By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 8th Feb 2015
On Friday, President Barack Obama unveiled a “National Security Strategy” (NSS) for his remaining two years in office. He advocates “strategic patience” to guard against “over-reach” in dealing with diverse security issues --- the resurgent Islamic State, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Russia’s intransigence in Ukraine and the emerging challenge from China.
Obama’s second NSS (the first was issued in 2010) bears the imprimatur of a president keenly aware of the limits of US power, and his people’s lack of appetite for foreign military adventures. Obama had ended the Iraq campaign in his first term and the Afghanistan war in his second term as president, reducing the number of troops deployed in those countries from 180,000 to 15,000.
"As powerful as we are and will remain, our resources and influence are not infinite”, notes the NSS document. It goes on: “(W)hile we will act unilaterally against threats to our core interests, we are stronger when we mobilize collective action.”
India is central to that vision of collective action in Asia. The week after Obama’s landmark visit to India, his NSS states: “Our rebalance to Asia and the Pacific is yielding deeper ties with a more diverse set of allies and partners… We are primed to unlock the potential of our relationship with India.”
The US president sees India as a central pivot in an unfolding new relationship between global powers. The NSS states, “India’s potential, China’s rise, and Russia’s aggression all significantly impact the future of major power relations.”
The envisioned arrangement with India is elaborated in a section on America’s “rebalance to Asia and the Pacific”.
It states: “In South Asia, we continue to strengthen our strategic and economic partnership with India… We support India’s role as a regional provider of security and its expanded participation in critical regional institutions. We see a strategic convergence with India’s Act East policy and our continued implementation of the rebalance to Asia and the Pacific.”
In the original “rebalance to the Asia Pacific region” that President Obama had first announced in November 2011, India was singled out as a key regional partner. No other country was named in that seminal document.
After the US troop draw down from Afghanistan, Pakistan is increasingly viewed as a strategic flashpoint rather than an ally. The NSS undertakes to “continue to work with both India and Pakistan to promote strategic stability, combat terrorism, and advance regional economic integration in South and Central Asia.
US National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who unveiled the new NSS, presented an upbeat scorecard of a confident America emerging from the “Great Recession”, and having tackled the global problems of Ebola, Russia, the Islamic State and Iran.
US law requires the president to enunciate a NSS every year, but Obama --- like most American presidents --- has done so less frequently. His only previous NSS was framed in 2010.