Former South Carolina Governor and US Representative to the UN Nikki Haley co-authored an article in the influential Foreign Policy magazine declaring that “It’s Time To Formalize An Alliance With India”. Being of Indian descent and a potential Republican presidential hopeful in 2024, she seemingly hoped to attract significant attention at home and in the land of her heritage through this high-profile piece. To that end, her co-author is Republican Congressman Mike Waltz, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and vice-chair of the India Caucus.
India should be wary of her US alliance proposal, though, no matter how supposedly sweet she made it seem. Haley relies on a lot of fearmongering about China and Pakistan to make her case, especially in the aftermath of America’s humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, which will surely appeal to many Indians. Nevertheless, decision-makers shouldn’t be misled by her fiery rhetoric against those two Indian rivals. Their country presently practices a continually recalibrated policy of multi-alignment between Great Powers in order to most effectively advance its interests in the emerging Multipolar World Order.
Although India has comprehensively improved its military and strategic relations with the US over the past few years through the four so-called “foundational pacts” that they agreed to during that time, not to mention its leading participation in the Quad, it’s still eschewed a formal alliance with America. This has thus far been a very wise policy since entering into such with the US would by default force India to abandon its special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia at the expense of its military capabilities. India simply cannot maintain its military without Russian spare parts and equipment, which the US wants to replace.
Be that as it may, the US cannot realistically replace Russia’s commanding role in India’s military-industrial complex, at least not for a decade or two at the absolute earliest. America also will not tolerate India’s continued military ties with Russia, ergo it’s repeated threats to sanction the South Asian state for its planned purchase of Moscow’s S-400 air defense systems, the first of which are expected to arrive sometime next month. Haley is hoping to mislead India into worsening relations with Russia, which form one of the pillars of its multi-alignment policy, by appealing to some of its decision-makers nationalist sentiments.
The motives behind this information warfare deception are several. First, by removing the Russian vector of India’s multi-alignment policy through a formal alliance with America, the US will succeed in making the South Asian state disproportionately – and eventually, completely – dependent on its security cooperation. This can then be leveraged to influence its policies, such as threatening to withhold much-needed supplies unless India makes certain economic and political concessions of a unilateral nature to the US’ benefit such as agreeing to a lopsided trade deal for instance and whatever else it might demand in the coming future.
If India allows itself to be misled into such a state of strategic dependence on this single external partner (which would essentially function as its patron, if not overseer, with India thus serving as its vassal), then it’ll surrender its cherished strategic sovereignty to become the US’ anti-Chinese proxy. In such a situation, India could be coerced by the US into provoking China for whatever reasons its patron might want. Furthermore, even in the event of a “natural” clash between these two Asian Powers, America might simply abandon India in spite of their so-called “alliance” for pragmatic reasons related to not risking a direct hot war with China.
Another grand strategic risk to India’s sovereign interests must also be addressed, and that’s the degree to which the US would coerce it into so-called “burden-sharing”. All of America’s “allies” end up doing its bidding to a certain extent, and there’s no credible reason to expect India to be any different. The US might demand that it dispatch forces to other countries such as Myanmar, for example as part of possible proxy wars against China. It could also require that India purchase a certain level of American armaments each year out of “solidarity with its ally” and part of its “allied responsibilities” in order to maintain their “alliance”.
To sum it up, following Haley’s advice by entering into a formal “alliance” with America would unprecedentedly endanger India’s strategic sovereignty by ruining its carefully managed multi-alignment policy with Russia. Voluntarily turning itself in the US’ junior partner could risk having India exploited as a pawn against China, whether directly along their disputed frontier or indirectly as a proxy in third countries. The costs of attaining this counterproductive relationship could also entail unilateral economic and political concessions that lead to the US systematically exploiting India. For these reasons, India should beware of Haley’s alliance proposal.