and assurance that India’s transformation requires. is strategic parallelism will grow in Prime Minister Modi’s remaining two years in office, particularly to India’s east, as its relations with China become less predictable, and the Modi government builds on what it calls its “Act East” policy. India and the United States have a common interest in working together with partners such as Japan to build security and connectivity between South and Southeast Asia, and on maritime security in the waters from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific.
The picture is, however, more complicated to India’s west. Doubts remain in India regarding the US role in Pakistan and the cross-border terrorism that country sponsors, stability in Iran and the Gulf, and the rise of the Sunni Arab coalition and its ambivalent role vis-à-vis ISIS. For India, with its domestic sensitivities, these are as much matters of domestic policy as they are of external policy. It remains for India and the United States to build a meaningful partnership on these issues.
Looking ahead, the areas of the bilateral relationship with the most unrealized potential, which could become either sources of friction or the next great success stories, are economic—market access issues, intellectual property rights, energy cooperation, and climate change. Here again, it is the intersection between domestic and external policy in both India and the United States that will determine success or failure. For instance, in pharmaceuticals, the United States faces a choice in its dealings with India’s pharmaceutical industry—be led by special interests at home or focus on global public health interests. Logically, both India and the United States should be working together to bring affordable medicines and care to the sick at home and around the world, but it is far from clear that special interests in both countries will allow them to do so. The United States and India face similar dilemmas in many other fields, such as climate change, market access, and energy. Today’s priority therefore is for India and the United States to work out a new economic modus vivendi, which will be a challenge for two economies at very different stages of development. Ultimately, the metric by which Indians will judge US economic policies is very simple—their effect on India’s transformation into a modern, industrialized economy, capable of growing at more than eight percent, creating more than eleven million new jobs a year, and maintaining social and political stability at home.
Unfortunately, Indian and US domestic political cycles have not been in sync for some time, which will make managing domestic dynamics more complex. As the new US administration finds its feet, India will begin its long and vigorous preparations for its own general elections in early 2019.
But this has not prevented both countries from transforming their relations in the past two decades.
India-US relations continue to enjoy strong, bipartisan support in both countries. There is no reason to expect this to change fundamentally, unless the trajectory of domestic politics changes drastically in either country.
Overall, the glue of economic complementarity and of strategic challenges posed by the rise of China should ensure that the United States remains India’s most important bilateral partner for the foreseeable future. Unless either partner decides to turn its back on the world for domestic political reasons, the India-US relationship will continue to grow from strength to strength.
This post originally appeared in The Asia Society Policy Institute briefing book, Advice for the 45th US President: Opinions from across the Pacific.
He still wants to be colonised.
As usual we see another Indian politician giving grand advise to other while they fail to see their own problem. They are abusing their English proficiency just to satisfy their ego.
From a typical Indian looking for a public toilet in India.
US isolationism is misunderstood.. It does not prevent US from looking after its interests globally by the usual hook and crook.. Highly unlikely they will complement India’s shortcomings.
"No Asia-Pacific country wants to have to choose between the United States and China. During the past two centuries, the United States has had A PROVEN RECORD IN THE REGION AS A BENIGN HEGEMON. China does not."
Shivshankar Menon, Fmr. Foreign Secretary, India
This is from a former FOREIGN SECRETARY of the government of INDIA? I stopped reading because I couldn’t get past this sentence. Here’s the "proven record"; in the last 100 years, the US has:
1. PHILIPPINES 1898 to 1946: The US took advantage of the Spanish-American War to seize the Philippines from Spain and occupied the republic from 1898 to 1946. During this occupation, the US suppressed Filipino rebellions against its rule. In the Philippine-American War alone, the first Filipino rebellion against American imperialism, [quote] American operations into the countryside often included scorched earth campaigns in which entire villages were destroyed; the use of torture including the water cure; and the concentration of civilians into "protected zones" Filipino historian E. San Juan, Jr. argues that 1.4 million Filipinos died during the war and that constitutes an act of genocide on the part of the United States. [endquote]
And there were many rebellions against the US in subsequent years, resulting in the devastation of the Philippine nation and its people. Benign hegemon? Surely the author must be blind and deaf to the new Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s sentiments against the US?
Just this case of the Philippines is enough to show the author is not credible. But let’s carry on.
2. KOREA 1945 to 2016: the US took over administration of Korea south, and the Soviets north, of the 38th parallel with a view to re-unification of the whole of Korea under UN auspices. But the US engineered to prevent that happening by supporting a right-wing Syngman Rhee whom they had brought over from the US. Result – the Korean War. Three million Koreans died, many at the hands of US atrocities and indiscriminate bombing. At the height of the Korean War, some US generals even advocated nuclear bombing China because of its support for the North Koreans.
To this day, Korea remains divided and continues to be a trouble spot because of US involvement. Benign hegemon?
3. VIETNAM 1954 to 1975: the US took over Vietnam after the France’s defeat at Dien Bien Phu and refused to recognize the Geneva Accords call for free elections, which the Communist Viet Minh was destined to win. From then on till 1975, the resultant American imperial involvement in Vietnam includes assassination against its own puppet president Ngo Dinh Diem, use of phosphorus and napalm against civilians, chemical warfare with Agent Orange (still causing extreme birth defects and deformities in children born), bombing Hanoi "back to the Stone Age", killing civilians in the My Lai massacre, destroying homes and devastating the countryside. Three million Vietnamese died because the US tried to prevent the inevitable – the re-unification of North and South Vietnam as one nation. Benigh hegemon?
4. INDONESIA 1965 – the US instigation and involvement in the Indonesian PKI coup resulted in the subsequent killing of hundreds of thousands of alleged Communist suspects and sympathisers, and many innocent Indonesian Chinese civilians. Benign hegemon?
