“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.

Southasia - - International -

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.

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