On Tuesday, the US declassified a document that outlines the Trump administration’s strategy for countering China in the Indo-Pacific and maintaining “primacy” in the region.
The 10-page document titled “US Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific” was signed off by President Trump in February 2018. The plan calls for stronger alliances to counter Beijing in the Indo-Pacific with a particular focus on India.
“A strong India, in cooperation with like-minded countries, would act as a counterbalance to China,” the document reads. One goal of the strategy is to have the US as India’s “preferred partner,” so the two countries “cooperate to preserve maritime security and counter Chinese influence.”
The document calls to “Accelerate India’s rise and capacity to serve as a net provider of security and Major Defense Partner; solidify an enduring strategic partnership with India underpinned by a strong Indian military able to effectively collaborate with the United States and our partners in the region to address shared interests.”
While other objectives of the strategy did not come to fruition, like a denuclearized Korean peninsula, military cooperation between the US and India is something that has increased since Trump signed off on the document. A tense border stand-off between India and China in the Himalayans that turned deadly last June led to increased cooperation between New Delhi and Washington.
In October 2020, the two countries signed a new defense pact that allows the US to share more satellite data with India. In November, a US military official said that the US was helping India’s military keep an eye on China’s military near the disputed border.
The intelligence the US can now share with India can also be used for drone and missile strikes. When the military pact was first inked, India’s Economic Times said the deal will give Indian missiles a “killer edge.”
The 2018 strategy calls for stronger ties between the US, India, Japan, and Australia. The four countries form the informal alliance, or dialogue, known as the Quad. Last November, the Quad countries participated in military drills together for the first time in over a decade during the Indian-led Malabar exercises.
In previous years, India has been hesitant to include Australia in the Malabar for fear of sending the wrong message to China. But with tensions in the Himalayas and increased support from the US, India decided to allow all the Quad countries to drill together for a show of force aimed at Beijing.
The 2018 strategy also calls for more cooperation with Taiwan, something the Trump administration has also stepped up. In the latest move, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced all State Department restrictions on official contacts with Taiwan will be lifted.