5. LAOS 1964 to 1973: The US dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions. Laos was the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. The bombings destroyed many villages and displaced hundreds of thousands of Lao civilians during the 9-year period. Today, unexploded ordnances continues to maim and kill, especially innocent children.
6. CAMBODIA 1969 to 1973: On March 18, 1969, the US began a four year long campaign of carpet-bombing Cambodia, devastating the countryside, killing thousands of civilians, and causing extreme destabilization of the nation that led to the rise of the Pol Pot regime and its "killing fields".
People of India are neither nationalistic or patriotic,what is it that they have to look forward to …the medicine of alchol anonymous,drugs,corruption,nepotism,lies,false practice have been fed into them.The best medicine for them is the chinese medicine which will root out their 1000 year disease of sabotage & a fresh infusion will happen for them through chinese buddha reminding them "those who forget their mother tongue,motherland,civilization" you will be burnt in fire.
Demonetization is going to wipe out everyone & they will pay their karmic sins…….JJ & MGR sufferred prolonged illness.My advise to china is they should not import any medicine,keep a good tab on your nurses,make sure the alchohol consumed is reduced so you don’t go to alcholol anonymous as it will spread like cancer into every stream of your society.China has to use Gandhian principles mixed with martial principles of suntsu/kungfu…….the plots sabotages cannot prevent china from annointing king of the east the biblical prophecy which haunts the americans & their allies.
The moral idea of china is more superior than the moral idea of anyone if you look at Indian or Pakistan or Bangladesh political families the imams,pastors, drive in mercedes benz & stay in bungalows was china responsible for their downfall as they embraced bad idealogy for 1000 years…….china embraced indigenous idealogy which suited its circumstances,tradition,people……so even though you have other communist states which collopsed like venuzuela,cuba,soviet russia …it could stand with its head high in this world.
All of us are lechers & corrupt in our own way….if i get 200 dollars income,a soldier get 30 dollars & all souls are equal how can i ask someone with 30 dollars to defend me,in victory or defeat the soldier is a loser……that is the problem which remained unanswered for 2000 years which china answered it in the past 50 years.
at net shell"please America make us more and more your loving lapdog. please please
He wants India to be conony, well know Indian mentaility. Nothing new. With excessive amount of Indian elite like him, no wonder they are 6th of spender on weapons, and bottom of stats on live of their vast amount of population.
Good luck with it, Mr. Menon. You will need it. Trump is not picking on India yet is not because he see India as some one worthy, but I suspect because India is easy to deal with.
India is a rival of China, so of course they want American military to thwart China.
If china had choosen the path to take out India it would have done long back….it could do in 15 minutes with a plot/counterplot.So it is surprising why china choosed not to do something…offcourse in all this article what i miss is the security concern of china which has 14 countries bordering them is not mentioned.
India should cooperate with China to spur economic growth and attain geopolitical stability in Asia rather than trying to contain China’s economic rise by allying with the United States and its allies, Japan and Australia. China has the financial resources to assit India in building infrastructure and industry. What can the US, Japan and Australia offer, except words of comfort. The private investors in these liberal democratic countries are the "deciders" whether to invest in Indai, not their governments. Investors from the US, Japan and Australia are not exactly rushing to invest in India largely because it lacks a comprehensive infrastructure system of roads, railways, power generating facilities, comprehensive supply chain, etc.
Besides, why do you want to pick a fight with a country of over 1.36 billion people and "armed to teeth" with nuclear and conventional weapons? Did China actually threaten India, the US, Japan and Australia?
Very well and strategically written article by Mr. Menon. I think its time, India partners with USA in ensuring that CHina does not have an upper hand in Indian Ocean Region. Gwader should be permanently on 20 Agni-II missiles cross hair to ensure any escalation by Pakistan, and we take out Gwader and 50 Brahmos Block III (600 Km range) to take out all Chinese and Pakistani Naval assets.
CHina wil not relent in its quest to displace USA from SCS region, and USA must ensure it shows the CHinese who is the BOSS…
Says a BAKISTANI….
It has already started with SCS and 9-Dash lines; it’s only a matter of time that CHina will start creating trouble with India because they have a 4,500 Km long unsettled boundary. The fact is CHina wants to sort out the small players in SCS before heating up its border with India. Much to CHina’s discomfort, Russia and USA are on India’s side, and will extend all help, Military and in Security Council. These are the two countries who can dare CHina to retaliate. India has enough wherewithals to take on CHina in a conventional war. It is a hogwash to think that all the tall claims of CHinese military prowess are as much battle tested.
That is possible only if china is able to infiltrate some 100 million people in to India those who have been/likely to get displaced with job losses by US trade.Ask chinese to spend time for Nation building activities……if they don’t obey dump some nukes…..what pax china you will implement in Asia even the xtian,muslim & aryans also sneaked in that manner….in many parts of India you will be treated well as liberator also….afterwards with large china/india & other countries you control the americans will come to you.Do chinese have nukes …i doubt it you have bad reputation for your product so try to see if by dropping some 10MT on mumbai,islamabad,dhaka does that work or not.
Unfriendly and self righteous act prompted by intense jealousy . Typically In….
And they are facts free…
"During the past two centuries, the United States has had a proven record in the region as a benign hegemon. China does not."
I will simply say that China really has no record at all. During its darkest Marxist days, it has supported (and still supports) the thugs in North Korea or the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, but outside of Korea, China isn’t really throwing its weight around at all.
I wish Mr. Menon would write forTrump a paper on Indian foreign policy in the neighbourhood which is going from bad to worse.
You said it all. Menon must be brain dead.
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