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‘NATO plus five’ India’s position (Special)

Published: 22nd Jun, 2023

Context

The U.S. Senate’s India Caucus Co-Chairs, has introduced legislation to give India ‘NATO plus five’ defence status.

Caucus is a meeting (in some US states) at which local members of a political party register their preference among candidates running for office or select delegates to attend a convention.

Background

  • US want India to be a part of NATO plus, a group allied with 'Western' military powers.
  • India's inclusion in NATO Plus is being suggested to counter China and enhance the deterrence for Taiwan.

About ‘NATO plus five’:

  • The arrangement currently exists between the U.S, its NATO partners and five countries: Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and Israel.
  • The announcement follows a recommendation from a S. House of Representatives committee on China that India be included in the club.
  • ‘NATO plus 5’, is a security arrangement that brings together NATO and five aligned nations to boost defense and intelligence ties.

What can be the consequences for India?

  • Breaking India – Russia ties: If India joins the US-led NATO alliance which is backing Ukraine in the current war with Russia; it will directly impact New Delhi's strong, established and deep ties with Russia.
    • The US wants to cut off Russia and gain India’s defence deals and benefit from its strategic location in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Jeopardising India’s Strategic Autonomy: NATO membership may also affect India’s strategic autonomy over its nuclear arsenal.
    • A European Parliament report on EU strategic autonomy 2013-2023 mentioned how European nations fear that increasing their strategic autonomy may lead to constraints in free trade.
  • Entertaining US’s military bases: Till now, India does not host any foreign military base on its turf – but joining NATO Plus would mean the US will eventually have a military base in India as well.
  • Being part of NATO would essentially mean that India will get dragged into America’s conflicts.

Are there any benefits for India too?

  • Military-Strategic Benefits: An India-NATO dialogue would simply mean having regular contact with a military alliance, most of whose members are well-established partners of India.
    • Further, India has military exchanges with many members of NATO — including the US, Britain, and France — in bilateral and multilateral formats.
    • Therefore, in the longer term, India would derive military-strategic benefits from a partnership with the world’s most powerful alliance.
  • Era of Multi-Alignment: India might align with China and developing nations against the US in World Trade Organisation (WTO) but militarily oppose China while contemplating a “Quad” with the USA, Japan, and Australia.

Way forward:

  • Geo-strategic position of India: In NATO’s view, India, given its geo-strategic position and unique perspectives on various issues, was relevant to international security and could be an important partner in informing the alliance about India’s own region and beyond.
  • Considering proposals from NATO: As far as India is concerned, it was felt New Delhi may consider proposals emanating from NATO, if any, on bilateral cooperation in areas of interest to India, based on the progress achieved in the initial rounds.

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