India should refuse America’s ‘NATO Plus’ bait – on India, China and USA’s NATO Plus | 4 July 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about

  • It analyses the upsides and downsides of India joining the US-led NATO Plus.


  • GS2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests;
  • Essay;
  • Prelims


  • The West and the US want India to join NATO. However, they realised that India would not join NATO given India’s relationship with Russia.
  • Thus the USA is now pursuing India to join NATO Plus.

What is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)?

  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a military alliance established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) of April 1949, by the United States, Canada, and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union.
  • At present, it has 31 members.
  • Principle of collective security: Article 5 of the treaty states that if an armed attack occurs against one of the member states, it should be considered an attack against all members, and other members shall assist the attacked member, with armed forces if necessary.

Is NATO’s relevance declining?

  • After the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, many thought that NATO would lose its relevance.
  • On the contrary, NATO has not only survived but also expanded, with Finland joining as its 31st member (April 2023), and Sweden waiting in the wings.
  • NATO appears to be getting the much-needed ground for survival, thanks to Russia’s tirade against it and the invasion of Ukraine.
  • With NATO swelling its expanse, some analysts even see the onset of Cold War 2.0.

What is NATO Plus?

  • “NATO plus” refers to a security arrangement of NATO and the five treaty allies of the U.S. — Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, and South Korea as members.
  • Its objectives are to enhance “global defence cooperation” and win the “strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party”.
  • The term ‘NATO Plus’ is not an officially recognised or established concept within NATO itself but has been used in discussions and debates regarding the potential expansion of the alliance.

Why does the US want India to join either NATO or NATO Plus?

  • While NATO’s earlier target was the Soviet Union and now Russia, the focus of NATO Plus is clearly on containing China.
  • Therefore, considering its disputes with China, India remains a missing link in the framework.

Positives for India joining either NATO or NATO Plus:

  • It will provide India with a security umbrella, with protection and deterrence against potential threats.
  • India will gain access to advanced military technologies, intelligence-sharing platforms, and interoperability with other member-states.
  • Strengthening of India’s defence capabilities and modernisation efforts.

Negatives of joining either NATO or NATO Plus:

  • Relationship with Russia will be negatively affected:
    • Apart from the robust strategic partnership, Russia has been useful to India in dealing with regional security challenges and, importantly, moderating the stance of China.
  • China factor:
    • Joining NATO’s military framework will limit India’s freedom of action and prevent it from pursuing an independent policy towards China.
    • This is against India's policy that bilateral issues should be resolved by countries themselves with dialogues.
    • Moreover, India will find herself in a dilemma over the Taiwan issue.
  • Loss of India’s strategic autonomy and death of the strategy of NAM:
    • Joining a NATO framework would require India to align its defence and security policies with the objectives and strategies of the alliance, thereby potentially undermining India’s autonomy.
    • Also joining will result in the death of India’s non-aligned policy.

Way Forward:

  • India’s priorities lie in addressing its own regional dynamics that include a unique set of security challenges such as border disputes, terrorism, and regional conflicts.
  • While NATO has certain competencies to deal with such issues, its larger geopolitical agenda starting from Eurasia to the Indo-Pacific may divert resources and attention away from these pressing issues and, therefore, will not be of much help to India.
  • For the time being, India’s posturing through the Quad (India, Japan, Australia and the U.S.; the Asian NATO as per China) looks more promising than the NATO Plus bait, though China remains an elephant in the room during its summits.

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