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Congressional report hails India as 'indispensable US partner'

By Lalit K Jha
November 04, 2010 13:34 IST
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India, a nascent great power, is an indispensable partner of the United States and a potential counterweight to China, a Congressional report has said ahead of the visit of US President Barack Obama to India.

"Long considered a strategic backwater from Washington's perspective, South Asia emerged in the 21st century as increasingly vital to core US foreign policy interests. India, the region's dominant actor with more than one billion citizens, is often characterised as a nascent great power and 'indispensable partner' of the United States, one that many analysts view as a potential counterweight to China's growing clout," the Congressional Research Service said.

In its latest report to the Congress on India, the CRS said the Obama administration seeks to build upon the deepened US engagement with India begun by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and expanded upon during much of the past decade under President George W Bush. CRS is the independent bipartisan research wing of the US Congress, which prepares reports on various issues of interest for lawmakers.

A copy of the CRS report 'India-US Relations' dated October 27 has been obtained by PTI. "Many analysts view the US-India relationship as being among the worlds most important in coming decades and see potentially large benefits to be accrued through engagement on many convergent interests," the report said.

The CRS said with the lifting of Cold War geopolitical constraints and the near-simultaneous opening of India's economy in the early 1990s, the world's largest democracy has emerged as an increasingly important player on the global stage. India dominates the geography of the now strategically vital South Asia region, and its vibrant economy, military power, pluralist society, and cultural influence have made the country a key focus of US foreign policy attention in the 21st century.

This attention is to no small degree motivated by China's longer-standing and more rapid rise, with many analysts viewing US and Indian geopolitical interests as convergent on many fronts, perhaps especially in the area of Asian power balances.

Ex-president George W Bush is credited with building on a new engagement launched by President Bill Clinton in 2000, and for more than six years the US and Indian governments have been seeking to create and sustain a substantive 'strategic partnership', even as bilateral business and people-to-people contacts are flourishing, it said.

"While US-India engagement under the Obama administration has not (to date) realised any groundbreaking initiatives as was the case under the Bush administration, it may be that the apparently growing dominance of ordinariness in the relationship is a hidden strength that demonstrates its maturing into diplomatic normalcy," the report said.

"In this way, the nascent partnership may yet transform into a special relationship similar to those the United States has with Britain, Australia, and Japan, as is envisaged by some proponents of deeper US-India ties," CRS said.

As Obama heads towards India, an array of prickly bilateral issues confronts him, including differences over the proper regional roles to be played by China and Pakistan; the status of conflict in Afghanistan; international efforts to address Iran's controversial nuclear programme; restrictions on high-technology exports to India, outsourcing, and sticking points on the conclusion of arrangements for both civil nuclear and defence cooperation, among others.

"Moreover, while Indian officials will present a long list of demands to their American interlocutors, they come under fire for paying insufficient attention to American interests and concerns, and for not recognising the sometimes serious costs of appearing insensitive to same," the CRS said.

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