Thursday, June 27, 2013

Perspectives on the Kerry Visit and US-India Ties

Secretary of State John Kerry's visit has led to a good number of assessments of the state of US-India ties.  Now that I have posted my views (rather, my essay in the Economic Times), its time to post some of the other perspectives.  Several analysts who are sympathetic to improved US-India ties acknowledge that the relationship is not where it should be.  C. Raja Mohan calls on the Prime Minister to do what he did in his first term, to rely on his own judgement, in order to improve the ties:
". . . sections of the Indian establishment have deliberately sought to create some political distance between Delhi and Washington and sell discredited ideas from the Cold War past as great strategic insights. Singh nearly bought the crazy proposition that a bird in the hand was worth a lot less than two in the bush. The belief in Delhi that going slow with America might convince China to offer India a boundary deal now stands discredited, thanks to the Chinese military intrusion into Ladakh during April-May.Singh must rely on common sense rather than the overly clever theories that have derailed India's diplomacy in the second tenure of the UPA."

K. Shankar Bajpai pointed out in the Hindu that the general "impression is now widespread that India-America relations are on a plateau, if not in the doldrums."  As he often has, he calls for greater realism and less emotions in foreign policy:
"But our strength is surely the best hope of preventing any eruptions, and some states see their interests served by a strong India, and are willing to help us become so. Nobody does such things for ‘friendship,’ much less because we are so great or good that they ought to help — as, unfortunately, too many of us fondly imagine. Mutual benefit, so entrenched in our Panchsheel, means mutual trade-offs."
 Pushing back against the dominant view in New Delhi that Kerry is more sympathetic to Pakistan, Sanjaya Baru in the Indian Express points to the critical role that Kerry played in kick-starting the US-India nuclear deal in early 2008.  Some interesting insider details here that should not be missed:
"That conversation between Singh and Kerry turned the tide for the nuclear deal. Between September 2007, when Congress party president Sonia Gandhi urged the PM to place the nuclear deal in cold storage rather than risk losing the support of the Left Front, and February 2008, the negotiations with the US were moving on a treadmill. All motion but no movement forward.
Kerry set the PM thinking. It was then decided that a public debate would be re-ignited to enable the PM to revive the project. The first shot was fired by Subrahmanyam. He wrote a column that India Abroad News Service (IANS) put out on March 16, 2008, titled, "Will the n-deal finally go ahead?" This column revived the public debate and forced the pace of events within government, resulting finally in the completion of the deal and the approval of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), literally days before the end of Bush's term."
 Tanvi Madan of Brookings also has an nice essay in the Indian Express on looking towards the future and not letting current troubles come in the way of better long-term ties.  Indrani Bagchi also calls for looking for a 'next big thing' in US-India ties.

On the other side, the Hindu editorialized caution:
"While it is tempting to see a certain degree of strategic congruence between the two countries here, the reality is more complex. If the rise of China has the potential to destabilise the region, so does the Obama administration’s ‘Asia pivot’. Rather than divisiveness and containment, Asia needs a strategic architecture that is inclusive and open. Mr. Kerry should not be left in any doubt about the fact that this is what is best for India."

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