NEW REPORT! I’m excited to share my new @BrookingsFP publication, After the Foundational Agreements: An Agenda for US-India Defense & Security Cooperation. It’s a deep dive into the security relationship, and what the Biden team can do to advance it. 1/…
@BrookingsFP Bilateral security ties have strengthened over the last 4 years (including finalization of the “foundational agreements”)… but there are headwinds. And it’s clear the Biden admin will rightly want to rebalance the relationship away from a disproportionate focus on defense. 2/
I begin by taking stock of these wider challenges and proposing 3 key U.S. security priorities for engaging India: continuing to support India’s rise as a constructive global leader; limiting China’s ability to coerce S. Asian states; and mitigating risks of regional crises. 3/
I also grapple with whether the US should put forward an ambitious security agenda in light of the many uncertainties in the relationship (yes) and whether imposing security conditionalities is likely to be constructive (no). 4/
In the main part of the report, I propose and explore in depth six key priorities for cooperation: FIRST priority: Situating defense ties with India in a wider bilateral and multilateral architecture. Here I address questions like: 5/
What to do with the 2+2 dialogue structure? How to institutionalize the Quad without unduly discomfiting its members? Where to encourage India’s own defense engagements in the Indo-Pacific? 6/
SECOND priority: Driving a more holistic defense planning dialogue that periodically assesses the regional threat environment, identifies capability gaps, and helps to source those capabilities to the Indian services. 7/
Here I discuss how the US might revitalize existing defense dialogues to move from platform-centric to capability-centric conversations, and eventually to more mission-centric discussions about combined operational activities. 8/
I also make a case for continued advocacy for US defense sales, which are course good for the United States, but also for India as it seeks to modernize a motley force that is ill-suited to the demands of future warfare; … 9/
…and I discuss policy questions that the new administration is likely to face on CAATSA, missile defense, and sales of armed UAVs. 10/
THIRD priority: Reviewing exercises to prioritize high-end activities that could enable combined operations, and low-end activities with third countries that are at risk of undue Chinese influence. 11/
US-India exercises have grown more sophisticated, but I have some recommendations for expanding air force cooperation, and crafting exercises to practice and routinize use of the new logistics, COMSEC, and GEOINT sharing agreements. 12/
There are also creative ways the US & India can use exercises to advance a shared counter-coercion agenda; and I discuss how the US can lay groundwork for routine operational cooperation w/ India by taking advantage of liaison arrangements & new secure comms infrastructure. 13/
FOURTH priority: Sustaining support for high technology cooperation and co-development efforts. There’s a history of misaligned expectations on defense tech transfer, and US observers are rightly skeptical about some of India’s indigenization ambitions. 14/
That said, high-tech cooperation is important. It’s a political priority for New Delhi; it allows the US to access sector-specific innovation in India; and some of the recent tensions have helped to clarify obstacles to deeper cooperation. 15/
I urge US officials to pursue an innovation agenda that leans toward cutting-edge research that could give India a comparative advantage (eg, AI/ML); and explore service-to-service efforts (eg, USN-initiated conversations on Distributed Maritime Operations & sensor tech). 16/
FIFTH priority: Identifying opportunities to further institutionalize intelligence sharing. This has matured significantly over the last decade, largely out of public view, focused on CT and China dynamics. The key to institutionalizing cooperation is building reciprocity. 17/
I review how the US could identify collection gaps that India might be well-positioned to fill (eg, OSINT); the importance of rebooting high-level intel exchanges in light of the reorg of the Indian bureaucracy; and what both sides might prioritize on CT & China issues. 18/
SIXTH priority: Deepening consultations to mitigate emerging risks in the cyber, space, and nuclear domains. Here I discuss how the US might structure its cyber engagements with India, on defense issues as well as topics such as countering disinformation. 19/
On space, there’s an urgent need for US-India tech/intel exchange on satellite resilience in light of the PLA’s growing counterspace capabilities; and also opportunities to partner on a modest diplomatic effort to bolster norms against debris-generating events. 20/
The stilted nature of US-India nuclear dialogues is increasingly incongruous with the trajectory of the overall relationship. No easy answers here, but shared concerns about PLA modernization & the intersection of nuke/cyber/space risks create new opportunities for dialogue. 21/
Even as the US should continue to pressure Pakistan to deal w/ militants operating freely on its soil, it should sustain a discreet conversation w/ India about how New Delhi’s new pattern of conventional responses appear to be increasing the risk of inadvertent escalation. 22/
CONCLUSION: The Biden team has an enormous set of challenges in the first 100 days. The US-India security relationship is a modest but important piece of that wider agenda, and one that will require steady investment and recalibration rather than major redesign. 23/
I underscore the importance for the new administration of (1) embedding defense/security issues in a broader effort & wider dialogue to work with India as a leading partner in tackling global challenges from climate change to health security; 24/
(2) crafting a clear-eyed China strategy that reassures India about our willingness to compete, without being unnecessarily combative; and at the same time signaling that, as events evolve in Afg, the US doesn’t wish to revert to a co-dependent relationship with Pakistan; 25/
(3) being realistic about India’s political, fiscal, and capability constraints… especially regarding its complex relationship w/ Russia, its continued ambivalence about China, and its many capacity limitations; 26/
And (4) investing in high-level engagement at the leader & cabinet levels to sustain an ambitious agenda and address bilateral frictions. Both Biden & Harris have the advantage of bringing considerable personal credibility to their engagements with Indian leaders. 27/
LASTLY: I’m indebted to an all-star group of friends & colleagues who provided critical feedback on early drafts. (To be clear: the conclusions, and any errors, are mine alone!). They include the inimitable @tanvi_madan, as well as @AyresAlyssa, @clary_co, @lindseywford, … 28/
… plus @gandhiwdc, Juzar Ghadyali, @semaghasan, @splalwani, @peter_lavoy, @MarkeyDaniel, @NarangVipin, @philreiner, Frank Rose, Benjamin Schwartz, @VJS_Policy, @Cold_Peace_, @pstanpolitics, @RichardRVerma, and Robin Walker. 29/
I’m also grateful to @tedreinert, @RachelASlattery, and the rest of the remarkable @BrookingsFP family. As always, I welcome any comments or critiques about this report! 30/30

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More from @joshuatwhite

15 Jun 20
NEW PAPER! — I’m very pleased to share my latest research, “China’s Indian Ocean ambitions: Investment, influence, and military advantage,” which is part of @BrookingsFP’s sweeping #GlobalChina series. In this paper I make two big arguments: (1/9)…
@BrookingsFP The first is that, while we should very much be concerned that China is developing a range of dual-use capabilities in the IOR, we should be careful not to assume that it can easily leverage “debt-trap diplomacy” investments there for meaningful *military* advantage. (2/9)
I argue that the capabilities that the PLA would want to have in a conflict would go far beyond what might be available from a commercial venture; and that access arrangements grounded in economic coercion are unlikely to be politically stable or strategically reliable. (3/9)
Read 9 tweets
10 Sep 19
THREAD: I’ve had my share of concerns about Khalilzad’s deal, and believe a Camp David gambit would have been wildly foolish. But many of those who are celebrating the breakdown in talks are eliding the true implications of their tough-talk arguments. 1/
I happen to think that if we’re shrewd about using our military presence as leverage we can negotiate a deal that is imperfect but has sufficient conditionality to secure our core interests… /2
…and those of the Afghan people (recognizing something that has too often been lost in this debate: our interests will not always be identical to those of the Afghan political elite). /3
Read 14 tweets

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