Något som sällan diskuteras i Sverige i NATO sammanhang är de, främst amerikanska, ambitionerna att förvandla NATO till en Global politisk och militär organisation under amerikansk ledning. För den som är intresserad kan M K Bhadrakumar analys vara värd att läsa.
Indien länkas här in som del i detta nya kalla krig där det handlar om kontroll över handelsvägar och energiresurser. Som Bhadrakumar också skriver finns det från amerikanskt håll ett intresse att bilda en kedja av alliansen med stater som singapor och sri lanka som kan fungera som landbaserade hangarfartyg placerade i strategiska områden.
Här kommer förstås även bildandet av ett särskit amerikanskt kommando för afrika Africom in. Kontrollen över strategiska resurser i afrika och motverkande av kinesiskt och ryskt inflytande följer ju inte långt bort från det som kallas det långa kriget, eller i dagligt tal kriget mot terrorismen. Likadant FN’s alltid tjänstvilliga godkännande av NATO militärposteringar.
A well-planned move
The most far-reaching decision at the Budapest meet was NATO’s decision to establish a naval presence in the Indian Ocean, ostensibly for protecting World Food Program ships carrying relief for famine-stricken Somalia.
Announcing the decision on October 10, a NATO spokesman said, ”The United Nations asked for NATO’s help to address this problem [piracy off Somalia’s coast]. Today, the ministers agreed that NATO should play a role. NATO will have its Standing Naval Maritime Group, which is composed of seven ships, in the region within two weeks.” He added that NATO would work with ”all allies who have ships in the area now”.
By October 15, seven ships from NATO navies had already transited the Suez Canal on their way to the Indian Ocean. En route, they will conduct a series of Persian Gulf port visits to countries neighboring Iran – Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which are NATO’s ”partners” within the framework of the so-called Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. The mission comprises ships from the US, Britain, Germany, Italy, Greece and Turkey.
NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General John Craddock, acknowledged that the mission furthers the alliance’s ambition to become a global political organization. He said, ”The threat of piracy is real and growing in many parts of the world today, and this response is a good illustration of NATO’s ability to adapt quickly to new security challenges.”
Evidently, NATO has been carefully planning its Indian Ocean deployment. The speed with which it dispatched the ships betrays an element of haste, likely anticipating that some among the littoral states in the Indian Ocean region might contest such deployment by a Western military alliance. By acting with lightning speed and without publicity, NATO surely created a fait accompli.
String of coincidences
By any reckoning, NATO’s naval deployment in the Indian Ocean region is a historic move and a milestone in the alliance’s transformation. Even at the height of the Cold War, the alliance didn’t have a presence in the Indian Ocean. Such deployments almost always tend to be open-ended.
In retrospect, the first-ever visit by a NATO naval force in mid-September last year to the Indian Ocean was a full-dress rehearsal to this end. Brussels said at that time, ”The aim of the mission is to demonstrate NATO’s capability to uphold security and international law on the high seas and build links with regional navies.” In 2007, a NATO naval force visited Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and Somalia and conducted exercises in the Indian Ocean and then re-entered the Mediterranean via the Red Sea in end-September.
The NATO deployment has already had some curious fallout. In an interesting coincidence, on October 16, just as the NATO force was reaching the Persian Gulf, an Indian Defense Ministry spokesman announced in New Delhi, ”The [Indian] government today approved deployment of an Indian naval warship in the Gulf of Aden to patrol the normal route followed by Indian-flagged ships during passage between Salalah in Oman and Aden in Yemen. ”The patrolling is commencing immediately.”
The timing seems deliberate. Media reports indicated that the government had been working on this decision for several months. Like NATO, Delhi also acted fast when the time came, and an Indian ship has already set sail. Delhi initially briefed the media that the deployment came in the wake of an incident of Somali pirates hijacking a Japanese-owned merchant vessel on August 15, which had 18 Indians on board. But later, it backtracked and gave a broader connotation, saying, ”However, the current decision to patrol African waters is not directly related [to the incident in August].”
The Indian statement said, ”The presence of an Indian navy warship in this area will be significant as the Gulf of Aden is a major strategic choke point in the Indian Ocean region and provides access to the Suez Canal through which a sizeable portion of India’s trade flows.”
Indian officials said the warship would work in cooperation with the Western navies deployed in the region and would be supplemented with a larger force if need and that it would be well equipped. But Delhi obfuscated the fact that the Western deployment will be under the NATO flag and any cooperation with the Western navies will involve the Western alliance. Given the traditional Indian policy to steer clear of military blocs, Delhi is understandably sensitive.
Clearly, the Indian warship will eventually have to work in tandem with the NATO naval force. This will be the first time that the Indian armed forces will be working shoulder-to-shoulder with NATO forces in actual operations in territorial or international waters.
The operations hold the potential to shift India’s ties with NATO to a qualitatively new level. The US has been encouraging India to forge ties with NATO as well as play a bigger role in maritime security affairs. The two countries have a bilateral protocol relating to cooperation in maritime security, which was signed in 2006. It says at the outset, ”Consistent with their global strategic partnership and the new framework for their defense relationship, India and the United States committed themselves to comprehensive cooperation in ensuring a secure maritime domain. In doing so, they pledged to work together, and with other regional partners as necessary.”