Reflections of Yudh Abhyas Exercise on India-US Relations After Taiwan Crisis

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The world has been witnessing a chaotic/anarchic order in which geopolitical power shifts are taking place, China and the USA’s rivalry is growing, security concerns are emerging as a result of the Ukraine War and the pillars of the international order are being questioned. Among the developments during the transition to this new order, the withdrawal of the USA troops from Afghanistan, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and finally the visit of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan stand out as the most noteworthy examples.[1]

Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan should be regarded as a development that, in contrast to previous international developments, will directly drive an escalation in Sino-US rivalry and have an impact on how the global system will be constructed as a result. This is due to the fact that the two states, who have been evaluating each other within the context of the “gray zone strategy” and pursuing a policy of acquiring power without engaging in conflict, have finally come face to face. The USA’s action has changed the long-standing status quo in the Indo-Pacific region in its favor and created a new reality.

Beijing’s responses, which had previously signaled a heated dispute with high-pitched statements, fell short of expectations during the visit and caused debates among the domestic public. We might refer to the situation that the US diplomatic action has squeezed China as a lose-lose paradox. Because every reaction to being given will have a reflection that will put Beijing in trouble. A harsh reaction would harm China’s image, while a military response would result in its isolation from international markets. Because of this, China has acted in ways that were previously its usual response, such as violating the Taiwan air identification zone (ADIZ), expanding exercises, and enacting a blockade closer to Taiwan.

When Taiwan is on the table, China’s decisions are shaped by more emotional reactions. For this reason, the USA aspires to strike China from the subject that it is farthest from rationality. Beijing regards Taiwan’s unification with the mainland as a psychological and historical issue. Because of this, the Chinese Communist Party and other state institutions and particularly Xi Jinping, who is getting prepared for his third term and wishes to make a lasting impression on Chinese history, have made unification with Taiwan one of their primary campaign pledges.

Thanks to the Taiwan move, the USA, which took the initiative in the Indo-Pacific, made another move after Taiwan through India. As it is known, based on recent history, relations between India and China have followed a tumultuous background and have generally been shaped around a competitive spirit. The border disputes and mutual military casualties have escalated the already high level of hostility between Beijing and New Delhi, particularly after 2020.[2]

India, one of the most powerful states in South Asia, with its geographical presence and the ability to control the economic and military activity of the Indian Ocean, has been a key actor in the Indo-Pacific policy of the USA for a long time. New Delhi, which remained behind China in the Asian period that started in the 2000s, pursues a multi-vector foreign policy in order to close this gap and establish a new balance, and in this sense, it strengthens its relations with the West. Likewise, the US seeks to deepen its cooperation with India and use New Delhi’s military, geographic, and demographic power due to contain China.

The coinciding of both countries in a common perspective around the Chinese threat brought along a strategic step. The US and Indian armed forces have decided to conduct a joint military exercise in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. According to CNN, the military exercises announced to be held at an altitude of 10,000 feet in mid-October 2022 will focus on high-altitude warfare training. This exercise, which will be held approximately 95 kilometers from the checkpoint between China and India, should undoubtedly be considered as a step in the containment strategy launched against China.[3] The exercise will have a geopolitical impact in addition to conveying a powerful message, particularly given its time and location.

The USA is making plans to continue its new strategy, which it has activated with its Taiwan visit, by deepening it through India. Washington’s main goal, which wants to add new tension on the India-China border next to the front opened in the South China Sea, is to divide China’s power and concentration in the Indo-Pacific. Because, when India’s population, economic power, military capacity and geographical location are taken into account, it appears to be a vital deterrent against China. As a matter of fact, this point of view was also reflected in the statements of US officials. The Chief of Naval Operations of the US Navy, Admiral Mike Gilday, made the following statement at a seminar organized by the Heritage Foundation in Washington on August 25, 2022:[4]

“You just can’t think of China through the lens of the Indo-Pacific. You have to look at the Indian Ocean, you have to look at their Belt and Road, their economic connective tissue, which is now global…They now force China to not only look east, toward the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, but they now have to be looking over their shoulder at India … The Indian Ocean battlespace is becoming increasingly more important for us. The fact that India and China currently have a bit of a skirmish along their border. It is strategically important. What the United States and Japan need India to do is to be as strong as possible in South Asia and effectively draw Chinese attention so that they have a major second-front problem.”

