Expanding NATO+5: India's Role in Deterring Chinese Aggression

In a significant move, a US congressional committee has proposed that India be included in the expanded group of close American allies known as NATO+5. This recommendation aims to bolster efforts to deter potential Chinese military aggression against Taiwan, signaling a broader strategy to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Additionally, the panel emphasizes the need for coordinated economic sanctions with the Quad, a group comprising the United States, India, Australia, and Japan, among other alliances and partnerships, to enhance their effectiveness.

India's Inclusion in NATO Plus: A Strategic Imperative

The House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the US and the Chinese Communist Party, in its recently released report titled "Ten for Taiwan policy recommendations to preserve peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," stresses the importance of India's inclusion in the NATO Plus arrangement. By strengthening ties with India, the United States aims to reinforce global security and act as a deterrent against the Chinese Communist Party's aggression across the Indo-Pacific region. Currently, the NATO+5 group comprises all 31 member countries of NATO, along with Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, and South Korea, which have bilateral defense and security treaties with the US.

Unlocking Opportunities for India: NATO Plus Benefits

While India does not have a defense treaty with the US, it holds the unique status of a "Major Defense Partner" with Strategic Trade Authorization 1 (STA-1) category. This designation facilitates license exemption for importing sensitive technology, providing India with certain advantages. Notably, NATO Plus countries enjoy improved access to America's renowned defense industry and cutting-edge technology. Therefore, India's inclusion in this esteemed group would unlock greater opportunities for collaboration and technological advancements, bolstering its defense capabilities.

A Bipartisan Effort to Counter China

The select committee, formed in January with bipartisan support, aims to guide Congress in competing with and countering China. Given the tense relationship between the United States and Beijing, including high-profile incidents such as the Alaska meeting and recent tensions over a spy balloon, the report holds the attention of the White House. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the highest-ranking Democrat on the committee, emphasizes the necessity of strengthening ties with allies and security partners, including India, to ensure victory in the strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party and the security of Taiwan.

Overcoming Obstacles to India's NATO Plus Status

Although discussions surrounding India's NATO Plus status have circulated for years, concrete progress has been elusive. Notably, it advanced significantly once and even cleared the House of Representatives as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. However, it fell short at subsequent stages. Presently, efforts are underway to include India in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2024 as part of the main legislation, increasing its chances of success. Key to this endeavor is the need to garner the support of Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the powerful foreign relations committee, who holds reservations due to India's purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems.

The Quad and Economic Sanctions: Strengthening the Indo-Pacific

The select committee's report emphasizes the significance of economic sanctions in countering Chinese aggression. To maximize their impact, the committee advocates for the involvement of key allies such as the G7, NATO, NATO+5, and Quad members. Coordinating a joint response and publicly broadcasting this united front not only enhances deterrence but also strengthens economic pressure on China. The Quad, with its objective of safeguarding the Indo-Pacific as a free and open region, has gained momentum in recent years. While economic sanctions have not yet been fully coordinated, the Quad member countries have taken steps in that direction, exemplified by their collective decision to block Chinese IT giant Huawei.

Recommendations for Regional Stability and Security

Apart from India's inclusion in NATO Plus, the select committee puts forth several other recommendations to ensure regional stability and security. These include:

  1. Basing longer-range missiles and unmanned vehicles in the Indo-Pacific region.
  2. Strengthening collective planning, with NATO+ playing a crucial role for India.
  3. Enhancing combined training of US and Taiwanese militaries.
  4. Supplying key military systems to Taiwan.
  5. Preparing essential US infrastructure to withstand Chinese cyberattacks.
  6. Equipping Taiwan to handle similar contingencies.
  7. Developing plans for US forces to operate seamlessly with Taiwan.
  8. Strengthening US bases in the Indo-Pacific.
  9. Planning for scenarios in which resupplying Taiwan during a crisis may pose challenges.

These recommendations collectively aim to bolster regional defense capabilities and deter potential Chinese aggression, ensuring peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

As the United States seeks to counter the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party, its focus on strengthening alliances and partnerships becomes increasingly crucial. The proposal to include India in NATO Plus, along with the coordination of economic sanctions through the Quad, signifies a strategic shift aimed at deterring Chinese military aggression. By leveraging India's potential and bolstering regional security, the United States aims to preserve peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in the Taiwan Strait. The recommendations put forth by the bipartisan select committee serve as a blueprint for Congress to navigate the complexities of the US-China strategic competition and safeguard the interests of the United States and its allies.