Two democracies which boast most populous and richest elements of the universe, still remain far apart like two banks of a river. It is amazing that even China which has been adversary by nature of governance, could extract more American influence on commerce & running the world affairs. It is about the time that US and India consider a fast track on cooperation at the highest level as there is more to achieve in common interests than fighting over irritants of difference.
Let us examine brief history of their struggle to build bilateral relationship. India became independent just 63 years ago with burst of violence & instability on Indian subcontinent with division of united India in two new nations of India & Pakistan. India still has to recover from the shock of forced division of the country, not so much desired naturally. This event seeded India’s foreign policy with cautious approach on building cooperation ties irrespective of size or intent of the other nation. It is visible today even when India speaks from strength with a smaller nation. It should never be construed as a weakness, unwillingness or sign of non-cooperation.
American experience tells a little different story about American mood to sail the same period. American passage of freedom for well over two centuries made US seasoned enough to lead developed industrial world in past sixty years with confidence and responsibility. Any power trip has its own mixed bag. As a democracy, US remained generally benevolent, but long rein on such power made US somewhat worrisome of losing superpower status & acted accordingly in global strategy. In the process, US frequently lost meaning of a true leader of a league of strong nations. So quite frequently, US emphasised on supporting wrong side of global equation to protect short term interest and delaying on forging long term partnership with nations of aligned interest & democratic values, for future.
The classic example is the basket case of bilateral relationship with emerging democracy called India. Indo-US relations were put on the hold during first Fifty years when US began to put all wagers on gambling with dictatorial regimes of Pakistan and putting the bigger democratic India in the same equation, but in a lower bracket. After some hard lessons, the equation is refigured by US in the aftermath of 9-11 event. Such miscalculations for so long, have created so many missed opprtunities in commerce & defence area on global stage for both nations that it is paramount for both to move in right direction much quicker to fill the divide between two global giants.
Many areas need attention for improvement in bilateral partnership. One major area is defence where US had some 50+ joint exercises in past decade with Indian defence units. It shows that India has far more confidence in building close realtions with US alone in joint defence. Also, US should firmly move away from her ambivalent positions in supporting Pakistan for wrong reasons. It is time to remind China of her support to Pakistan on nuclear issue is at the expense of India’s security concerns.
Both countries present opportunities to mobilise their enormous resources & advantageous geopolitical positions to play a major role on global scene.
It looks difficult to navigate foreign policy in turbulent waters, but it could bring direct dividends in dealing global terrorism & also on containment of “China factor” on world stage. It has an intangible benefit that both nations have a vibrant middle & business class which has faith & respect mutually and, united they could create wonders in commerce & cultural exchange.
Waiting game here could prove another missed opportunity.