It’s A Political Fantasy To Imagine That India Will Ever Join “NATO Plus”
American policymakers still struggle to comprehend India's grand strategy, which aims to position itself as the informal leader of the Global South in order to secure its hard-earned strategic autonomy in the New Cold War. In pursuit of that goal, India is practicing a pragmatic policy of principled neutrality towards the NATO-Russian proxy war in parallel with multi-aligning between key players in the global systemic transition.
The “House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party” published a ten-point action plan in late May for supporting Taiwan, which included the recommendation that “The United States should strengthen the NATO Plus arrangement to include India.” This framework, also described as “NATO+5” in the text, presently includes that anti-Russian bloc’s existing members, Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. Apart from Israel, it overlaps with what can be called “AUKUS+”.
These two structures, AUKUS+ and NATO+, are essentially the same thing. They’re intended to function as a single US-led network for jointly containing the Sino-Russo Entente. Right now, “The US Is Rounding Up Allies Ahead Of A Possible War With China”. It hopes to learn from its failure to collapse Russia’s economy via sanctions and internationally isolate it in order to inflict more indirect damage on the People’s Republic in the immediate run-up to a hot conflict over Taiwan or during one.
The suggestion to include India in this scheme is a political fantasy. American policymakers still struggle to comprehend that country’s grand strategy, which aims to position itself as the informal leader of the Global South in order to secure its hard-earned strategic autonomy in the New Cold War. In pursuit of that goal, India is practicing a pragmatic policy of principled neutrality towards the NATO-Russian proxy war in parallel with multi-aligning between key players in the global systemic transition.
As a result, it’s proudly defied US pressure to dump Russia, which thus saved India from becoming the West’s largest-ever vassal state. Some policy influencers eventually realized the futility of the US sticking with its counterproductive approach, like Ashley J. Tellis impressively wrote about in his piece for the powerful Council on Foreign Affairs’ official magazine in early May. He suggested adapting to the reality of there being clear limits to how far America can push India and finally treating it as an equal.
Regrettably, this reasonable stance wasn’t reflected in the House Committee’s ten-point action plan on Taiwan, nor is it shared by most of his policy influencing peers either. For instance, former US diplomat and South Asia expert Patrick Mendis responded to Tellis’ proposal in his recent piece for The National Interest. He basically argued that it’s possible for the US to still loop India into its Eurasian-wide containment network by fearmongering about Chinese influence in his native Sri Lanka.
As they say, “hope dies last”, which is proven in this case by America clinging to the political fantasy of subjugating India as the West’s largest-ever vassal state despite the plethora of evidence over the past 15 months that Delhi will never submit to this neo-colonial status. The idea that India is interested in entering into a Japanese-like NATO partnership is preposterous since it would amount to that country abandoning its pragmatic policy of principled neutrality towards the New Cold War.
Russia would rightly be concerned about India’s future reliability as one its most important strategic partners in that scenario, thus likely pushing that Eurasian Great Power to become China’s “junior partner” in response so as to cushion the blow of India’s “defection” to the West. Delhi has hitherto done its utmost to prevent that from happening due to fears that this could turbocharge China’s superpower trajectory at the expense of India’s national security interests.
India’s masterful multi-alignment up until this point would therefore be for naught upon it entering into a Japanese-like NATO partnership since the sequence of events that such a decision could spark risks turning this worst-case scenario into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even worse, China might feel that it has to launch a preemptive large-scale attack against India before its neighbor fully integrates into this US-led containment network and possibly obtains the capability to launch its own such attack against China.
The Sino-Indo security dilemma, which is presently tense but nevertheless manageable for the time being, could therefore quickly boil over into the largest Asian conflict since World War II to the detriment of both Great Power’s objective interests. Even absent that scenario, it should be taken for granted that India’s participation in NATO+ would be interpreted by Russia as signaling its voluntary submission to Western vassalhood, thus prompting Moscow to become China’s “junior partner” in response.
Whether peacefully or through war, the world would therefore inevitably bifurcate into Chinese- and US-led blocs, with Russia and India being each’s respective “junior partner”. India’s envisaged rise as a globally significant Great Power that informally leads its fellow developing countries with the intent of balancing the US-led West’s Golden Billion and the Sino-Russia Entente would instantly end. The only truly sovereign states left would be China and the US, which is a future that India wants to avoid.
For these reasons, it’s a political fantasy to imagine that India will ever join NATO+ and thus set this sequence of fast-moving events into motion at the expense of its grand strategic interests. The “House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party” is therefore divorced from reality after officially proposing precisely this policy. Instead of clinging to such delusions, they should listen to Tellis, recognize the limits to how far the US can push India, and finally treat it as an equal partner.