INDIA-US TANGO: PART-TIME LOVERS!
BY DR. A. ADITYANJEE
The third India-US strategic dialogue finished this month in Washington, DC generating a multi-dimensional array of bilateral cooperation agreements, favorable atmospherics and genuine mutual understanding. Described in the heady days of of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, as the natural allies, the relationship has had its checkered course. The optics of bilateral relationship have never been so good!
Historically, India’s episodic romance with the USA started even before it got her truncated independence from the British imperialism in 1947. Indian freedom fighters started the Gadhar movement based in the USA during colonial times. The members of India’s constituent assembly did incorporate some features of the US constitution while framing the Indian constitution while adopting a quasi-federal set-up. Despite adopting a Westminster style of parliamentary democracy, the framers of Indian constitution, opted for an indirectly elected President chosen by an electoral college, more akin to the US presidential elections.
Traditionally, a proponent of non-alignment, India had close ties with the former Soviet Union and now with Russia. India’s ties with the US soured during the Cold War era owing to the US strategic myopia and intransigence when John Foster Dulles described non-alignment as “immoral”. US lost an opportunity to engage India in the fifties and sixties by invoking the cold-war calculus. India as a nation cherishes her strategic autonomy and independence. The consternation in the US strategic community about India not awarding US companies the $12 billion MMRFA contract was understandable. Indo-US civil nuclear energy deal is still having trouble getting started simply because India still remembers the Bhopal gas tragedy. India, under any government will not be a junior partner in any strategic or military alliance with any super-power, be it the now defunct Soviet Union, Russia, US or China. An “argumentative India” can never accept and identify with “You are either with us or against us” mentality. India has never shied away from bluntly speaking the inconvenient truths to the Government of the US on so many occasions and that rankles the US state department officials! There are no zero-sum games in international geopolitical discourse. Balancing China is the main reason for US strategic pivot to the Asia. Despite having serous concerns about China’s hegemonic ambitions and actions in Asia, India will not gang against China by allying with the US.
The future of India-US relationship is good, indeed, excellent as long as we do not have high hopes for the moon. We, the two nations and two peoples, are extremely fascinated by each other’s popular culture. Indian students are the largest contingent in the US universities, so are the Indian doctors in US healthcare industry. The number of American students in Indian universities is steadily increasing while Indian owned high tech companies invest monies and produce jobs in the local US economy. People to people contacts are an important driving force behind the bilateral relationship while business to business contacts (CEO forum) are increasing. Variously dubbed as natural allies, frineds or strategic partners, the two nations are forging a long road to mutual understanding, international peace and prosperity.
We do share some strategic goals but not all. Our tactical relationship will continue to have ups and downs. Despite sharing democratic and pluralistic values, our strategic goals are at variance with each others owing to different geographies. Whether it is the issue of Af-Pak or Iran, whether it is NPT or CTBT, whether it is FMCT or MTCR, we do not see eye to eye with each other. The US has concerns about Iran’s proliferation activities, India for decades was dismayed to see US, benevolently ignoring Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear program abetted by China and funded by Saudi Arabia, while the US itself continued to shower dollars on Pakistan’s military-intelligence-terrorism establishment without batting an eyelid. While India has border issues with China, India votes along with China and other BASIC group of countries on the issue of climate change and global warming. While President Obama virtually conceded G2 partner status to China in the beginning of his administration India was gravely alarmed. India, now, shares US concerns about China’s neo-colonial stance to deny access to sea lanes in the South China Sea. Let us have a mature strategic relationship with mutual understanding without throwing “hissy fits” whenever India chooses to vote against US position in the UN general assembly or any other international forum. In the words of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, India has to be pro-India and not pro-US, not pro-Russia and not pro-China!
Here one remembers the famous pop number by Stevie Wonder from his 1985 album “In Square Circle”. India and the US are destined to be part-time lovers. Nothing more, nothing less. The sooner both countries realize it, the better it would be for the geopolitics.
Dr. Adityanjee is the President of the Council for Strategic Affairs, New Delhi, India and can be contacted at the following Email: Adityancsa@gmail.com