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US Senate Resolution on Arunachal Pradesh: A Goodwill Gesture or an Ice Breaker?

Days before the New Delhi visit of the US Congressional Delegation led by the Majority House Leader Chuck Schumer, the US Senate passed a resolution on Arunachal Pradesh in favour of India and condemning the actions of the People's Republic of China (PRC) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). This bipartisan resolution was introduced by Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon and Republican Senator Bill Hagerty, clearly indicating the interests of the US Department of State. This resolution is one of the iconic moments in Indo-US relations under the present US administration. Through this resolution, the US Senate extends its unwavering support to India in its efforts to protect its sovereignty across the Himalayas. A closer examination of the resolution, however, reveals that it is not merely a goodwill gesture to India, but rather a concerted effort to knit India closer to US foreign policy efforts. 

Senate Resolution 75: An Overview

The 75th Resolution in the 1st session of the 118th Congress starts by reaffirming Arunachal Pradesh as an Indian territory and condemning provocations made by the PRC. The resolution's condemnation of Chinese provocations includes opposition to the PRC Ministry of Civil Affairs' cartographic efforts to declare Arunachal Pradesh as Chinese territory, as well as the ensuing skirmishes along the LAC in recent years. Furthermore, the US Senate extends its support to the Kingdom of Bhutan against the growing Chinese incursions in the eastern sector.

In addition to that, the US Senate acknowledges the importance of Arunachal Pradesh to the Buddhist community and condemns the action of the PRC in raising diplomatic red flags on the incumbent Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. The resolution also accuses the PRC of impeding poverty-alleviation efforts and sabotaging collaboration with international donors by scripting the perception of disputed territory about Arunachal Pradesh. Later in the resolution, India is praised for its development efforts in Arunachal Pradesh, as well as its promising role in the international arena, particularly through its G20 presidency. Evidently, the first half of the resolution is full of irk factors for PRC and is in support of Indian efforts against Chinese aggression.

The second half of the 6-page resolution unfolds into a more constructive tool as it invokes the US vision of cooperating with India. It explicitly states the US interest to work with India through a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership bilaterally and to cooperate multilaterally through platforms like QUAD, I2U2 etc. The resolution also applauds India's efforts to defend itself against Chinese aggression, as well as its cooperation with Taiwan in many sectors, which shares similar Chinese aggression in its neighbourhood.

Then the resolution extends its support to a free and open Indo-Pacific and commends India’s military modernization and "its diversification away from countries that fail to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other nations," clearly indicating the decreasing dependence of India on Russia. The resolution then assures its commitment to dedicating economic and diplomatic support to India in the development of Arunachal Pradesh. Furthermore, the resolution concludes by looking into potential avenues for defence cooperation, specifically "through defence interoperability and information sharing." 

What’s in it for India?

While this resolution serves many US interests in its foreign engagements in the Indo-Pacific, it is also relevant for India, as it may serve as an icebreaker for India and the Democratic-led US administration, which is on the wrong foot when it comes to the Himalayan territorial disputes. The focus of the meeting with the Indian leadership and the all-democratic congressional delegation mirrored the verticals of cooperation mentioned in the US Senate’s resolution. This resolution just ratified the United States’ position over Arunachal Pradesh, and it will be reiterated on all international platforms, especially in countering the cartographic measures taken by the PRC to mandarinize Arunachal Pradesh and its specifics on international platforms.

This is arguably based on US interests in securing the Indo-Pacific and making India a key player in it. However, this resolution exhibits the demanding nature of US foreign policy by indirectly trying to coerce India’s choices in military purchases and its position in the international realm. Another notable drawback of the resolution is that the options for the military support mentioned in it are limited and will be inadequate for succouring India.

Even so, this resolution provides a great advantage for India diplomatically and strategically, it assures the US support at least on international platforms. Moreover, most nodes of possible cooperation between India and the US that are mentioned in the bill are focused on the Indo-Pacific, especially when it comes to countering Chinese aggression. This makes Resolution 75 a potential icebreaker for the process of securitizing the Indo-Pacific, with the US and India as partnering stakeholders.


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