“International politics, like all politics, is a struggle for power”, says Hans Morgenthau. In this struggle for power, states are either impelled to act alone or obliged to form alliances to achieve common objectives. In the quest for power in Asia, the United States and India have embraced each other in a strategic relationship that officials on both sides consider to be a natural alliance. The USA regards India as the regional counterbalance to China. It needs India’s support to implement its containment strategy against Beijing’s expanding geopolitical influence. A legal framework to facilitate the US in patrolling the Indian Ocean, and threaten the Chinese with a disruption of their oceanic trade already exists between New Delhi and Washington in the form of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). The agreement allows the United States to use Indian military facilities and harbours for operational support. Moreover, the United States also seeks India’s cooperation in Afghanistan, as Pakistan appears reluctant to act on America’s whims. On its part, India expects to draw on its alliance with America to ward off international pressure for its violations of human rights in Kashmir and evade calls for a peaceful solution to the dispute. Moreover, by partnering with the United States, India hopes to strengthen its position in Afghanistan and use the country as a permanent launch pad for terrorism in Pakistan. In essence, New Delhi seeks to realize its ambition of becoming the dominant power in the region through strong strategic ties with the US. India is the only regional country opposed to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Both countries, undoubtedly harbour evil designs against BRI’s flagship project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and would go to any extent to sabotage it. However, despite the claims on both sides, India’s alliance with the United States is not without its costs and certainly not as natural as it has been called. Firstly, the prospects for India to serve as a strong American ally in Afghanistan are bleak. New Delhi does not possess the kind of religious and cultural bond that Pakistan shares with the Afghans, especially with the Pashtuns who are the ethnic majority in the country. Unlike India, Pakistan also shares a long border with Afghanistan and provides NATO the essential supply route for its operations. India can at best serve only as a bargaining chip for the United States to coerce Pakistan on strategic issues. India is the only regional country opposed to China’s Belt and Road Initiative and they, along with the US, undoubtedly harbour evil designs against BRI’s flagship project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and would go to any extent to sabotage it India’s large Muslim population will also be a bottleneck in its relationship with America. The Muslims already feel alienated because of PM Modi’sHindutva mandate. Given their hatred for American interference in the internal affairs of Muslim countries, it is highly likely that India’s embrace of the United States will not bode well for them. Therefore, New Delhi will lack domestic support for its alliance with the United States. This alliance will also undermine India’s relationship with Russia. In fact, already as the warmth in relations between India and America has increased, the ice in Pak-Russia relations has begun to melt. Moscow and Islamabad have shown intent to stabilize their relationship in the wake of the emerging strategic partnership between New Delhi and Washington. Moreover, India’s relations with Iran will also be affected by its embrace of USA. India has invested heavily in Iran. It has financed the construction of the Chabahar Port. Tehran’s cooperation is vital, not only for India’s nefarious designs in Afghanistan, but also for land-based access to Central Asian markets. However, Donald Trump’s decision to sanction Iran puts India in a difficult situation. New Delhi will be hard-pressed to balance relations between the two countries, particularly as the United States would force India to toe this delicate line. Meanwhile, Tehran has also responded to the Indo-US alliance with the intent to strengthen ties with Pakistan and China. It has expressed its desire to become part of CPEC. Therefore, in the long run, astrategic alliance with the United States is likely to cause India’s diplomatic isolation in the region. The possibility of disrupting Chinese seaborne trade through the blockade of Strait of Malacca will be an underestimation of Chinese resolve and military strength. In fact, it is an unlikely scenario, unless the United States is prepared to up the ante in its rivalry with China to the extent of going to war. As far as India is concerned, it is less likely to risk the madness of a war with China. Therefore, the US is unlikely to achieve the desired containment of China through a strategic partnership with India. Finally, it is imperative to note that American support for India will remain limited to the containment of China. India’s ambition to become the regional hegemon will never be entertained. In fact, the United States would keep the region divided by pitting one state against the other, in order to maintain its own supremacy- a clever game plan based on the precept of ‘divide and rule’. However, it remains to be seen how well the, so-called natural allies, are prepared to play this game. The writer is an independent researcher in public policy and international relations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, August 18th 2018.