President Donald Trump has removed altogether if there were ever a veneer of ambiguity as far his views on China and Russia are concerned.
His strategy accuses the Chinese of stealing US intellectual property every year valued at “hundreds of billions of dollars” and calls for tightening of visa procedures to “reduce economic theft by non-traditional intelligence collectors,” which, presumably, is a reference to over 300,000 Chinese students studying at various US universities.
It speaks of China “building the most capable and well-funded military in the world, after our own”, including a “diversifying” nuclear arsenal, according to the document, which goes on to warn that Chinese land reclamation projects and militarisation of the South China Seas flouts international law, threatens the free flow of trade, and undermines stability.
As pointed out by Peter Bergen on CNN.Com issues such as climate change and radical Islamic terrorism are clearly missing from the Trump strategy. The identification of China and Russia as biggest threats and absence of approach on Islamic terrorism invariably raise doubts as to what does the Trump administration actually want. The elevation of India in this strategy is likely to cause more alarm in Islamabad, Beijing and Moscow.
Big question facing the region now is: How will this strategy translate now? Will China in particular offer a diplomatic response to this harsh commentary on its foreign and military policy? And how will it go down in Pakistan, which is already wary of the growing geo-political Indo-US confluence on the region?