//'US grooming India as junior partner to annoy China, Pakistan'

'US grooming India as junior partner to annoy China, Pakistan'

Washington, June 10 (IANS) The United States is grooming India into a junior partner in a bid to make New Delhi break out of its shell and exert enough influence in the Indian Ocean region to at least annoy China and a recalcitrant Pakistan, a US think tank has suggested.

Such a strategic partnership would not only protect US interests in the region, but could also powerfully demonstrate to Islamabad that it would not stop a resurgent India from attacking Pakistan, intelligence think tank Stratfor said.

Though the self-styled "shadow CIA" itself considers such a scenario unlikely, it suggested that development of a strategic partnership between Washington and New Delhi would also help take India out of Iran's orbit.

Analysing the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace's recent visit to New Delhi, it suggested that as part of this developing strategic partnership he had given India the green signal to test its Agni III missile in August with the assurance that it would not affect the US-India nuclear deal.

Indian officials have dismissed the Stratfor suggestion that the US had given its nod for test firing the nuclear-capable Agni-III intercontinental ballistic missile, maintaining this was only the interpretation of the US think tank.

"India has made it amply clear that we have imposed a voluntary ban on testing and that is where the matter stands," a defence ministry official said in New Delhi on Friday.

Apart from its suggestion about Agni, Stratfor considered the evolving relationship between India and US as a potentially deep one.

"The United States will provide India with nuclear technology, development capital, and military hardware and training; in return, India will help safeguard US interests in the Indian Ocean region.

"The partnership could also powerfully demonstrate to Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that the United States would not act to block a resurgent India from attacking Pakistan (not that such a scenario is likely) and also help take New Delhi out of Iran's orbit," it said.

"A formal alliance it is not; India does not want to be seen as being anti-Moscow or anti-Beijing, even as it develops stronger ties with the United States.

"Geopolitically, China and India have been off of each other's radar screens, as they are geographically sealed from each other by the natural wall of the Himalayas and jungle," Stratfor said.

India wants to continue to buy arms from Russia, such as parts for the MiG-29Ks that will be flying off the deck of the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, which is to be handed over after a Russian refit in 2008.

New Delhi wants the US to continue to train the pilots of those MiGs for carrier operations. The US has also agreed in principle to sell India an Austin-class Landing Platform Dock, the USS Trenton, significantly enhancing New Delhi's maritime power-projection capabilities.

In return, Washington would like India to do exactly what it wants to anyway: shoulder responsibility and become a powerhouse in the Indian Ocean, second only to the US Navy, Stratfor said.

The United States hopes that an India more involved in the Malacca Strait and with an improved navy will make China nervous.

As Malacca is a chokepoint for Chinese trade and energy supplies, the naval frontier is essentially the only potential conflict point between New Delhi and Beijing, which otherwise are for all intents and purposes a continent away from one another.

Pace's visit merely formalised what has already been occurring: a coming together of Indian and American interests in a confederation of convenience, the US think tank said.

Washington would like New Delhi to break out of its shell and exert enough influence in the region to at least annoy China and a recalcitrant Pakistan, and "India would like to get whatever it can from its latest patron, the United States, in order to help alleviate its massive infrastructure problems, which are preventing India from becoming a major world power," Stratfor concluded.