In addition to the roles and targets that the USA expects from India within the scope of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, India also has strategic targets that it expects from Washington. New Delhi has been disturbed by the recent AUKUS move ignoring India. On the other side, New Delhi has long criticized the US for failing to mention China’s military buildup along the Indian border, despite the US recently keeping the Ukraine Crisis on the agenda. As a matter of fact, Brahma Chellaney, has served adviser to India’s National Security Council, serving as convener of the External Security Group of the National Security Advisory Board and a Member of the Policy Advisory Group headed by the Foreign Minister of India, who conducts geostrategic studies and India-China relations, explained the gap between the USA and India with the following words:[5]

“As if seeking to allay China’s concerns, Biden has also progressively diluted the Quad’s agenda, broadening it, as his Indo-Pacific strategy attests, to everlasting universal challenges like climate change, sustainability, “global health” and “advancing common technology principles.” The Quad, however, was designed as a bulwark against China’s expansionism. Biden has yet to comment on China’s nearly two-year border aggression against India. Nor has the U.S. asked Beijing to pull back the nearly 200,000 Chinese troops it has massed along the Indian frontier. Yet Biden, seeking to co-opt India in his new Cold War with Russia, hosted a special Quad summit by video link on Mar. 3 to discuss the Russian aggression. But the summit, as the unusually short White House statement indicated, achieved little. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi put his foot down over extending the Quad’s sphere to Ukraine, saying the group must remain focused on its core objective in the Indo-Pacific region.”

India, on the one hand, pursues policies to create a wider influence from the regional leadership, on the other hand, it wants to feel more supported by the Atlantic against China. New Delhi is an Asian state outside the Anglo-Saxon club despite being one of the most prominent actors in the Indo-Pacific strategy. For this reason, India requests the United States to take a greater role in China’s military expansion along the Indian border and to draw more attention to the region from the international community. Thus, India will form a strong alliance in its ontological security problem with China and minimize the risks.

It would not be wrong to say that the military exercise scheduled in Uttarakhand on October 2022 will perfectly coincide with the actions that both the USA and India expect from each other when future goals and interests of both countries are taken into account. By conducting this exercise, Washington will draw China’s attention to the region, while India will confirm that its recent neutrality policy does not apply to China and will stand by the United States.  Based on the prediction that China will pay more attention to South Asia in the future, saying that regional competition will increase and assuming that China will make a move through its ally countries will provide a correct perspective in seeing the future.

[1] Yimou Lee-Sarah Wu, “Pelosi Arrives in Taiwan Vowing U.S. Commitment; China Enraged”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 30.08.2022).

[2] “India-China Clash: 20 Indian Troops Killed in Ladakh Fighting”, BBC News,, (Date of Accession: 30.08.2022).

[3] Vedika Sud-Barbara Starr-Sahar Akbarzai-Kathleen Magramo, “US to Take Part in Military Exercise Near India’s Disputed Border with China”, CNN,, (Date of Accession: 30.08.2022).

[4] “India Presents China with two-front Problem, Says US Navy Chief”, The Times of India,, (Date of Accession: 30.08.2022).

[5] Brahma Chellaney, “Ukraine War Puts U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy in Jeopardy”, Nikkei Asia,, (Date of Accession: 30.08.2022).

Mustafa Cem KOYUNCU
Mustafa Cem Koyuncu, Karabük Üniversitesinde Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde Master öğrencisi olup Hint-Pasifik Bölgesi, ABD-Çin Rekabeti, uluslararası güvenlik, jeopolitik ve stratejik araştırmalar alanları üzerinde çalışmalar yapmaktadır. Karabük Üniversitesi’nde eğitimine başlamadan önce, Boğaziçi Üniversitesinde Lisans eğitimini tamamlamıştır. Özel sektörde yöneticilik tecrübesi kazanmasının ardından Koyuncu, kariyerine ANKASAM’da devam etmektedir. Koyuncu, ileri seviyede İngilizce bilmektedir.