India-US Relations: Future Trajectory
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Issue Vol 24.4 Oct-Dec2009 | Date : 16 Dec , 2011

What then can be the nature of the partnership between a global power and, at best, a regional power? Can it be a true strategic partnership? If yes, what would be the content and the geographic scope of such a partnership? If it is issue based, covering the common challenges confronting the international community, is there a community of interest specifically between India and the US that transcends India’s status as a developing country and that of the US as the most industrialized one?

Pakistans strategic ambitions threaten Afghanistans independence. Its source of influence in Afghanistan is the very forces whose extremist ideology needs to be defeated. The success of the Taliban in Afghanistan will entrench this ideology even deeper in the region and its baleful influence will be felt in Central Asia, India and even Pakistan itself.

On most strategic issues, Indian and US positions remain apart. At the bilateral level, the nuclear deal and US championing of the NSG waiver constituted a breakthrough on a highly sensitive strategic issue, but because the deal got embroiled in serious domestic political controversy in India and, in the eyes of many, was overlaid with several non-proliferation conditions that put constraints on India’s freedom of action in the future, it has not foreclosed all problems. Already there is concern in India about President Obama’s renewed emphasis on non-proliferation issues and how this might affect the nuclear relationship between the two countries.

The logic of Obama’s initiatives goes in the direction of difficulties with India, and the challenge is to have the exception made for India constantly underwritten by the US as it pursues its non-proliferation goals. The Prime Minister has already felt it necessary to state that these goals notwithstanding, the US has assured him that it is committed to the implementation of the nuclear deal in toto. However, our underlying concern was expressed in our official reaction to the September 24 Security Council Resolution on universalizing the NPT, that Obama himself godfathered, in language reminiscent of the era of non-proliferation polemics between us and the rest of the world.

The Prime Minister’s own speech on September 29 in New Delhi at the International Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy was in part a polite rejoinder to the thrust of the latest US initiative in the Security Council. These US initiatives are coming at a time when India’s exceptional status has not been sufficiently consolidated internationally and even the bilateral agenda with the US is unfinished.

Steady progress in defence ties can be expected, despite the complexities of US laws. The armed services of the two countries are holding major military exercises on land, air and the sea, though the Indian Navy has reportedly been denied permission at the last minute to participate in a planned trilateral amphibious exercise with the US and Japanese navies at Okinawa, presumably with China’s sensitivities in mind. The US eyes a share of the very sizeable Indian defense market as a trust dividend from the nuclear deal.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Kanwal Sibal

is the former Indian Foreign Secretary. He was India’s Ambassador to Turkey, Egypt, France and Russia.

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