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US and India: From estrangement to engagement to estrangement

18 February 2014 08:09 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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By Dr. Subhash Kapila
Estrangement seems to be the natural pattern and state of relations between the United States and India with the past decade of engagement, seemingly apparent in 2014 as an aberration, largely so, because the United States reduced it to a mercenary relationship concentrating on defence deals and letting US geopolitical expediency predominate its prism on India.

“United States-India Strategic Partnership: The Advent of the Inevitable” was the heading of my paper in 2001 exuberantly written buoyed by elated optimism as one then believed that the United States had finally turned the corner in a realistic appraisal of India’s true geopolitical worth in relation to United States continued embedment in Asia.

However that euphoria lasted for the first few years only as post 9/11 events brought about a relapse and reversions to its hyphenated South Asian foreign policy. The US-India Nuclear Deal was a brief encouraging interlude but that too fizzled out soon due to non-materialisation of heightened expectations from both sides.
Rhetorical flourishes at official levels in both the United States, and India could not blur the optics that US-India Strategic Partnership was on the downslide in the second half of the last decade and this evolving phenomenon stood reflected in a number of my Papers US-India relations thereafter.
Once again “estrangement” in US-India relations was creeping in with US displeasure noticeable when India awarded the contract for 126 Fighter Aircraft to France despite high-voltage canvassing by US dignitaries.

India’s follow-up gestures of awarding 10 billion transport aircraft and helicopters to mollify US bruised mercenary feelings failed to arrest the downslide in relations. More so, because concurrently and increasingly noticeable at this time was that the United States policy primacies once again reverted and rested more on Pakistan and China.

The key to a substantial US-India Strategic Partnership would have been a strong set of “strategic convergences” on Asian and South Asian security and stability. Regrettably, that is not visible or better still said to be absent, as in US strategic perceptions China and Pakistan figure higher than India in terms of utility to US strategic interests.

A media report yesterday said that the United States in discussions with India remains silent when China is drawn into discussions as it believes that US-China relations are on a different footing. What are the underlying motives? Whatever they may be the fact is that it raises suspicions on US intentions on a lasting strategic partnership with India.

The US differs widely in perceptions and strategic convergences with India over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and now Bangladesh unmindful of the fact that India has a natural geopolitical predominance in South Asia.

The major problem in US foreign policy conduct, and which I emphasised in my SAAG Papers at the time of the controversial passage of the US-India Nuclear Deal was that the US Congress and its Administrations have yet to come out of their Cold War fixations and learn to deal with major Asian powers democracies like India and Japan with” strategic equitability” as it practises towards China.

Contextually, not much optimism is discernible on the horizon that the swing-back of even normal US and India relations as opposed to the concept of US-India Strategic Partnership is possible in the foreseeable future.

US and India relations seem destined for “Estrangement” for the long haul.

(Courtesy Euroasia Review)
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