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Home > News > Columnists > Armeane Choksi and Manish Thakur

America, India and their role in global security

April 11, 2007

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This column begins at a time of slow but irreversible change in the global order. Today, the United States stands as a global colossus -- economically, militarily, and culturally. Yet even at this moment of unparalleled influence, the unipolar Pax Americana that emerged from the end of the Cold War is slowly being replaced by a multipolar global order. This process may be slow, but it is inevitable.

With the rise of Asian powers like China and India reclaiming their historic place in the world economy, and as Europe integrates into a single economic bloc, the US will be forced to fundamentally re-think the very foundation of its foreign alliances that have served it so well during the Cold War. Similarly, the world will need to re-imagine its global institutions such as the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which were designed for a world order that no longer exists.

More immediate than these longer-term shifts in world power are the threat of global terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and the looming environmental degradation � that already pose a clear and present danger to our way of life.

It is because of these challenges, both near-term and long-term, that this column argues America must reach out for new allies, and that its focus must expand from Europe to Asia.

India AbroadToday Asia is home to half the world's population, and is witnessing dramatic economic growth. It also contains the world's most explosive conflicts. The arc of instability now stretches from the Middle East to North Korea. An America that is no longer the only truly global power should reach out to rising nations of Asia to secure not only its own interests but also to maintain global peace and security.

Within Asia, it is specifically to India that America should turn its focus.

Bound by common values of democracy and secularism, and challenged by the same forces of terrorism and fundamentalism, America and India are moving towards a remarkable congruence of interests, and importantly, pose no strategic threat to each other. Furthermore, both countries must recognise and accommodate the rise of China, arguably the biggest global political dislocation since the rise of the US itself.

It is hoped that China's rise will be peaceful and benevolent, but we cannot pretend to ignore it could also pose profound challenges to both countries. Such challenges may occur not only in terms of economic interests, but also in terms of core values such as democracy and the rule of law. As the world's largest democracies, a US-India security partnership will be vital to global security and stability as the world's balance of power moves from Europe to Asia.

We do not limit ourselves to advocating for a stronger US-India relationship in isolation. Our intention is to examine and explore all world events from the perspective of this nascent relationship, in the belief that a US-India partnership will serve as the foundation of a new global security paradigm.

This is not an argument for an expansion of NATO into Asia, particularly given Asia's colonial history. Nor do we argue that a 'European NATO' should be replaced by an Asian kind.

Europe is still important. But the days are gone when the free world was challenged by one single enemy as during the Cold War, with Europe serving on its front lines. Any new security understanding needs to be global in scope, and flexible enough to be able to respond to a myriad challenges, hence making the one-for-all formal alliance embodied in NATO impractical in the future.

Countries may respond differently to different threats, and the nature of cooperation should not be limited to a narrow definition of security. An example of the kind of global security cooperation that we will see more of in the future, occurred after the Asian tsunami, when the US, Indian, Japanese and Australian navies jointly coordinated a rapid relief effort until the United Nations was able to take over its responsibilities.

We believe global challenges require global solutions and that, ultimately, countries sharing the same values and challenged by the same threats will come together to ensure their common security. Accordingly, democracies across the world should be encouraged to contribute to such a globalised security understanding.

However, we believe it is the US-India partnership that must be at the core of any future global security structure. India, alone among the democracies of Eurasia, is continental in size, and has the potential to project a military force that can truly work in partnership with the US.

This piece is written unashamedly from an American point of view. Yet this column is not designed to be an intellectual exercise in strategic relations among Washington think tanks. Rather, it serves as a strong advocate for a US-India strategic partnership, in the firm conviction that such a partnership is critical for US long-term interests, and the foundation for a future global security paradigm. The inherent advantage to American and Indian interests makes such a partnership inevitable.

Armeane Choksi and Manish Thakur are president and executive director, respectively, of the US-India Institute,  a Washington-based think tank that promotes a lasting alliance between the US and India. They are also both managing partners of Hudson Fairfax Group, an investment firm focused on India.

The views expressed in this column represent the views and opinions of the individual authors and do not represent the position of the US-India Institute.

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