Monday, May 12, 2008

Not Misreading India

As readers of TWR know, I have been a strong proponent of closer U.S.-India ties. What I have tried not to do, however, is to assume that India's desire for much closer and improved relations with Washington comes at the expense of what the country will see as its fundamental national interests.

Can India be a close strategic partner of the United States? Yes. Is India on the verge of becoming the next "special relationship" in the way that the UK and Japan have such ties with the United States? At this stage, I would say no. I don't see any evidence that the Indian strategic and defense elite is going to completely overhaul the country's orientations simply to become America's "best friend" in Asia.

India instead is going to want to balance out its relationships. Take this observation, from Commodore Uday Bhaskar, about the U.S.-Iran dilemma faced by India:

India -- like China -- needs energy from any and every source to sustain its GDP growth and related developmental goals and Iran's importance cannot be ignored. The choice for India is not an 'either-or' option in relation to the US/Iran and the nuclear/oil sector. India needs both and the challenge for Indian foreign policy will be to realise both objectives.

Writing in the Asia Times, Siddarth Srivastava, an Indian journalist, concludes that the “emerging trend” in New Delhi’s approach to international affairs “is a skillful balancing of its strategic relationships with the major powers.”

I think we can work with this--but this certainly does not suggest that India is going to play the role some here in Washington would like it to play.

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