The US has moved to further isolate China by deepening its relationship with regional rival India.

A broad-ranging collaboration between the two countries was announced yesterday under the banner of ‘the initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET)’. It’s actually an expansion of that initiative, which was first unveiled in May of last year. The nature of this tech collaboration was revealed by the fact that the inaugural meeting of iCET was led by national security advisors from each country.

China isn’t named in the fact sheet issued by the White House, but frequent use of coded phrases like ‘democratic values’ leave little doubt over what this is all about. India has managed to largely sit on the fence when it comes to the latest iterations of the Great Game, so it’s fair to regard this declaration of mutual regard as a significant win for the US and its allies in their bid to isolate and suppress China.

“Its economic practices, its aggressive military moves, its efforts to dominate the industries of the future and to control the supply chains of the future, have had a profound impact on the thinking in Delhi,” said US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, in reference to China, as reported by the FT. “This is another big foundational piece of an overall strategy to put the entire democratic world in the Indo-Pacific in a position of strength.”

The telecoms industry is directly addressed in the agreement, with talk of ‘Advancing cooperation on research and development in 5G and 6G, facilitating deployment and adoption of Open RAN in India, and fostering global economies of scale within the sector.’ That feels like code for trying to make sure Indian operators don’t use Chinese kit and comes hot on the heels of reports that the US is ramping up its hostilities against Huawei.

Chips, space and defence are all covered too in a move that the US apparently hopes will make India less reliant on Russia for weapons and give the US more non-Chinese supply chain options. This uncharacteristically calm and balanced op-ed by the Chinese government-controlled Global Times suggests the CCP doesn’t think this development is such a big deal, but it definitely represents another incremental win for the US in the region.

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