U.S.' relationship with India 'critical' in dealing with China, Russia: Congressman Ro Khanna
Khanna discusses the nuanced challenges in U.S.-India partnership, from defense ties to geopolitical history, expects India to be "aggressive at their borders in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh''
The U.S.' relationship with India is "critical" in dealing with its strategic adversaries - China and Russia, Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna has said.
Khanna spoke to radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt on 29 August after his return from India, where he led a bipartisan Congressional delegation.
"China and Russia are clearly two strategic challenges, adversaries. That's why the relationship with India is going to be so critical in dealing with it. I think China and Russia aren't always going to march lockstep and there are opportunities there, but by and large, we should be clear-eyed about what they're doing,” he said.
Khanna said it was unreasonable for the U.S. to expect that India will block the Strait of Malacca during a conflict with China, but New Delhi can be aggressive on its borders in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh to open a two-front war if Beijing invades Taiwan.
The Strait of Malacca is a waterway connecting the Andaman Sea (Indian Ocean) and the South China Sea (Pacific Ocean).
As the link between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca is the shortest sea route between India and China and hence is one of the most heavily travelled shipping channels in the world.
Khanna, who is currently Co-Chair of the Congressional India Caucus, did not agree with Indian American presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy who said on 29 August that he would wish India to close Malacca Strait in the case of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
China views self-ruled Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be reunified with the mainland. China has not ruled out the possible use of force to achieve this objective.
“We should be clear-eyed about what India will or will not do. I mean this is another important point. The idea that they're going to block the Malacca Strait is just unreasonable to expect. Japan and South Korea wouldn't go along with that in India," he said.
"From the conversations we had, we aren't going to do that because you can bypass that through the Lombok or Sunda and you wouldn't get Asian support for that,” Khanna said.
Lombok is an island in West Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia. It forms part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with the Lombok Strait separating it.
“What can we expect India to do? We can expect India to be aggressive at their borders in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh so that China then has a two-front concern. They have to worry about the borderline of control with India and not just put all of their resources into a Taiwan potential invasion and into deterring the freedom of the seas,” he said.
“So, understanding what our Indian partners are willing to do, not willing to do, and where we can actually deter China is going to be critical to having a coherent foreign policy,” Khanna said.
He said the U.S. delegation, during its meeting with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in New Delhi early this month, also discussed India's purchase of arms from Russia.
Khanna said Jaishankar noted that India's dependence on Russian arms started after the U.S. stopped selling weapons to India after 1965.
“Now, when we pressed the matter with Minister Jaishankar, he said, look, America stopped supplying us arms after 1965, and we did that because President Nixon needed Pakistan to normalise relations with China.
In that historical context, you can understand why the United States wanted to normalise relations with China to be able to counter the Soviet Union. And (Henry) Kissinger and (Richard) Nixon made that decision," he said.
Khanna said India was left with a border that was unsecured with China, with America not selling it any arms post-1965, and they had to go to the Russians to get arms both to defend themselves against China and Pakistan.
“That was almost a 40-year history. Now we're building the defence relationship, but he said, you can't expect a switch overnight. They want to switch. They understand our stuff is better and we need to work with that," he said.