India has nothing but friends these days, that is if you leave out Pakistan. Russia's her friend, has been for generations. China wants to be India's BFF. And America is also courting India's affections.
US Def-SEc Panetta was in New Delhi, laden with roses and chocolates, to proclaim India the "linchpin" in America's new strategy for Asia.
Panetta swept away America's historic distrust of India during the Cold War when America chose to shop weaponry to Pakistan, saying, "Our two nations I believe have finally and irreversibly started a new chapter
of our history".
"Security ties with India have steadily improved but US officials have yet to
realize the goal of a game-changing partnership that could check China's role,
"India favours improving military ties and buying weapons
from the United
States but does not want to become a full-fledged American ally, preferring
a degree of breathing space, analysts say.
"Panetta's visit has focused in
part on the planned withdrawal of US-led forces from Afghanistan by
the end of 2014, with India concerned about a dangerous vacuum after foreign
"The United States favoured a more active role for India in
Afghanistan, Panetta said in his speech."
China is currently trying to induct India into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an Asian counterpart to NATO. India is also still pursuing military joint ventures with Russia and has recently rejected American offers, including the F-35.
Panetta might have been on the money when he called India the "linchpin" of America's military policy in Asia. A linchpin is what keeps a wagon wheel from falling off the axle. It's indispensible. America knows India is indispensible to its pan-Asian strategy. India knows it. So do China and Russia. Let the games begin.
Yet the measure of America's ability to re-invent itself in south Asia may be decided in Islamabad, not New Delhi. There Panetta, fresh from serenading India, is scolding Pakistan, warning that Washington is reaching the limits of its patience with Pakistan's refusal to crush insurgent strongholds that threaten Afghanistan. Panetta keeps trying to drive a square peg into a round hole, insisting that all of south Asia fall in line with Washington's bi-polar Asian policy.
Panetta needs India if the U.S. is to have any hope of containing China for very long yet, in the process, he's giving Pakistan powerful incentives to back the insurgents and handing China its own vehicle to contain India and push back against American expansionism.
America's Asian policy is collapsing under the weight of its own incoherence and its rivals are waiting to pick up the pieces.