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Axis of Delhi, Hanoi and Washington Against Beijing

The contemporary period is marked by a world order where the divisions laid down by the international border no longer remain important. The current world order resembles a reality where power remains widely distributed. The Indo-Pacific strategy of the U.S. is a testament to such a world. The U.S. has extended its arms around countries like India and Vietnam, highlighting a genuine possibility that strategic turnarounds are not uncommon.

An illustration on the axis of Delhi,Hanoi and Washington against Beijing

 Illustration by The Geostrata


The U.S. aims to explore their long-term shared tensions to counteract Beijing. Therefore, the article seeks to explain how the U.S. is utilising New Delhi and Hanoi’s tensions with Beijing to curve a long-term strategy.


HANOI IN WASHINGTON’S INDO-PACIFIC STRATEGY


The relations between Vietnam and China are often perceived as complicated.  The two countries remain a host to uneasy diplomatic history. The South China Sea has proven to be one of them where China attempts to control the 3,000-kilometre-long coastline


The assertiveness has only grown during the presidencies of Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, which involved rampant militarisation, including coercive activities in the South China Sea region.

One of the events involved issues over a Chinese-operated oil rig, Haiyang Shiyou 981. In this case, both the countries mobilised their coastguards and fishing boats.  The Chinese retaliated by setting the oil rig close to Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)


The issue was resolved, and the Chinese-led China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) stopped their activities and withdrew.  In the South China Sea, the Chinese actions soon attracted the attention of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016, which dismissed China's historic claims. 


China has tagged Vietnam as a ‘trouble maker’ after the issue was internationalised.  The aggressive actions by China have forced Vietnam to seek alternatives to balance the growing imbalance in the region.

The U.S. sensed an opportunity.  In recent years, the U.S. has managed to please Vietnam, which struggled to maintain party-level talks, defence dialogues, and direct phone lines with China during any possible conflict in the South China Sea.  The attempts by the U.S. to please Vietnam take the form of occasional condemnation of Beijing's maritime claims and actions during high-level diplomatic visits. 


The appeasement of Vietnam started with the statement of the former U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who disregarded Beijing's claims over the Spratly Islands, Scarborough, Luconia, and Natuna Besar shoals.  The appeasement of Vietnam by the Trump administration is notable as Vietnam remained the only Southeast Asian country where former President Donald Trump visited twice.


During her visit to Hanoi, the current Vice President Kamala Harris even confirmed the support to Vietnam in the disputed waters by assuring to send an additional U.S. Coast Guard ship.  Such developments only signalled change when Washington intensified its engagement with Vietnam in the South China Sea, not seen in the past.

The same goes for their distrust of China-based telecommunication technologies like the 5G components by ZTE and Huawei.  Vietnam has not banned Huawei but has avoided adopting the technology, citing security concerns.  In response, Vietnam has built its domestic telecom company, Viettel, to guarantee a 5G network.


The situation has been much aggravated by Beijing's export curbs of gallium and germanium, which are required for manufacturing semiconductors. 

The U.S. involvement with Vietnam through the newly signed ‘Memorandum of Cooperation on Semiconductor Supply Chains’ seeks to ensure a solid, resilient supply chain.  Such an agreement enables the companies to decouple and deny China the opportunity to access technology necessary for growing its semiconductor industry, which hurts China's chance to prosper and foster long-term economic progress.

 

INDIA IN WASHINGTON'S INDO-PACIFIC STRATEGY


India remains a vital link in Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy as it defined the region’s geographical area from the western coast of India to the western shores of the U.S. Such a system of recognising India as a ‘major defence partner’ in the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific regional architecture is to address China’s growing economic and military power.


The statement is further justified as the U.S. always responds by giving assurances of diplomatic and material support to India during its border confrontations with China.


In October 2022, the Biden administration confirmed in its National Defense Strategy that the U.S. will defend its allies and partners against any threats China poses.

The application of the same can be seen as the U.S. intended to side with its ‘defence partner’ India as it assisted concerning intelligence and military equipment that included specialised gears for cold temperatures, including MQ-9B surveillance drones in 2022 during its border confrontation with China.


India has depended on trade and sustaining economic prosperity in the maritime sphere. India has not prepared well for China’s inroads into the Indian Ocean region, which aims for an alleged encirclement of India concerning maritime commons and trade routes.


This has driven India to renew its interest in the Quad, which only allows the U.S. to reclaim its centrality in the Indo-Pacific region.

Such attempts only guarantee a long-standing U.S. military presence in the region. The growing naval cooperation between New Delhi and Washington can only justify such a statement. The U.S. has utilised annual defence exercises like the Malabar exercise dating back to 1992 with India to increase the credibility of its military in the region.


The closeness of Washington and New Delhi with the U.S. concerning economic diplomacy is also coherent, as both countries want to contain China on the trade front. New Delhi did not join RCEP as its regulations were well suited to the designs of Beijing and would further aggravate China’s reach in the Indian market.


India’s decision not to join the group resulted in China failing to access the Indian market without measures that included tariffs.

It has been argued that the conditions of RCEP to India meant signing a Free Trade Agreement with China through the back door. In the case of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the U.S. deliberately excluded China during its negotiations to leave it no option but to join on conditions set up by Washington that remain unfavourable to Beijing.


India’s aversion to initiatives led by China is also evident as it refused to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), citing concerns that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is running through Pakistan-Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, violating India’s sovereignty.

Therefore, it has joined initiatives like the India-Middle East-Europe-Economic Corridor (IMEC) with the U.S. and its allies to counteract Chinese-led infrastructural projects in the region.


CONCLUSION


In conclusion, the future relations among the three countries see China’s behaviour undermining the international rules-based order. Therefore, Washington has targeted countries like India and Vietnam that shared historical contentions with China and their borders with it.


The aim of such an Indo-Pacific strategy driven by the U.S. is to reshape the strategic environment China uses to operate in the region. Such a strategy involves Washington attempting to ‘delink’ India and Vietnam from an environment dominated by China by utilising their disagreements with China from economy to defence.


 

BY ANIRBAN DUTTA

TEAM GEOSTRATA

3 Comments


Important strategic analysis of great power politics

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Amit Kumar
Amit Kumar
Dec 18, 2023

Loved to read such a insightful article:)

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Anshika Malik
Anshika Malik
Dec 17, 2023

informative 💯

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