September 18, 2003


Inherent dangers in an 'Asian NATO' (Stephen Blank, 9/18/03, Asia Times)

During the summer it was revealed that India and the United States were conducting discussions about a potential "Asian NATO", along the lines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Presumably, Washington also was conducting discussions with its other allies in Asia: Japan, Australia and South Korea. But surprisingly little has been reported about what would clearly be a major development in Asian security. We may surmise that this alliance is publicly intended to be against terrorism on a global scale. But the effort to build such an alliance system is bound to raise serious issues, and difficult problems.

For example, India is a strategic partner of the US, but clearly not an ally, at least in any formal sense. If India were to join this Asian NATO, it would mark a sea change in its foreign and defense policies as India has always espoused self-reliance and non-alignment. Nevertheless, major changes may be in the offing. In the "war on terrorism", American forces have access to Indian bases as needed and India has strongly supported the use of Diego Garcia and the base at Trincomalee in Sri Lanka as US bases.

Moreover, India and the US are conducting an expanding number of joint exercises involving all of each nation's military services. These military exercises are part of a larger program of regular high-level contacts and strategic dialogues that also include high-level discussions on missile defenses. Likewise, there are growing indications of US support for substantially greater technology transfer and arms sales to India. These also take the form of support for third party sales, like the imminent formal Israeli announcement of the sale of the Phalcon radar - that resembles AWACS - to India. India also clearly is interested in buying the
jointly produced US-Israeli Arrow missile defense system and the accompanying Green Pine radar system.

Similarly, we still do not know what is meant by the term "Asian NATO". While logic tells us that it goes beyond strategic partnership to a more formalized relationship, there is no clarity about what its target is. It could be international terrorism, the containment of Chinese power, or a cover for an expanding American military presence in Northeast, Southeast and South Asia. [...]

While the overt enemies of this alliance would surely be Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, it would also constitute a potential threat to Pakistan, Iran and China, certainly it could be seen as a new form of containment of China. Thus, any such alliance would have enormous strategic repercussions for the Gulf, Central, South, Southeast and East Asia.

Not only is Mr. Blank just noticing the Axis of Good at this late date, but he seems to have completely missed the point that when you add in Israel, Russia, and a few other US allies, it is the Arab Middle East as much as China that's surrounded. The two remaining evil universalist -isms--Islamicism and Communism--would be contained, just in case push comes to shove.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 18, 2003 9:57 PM

He forgets there already was a NATO there -- the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO), which was formed following the Korean War and lasted until 1977, when it was abandoned by the Carter Administration as part of its general effort to run as far away from Asia as possible after Vietnam and its weak belief that there was any further need to contain Communism (until the Afghan invasion by the Soviets in December 1979).

So long as the nations involved maintain similar goals, there's no reason why SEATO, or whatever they want to call it, can't be restarted.

Posted by: John at September 18, 2003 11:44 PM

Would this require the US to get involved in any future, non-nuclear, Indian-Pakistani war ?
If so, I'm against it.

Further, if Japan and South Korea won't agree to the destruction of North Korea, then I'd like to pull all US forces out of South Korea, at least, and possibly from Japan, as well.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 19, 2003 5:03 AM

No, it would require us to okay India's use of nukes in that war.

Posted by: oj at September 19, 2003 9:11 AM