“India supports multiple centers of power and thus would not like to play second fiddle to the US agenda."
Madhukar SJB Rana is currently a Professor at the South Asian Institute of Management; Member Academic Panel SAARC CCI and Member International Advisory Board, South Asian Policy Research Institute, Colombo.
Much has been made of the US-India relationship over the years and even more recently, with state visits. However, is the US-India relationship oversold?
President Obama’s remark that the Indo-US relation is a defining strategic partnership in and for the 21st century is certainly an example of oversell.
This is for the simple reason that India envisions itself as a global power in its own right -- and might-- in the course of the 21st century. When and if, India can emerge as the legitimate leader of South Asia then it will have less need to anchor its geo political and geo economic strategies to the US as then the geo psychological fear of China will have evaporated.
Revolutionary developments in multiple land transportation systems across Asia will mean that prospects of Euro-Asian cooperation will grow. Much would depend on how Euro Asian powers like Russia and Turkey see their strategic interests. If both these countries begin to look East, as it is expected, then on this count too President Obama is over-selling the relationship. India cannot afford to
South Asia talks to Madhukar SJB Rana, former Finance Minister of Nepal, in this exclusive interview.
ignore both these nations, especially Russia, which is in a position to play a balancing role in India, China, Turkey and Iran through its Asian landmass as well as its strategic influence in Central Asia. Given the vast number of recent geopolitical discussions held and trade and technology agreements signed, why is the US so heavily interested in India?
The US does not recognize that China is a co-equal power and will do whatever is necessary to ensure that it remains like the Middle Kingdom of
bygone eras. For this it has to contain China from traversing the High Seas into Latin America and Africa as well as overland into South, Central and West Asia.
No wonder, the US is keen on striking military alliances with Japan, Korea and Australasia as well as seeking intimate military cooperation with ASEAN, Af-Pak, Central Asian Republics and India. Interestingly, feelers are also being sent to Nepal despite the defacto defense agreement between India and Nepal (as laid down in the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship and its Protocol). 2014 will see NATO troop withdrawal and the U.S is expected to have a very serious Af-Pak policy in place. What are India’s concerns regarding this matter?
Real politic dictates that a strategy of divide and rule is in the supreme national interest of the powerful. Hence, a strategic partnership with Af-Pak will ensure checks and balances to India’s global aspirations if it goes against US foreign policy goals. An Af-Pak entente cordiale with the US will constantly underscore how vulnerable India is if it leaves the Kashmir question unresolved. Vulnerable on two counts: one, to the gross human rights abuses of the innocent Kashmiris and two, to keep India’s long cherished ambition to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council at abeyance-- with or without veto rights.
India needs transit access to the oil and gas reserves of Iran and the Central Asian Republics, which may be difficult to have on purely economic reasons. Will India remain a Non-Aligned Nation?
India’s foreign policy has been and will remain nonaligned. Non-Alignment gave it the soft power on which it could lead the so-called third world morally since post WWII. India being non aligned however, does not mean being neutral as can be seen from its Peace Treaty with the USSR to counter moves by the US and China to stop the breakup of Pakistan and the subsequent birth of Bangladesh.
Lately, foreign policy thinkers are proposing a (new) Non Alignment 2, which should guide India’s foreign and strategic policy over the next 10 years. It is argued that NA 2.0 will help maximize current and emerging global opportunities and enhance India’s strategic autonomy in a world where crises will be a future constant. It seeks to anchor its hard power on its soft power, which is its cultural heritage, nurtured by the values drawn from it. The interesting premise is that it is dependent on robust South Asian economic integration and full commitment to global multilateralism rather than bilateral Free Trade Areas. It also calls for a new look at the military strategies being pursued towards both Pakistan and China to create new options.
Investment in human capital is a strategic component of the grand strategy that seeks to integrate internal and external security challenges. It calls for massive de-bureaucratization of the state machinery towards greater partnership with civil society and the private sector; and a more managerial civil service that takes decisions holistically and strategically beyond the pale of the ministerial verticals.
With regard to US’s recent foreign policy initiatives for India, at the people level there is a new attitude towards the US: the youth are largely pro-America and espouse American lifestyles, especially the upper class and the business community. Taking advantage of this new geo psychology the US has taken the initiative to deepen and broaden bilateral ties in almost all areas -- military, economic, education, technology, human rights, nuclear and space cooperation, and terrorism. This new pro American attitude leads the younger generation to go further towards abandoning NonAlignment because of the fear of China and distrust of Pakistan. The countries have cooperated in a number of areas including health, education and even technology. How sustainable are the Indo-US strategic relations?
India is aware of the non-sustainability of the Pak-US alliance as it was betrayed by SEATO: as was the Shah of Iran with CENTO. India is also deeply aware of the anti India policy of the US as it sought nuclear weapons as the ultimate deterrence with the various US sanctions on technology transfer. Furthermore, India is also conscious of the fact that the US support to Pakistan placed severe stains on its military capabilities to be able to defend itself on the Pak front as well as the China front.
Convergence of interests may be there in the short haul as for example on democracy, fundamentalism, terrorism, Maoism, economic and financial globalization, rise of the middle class which tends to be pro US and more anti China and Pakistan.
The conflict arises from the fact that India supports multiple centers of power and thus would not like to play second fiddle to the US agenda, born out of the American need to contain China-- more than nurture India as a major power. Iran remains a grand window of opportunity for India especially if it can engage in barter trade for rupees.