Sunday, March 13, 2016

Acting East

India has gone from a Look East policy that demonstrates interest in Southeast Asia as a first line of defense to an Act East policy that seeks to bolster that line of defense. And that's where America comes in.

America will likely sign a logistics agreement with India:

India and the United States are closing in on an agreement to share military logistics after 12 years of talks, officials said, a sign of strengthening defense ties between the countries as China becomes increasingly assertive. ...

After years of foot-dragging by previous governments over fears that the logistics agreement would draw India into a binding commitment to support the United States in war, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration has signaled a desire to move ahead with the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA).

That would allow the two militaries to use each other's land, air and naval bases for resupplies, repair and rest, officials said. ...

"There is growing convergence between Obama's Asia pivot and Modi's Act East policy," said Saroj Bishoyi, an expert on the proposed India-U.S. collaboration at the government-funded Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in New Delhi.

This will come in handy when the Indian navy enters the South China Sea, allowing them to have access to our logistics capability in the western Pacific.

India's partnership is a pare of a broader trend in response to Chinese aggressiveness:

The hard truth that China will have to reckon with is that the unprecedented rate at which we’re seeing increasing trilateralization (U.S.-Japan-India, U.S.-Japan-Australia, U.S.-Japan-Philippines), plurilateralization (U.S.-ASEAN, U.S.-Japan-India-Australia), and multilateralization of security mechanisms in and around the South China Sea has coincided with its own surge of activity in the past years.

The Japanese, with crucial lines of supply through the South China Sea, are acting south:

A Japanese submarine will visit the Philippines for the first time in 15 years, along with two warships that will then sail on to Vietnam, in a show of support for nations opposed to Beijing's ambitions in the South China Sea, a person familiar with the matter said.

Not that this logistics help for India is a one-way street. Given my worries about Iran's ability to reach out and touch our fleet in the constricted Persian Gulf where we have major naval facilities, having backup facilities in India father from Iran would help until we pound down Iran's anti-ship weapons to safely use our Gulf facilities.

At some point, India will have a Fight East capability, I imagine.

UPDATE: This increased cooperation with Australia will come in handy to support operations in the South China Sea:

Australia, which hosts U.S. Marines and military exercises in its remote northern regions, is seen as a partner in President Barack Obama’s economic and military re-balance to Asia, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last month echoing U.S. calls for China to refrain from militarizing reefs it has reclaimed in the South China Sea. ...

U.S. Pacific Command chief Harry Harris told a Senate committee in Washington last month said that he relied “heavily” on Australia for its advanced military capabilities, while Pacific Air Forces chief, General Lori Robinson, said last week that the U.S. is continuing talks with Australia to have B-1 bombers rotate through the northern port of Darwin.

And this location to "act north" is safer than our bases in the western Pacific, should Chinese forces try to inflict a Pearl Harbor-type attack on our forces in Guam and Okinawa.

UPDATE: Training east:

India, the United States and Japan will hold naval exercises in waters off the northern Philippines near the South China Sea this year, the U.S. military said on Wednesday, a move likely to further raise tensions with China.

I see. China pursues a creeping annexation of the South China Sea and this exercise not even in that body of water is what raises tensions.