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India-US Ties: One Year Later
July 18, 2006
K Subrahmanyam, the doyen of Indian strategic affairs thinkers, assesses India-US relations a year after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington, DC
A year has passed since the signing of the Joint Statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United States President George W Bush.
If it had been a routine Joint Statement between two heads of governments there would have been no need to review the progress achieved on it.
It was not a routine statement, but the beginning of a global effort led by the US to reshape the international order by incorporating India into the emerging balance of power comprising the US, European Union, China, Russia, Japan and India.
It is claimed by the French that President Jacques Chirac took the initiative and urged President Bush to move in the matter.
In the latest communiqu� from St Petersburg, Russian President Putin and Bush have jointly welcomed India joining the mainstream non-proliferation regime.
Russia was able to supply the enriched uranium fuel for Tarapur only after Bush's visit to Delhi and reconfirmation of the India-US nuclear deal. The July 18 Joint Statement was followed by a perceptible enhancement in India's relationship with the European Union and an improvement of ties with China and Japan.
The quality of Russia's partnership was demonstrated by the Tarapur enriched uranium supply. Most members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group have already indicated their approval of the exclusion of India from the Non Proliferation Treaty. It is hoped the few who are yet to be convinced about India's case will be persuaded before long.
This is a new globalised world. Gone are the days of the Cold War and ideological adversarial confrontation.
Russia is presiding over the G8 group of advanced industrial powers comprising the US, Canada, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Japan and Russia.
With the rise in oil prices and the further increase in Russian oil and gas production, Russia is emerging as a major oil supplier and is about to equal Saudi Arabia.
China and India as fast growing nations are special invitees to the G8.
This international system is totally different from the world of adversarial bipolarity. In this world, major powers are not preparing for war but are competing in peace.
Knowledge is the currency of power in this century and not missiles and nuclear weapons. The major nations are fully aware of the consequences of a nuclear war and consequently the probability of a war among the major powers is rapidly declining.
Unfortunately, large sections of people in the US, India and elsewhere are yet to fully understand these revolutionary changes in the international system.
The centre of gravity of economic activity is shifting from the trans-Atlantic area to Asia. Four out of six balancers -- China, Japan, Russia and India -- are in Asia.
China and India are growing fast and are expected to be among the top five markets of the world. China is expected to overtake the US in terms of Gross Domestic Product in terms of purchasing power price in the next three or four decades.
All major powers are interested in having a balance of power in Asia. Even Russia, linked with China in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, would prefer a balance of power in Asia. To have such an Asian balance of power it is essential that India becomes a major world-class power.
Simultaneously there is also a move led by the US and Russia to spread safe proliferation-proof nuclear energy to reduce the pressure on increasing energy demands by way of hydrocarbons and coal.
The increased international consciousness about avoiding greenhouse gas-emitting energy generation has led to proposals for the international research and production of safe nuclear power and clean coal energy. The US hopes to cash in on these new energy technologies.
The US aims to sustain its preeminence as the foremost military, economic, technological, agricultural and cultural power.
But the US leadership is not going to use the obsolete strategy of containment to maintain its preeminence over its rival, China. It is going to use knowledge as a currency of power, and apart from leadership in technology it is also trying to gain access to the last economic frontier -- a partnership with the untapped potential of the Indian market and exploiting Indian brain power to mutual advantage.
Quite a few US Senators and Congressmen have understood this new strategy and emphasised the importance of the partnership with India while marking up the bills on India-US nuclear cooperation in the House and Senate Committees.
But a large number still dominated by Cold War philosophy and 20th century conventional wisdom have brought up antediluvian considerations in the sections in the draft bills on the 'Sense of the Congress' and 'US Policy'.
Similarly in India, the Cold War mindset is still widespread. Some people look at the world as a potential US-China bipolar system. Therefore in their view, India is being seduced to join a future anti-China alliance. Some others are persuaded that the US is trying to cap India's strategic arsenal, strangle India's nuclear R&D and dominate Indian foreign policy.
The future course of developments in Indo-US relations as well as India's relations with other major powers will depend upon which of these two paradigms -- the one of balance of power, with peaceful competition and knowledge as the currency of power, or the one of adversarial bipolarity, with military power being the determinant currency of domination -- turns out to be the emergent one.
The US has been resilient in its strategy. Its adoption of (American advisor, diplomat, political scientist, and historian, best known as 'the father of containment' ) George Kennan's containment strategy was a stroke of genius. So was its opening to China and subsequent destruction of communism. What is happening today is a similar demonstration of the United States' resilience to sustain its own preeminence in the world.
Those who look at the developments in Indo-US relations in terms of out-of-date adversarial Cold War paradigms underrate the United States' strategic ingenuity and its flexibility to adapt its strategy to the fast-changing world.
Surely India too has to adapt itself to the changing world and derive as much benefit out of it as possible. But then there are fundamentalists in politico-strategic perspectives as there are in religion. They refuse to acknowledge that change is the law of life and that those who refuse to adapt themselves to changes will pay a heavy price.
In the last one year the process of enhancement in Indo-US relations has made steady progress and it is now poised to reach full fruition in the course of this year, in spite of resistance from American and Indian ayatollahs.
By the end of 2007, one can hope to see India significantly integrated in the international community and break out of the technological and economic apartheid which it had been subjected to over the last 30 years.