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India's future lies in its hands, not in America's

Last updated on: October 25, 2010 18:39 IST

India's future lies in its hands not in America's

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
Noting that the United States can only contribute marginally to India's success or failure, a report prepared by the Washington-based think tank, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has said it is in fact the actions of Indians at home and abroad that will determine which path India takes.
Barack Obama The 54-page report titled Toward Realistic US-India Relations, coincides with US President Barack Obama's visit to India next month.

An advance copy of the report, authored by CEIP Nuclear Policy Programme Director George Perkovich, was made available to Rediff.com

It said 'the United States will have much more influence on vital global issues --international finance and trade, the future of the nuclear order, peace and security in Asia, climate change -- that also shape the environment in which India will succeed or fail.'

'Therefore, the United States can best serve its interests in those of India by ensuring that its policies toward India do not undermine the pursuit of wider international cooperation on these global issues," the report added.

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Image: Images used for representational purposes only
Photographs: Reuters
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'India should be valued in its own right'

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According to the report, 'The imperative to strengthen the international system would obtain even if India had the capabilities and intentions of working closely with the United States to contest China.'

'Yet, India's interests, policies and diplomatic style will often diverge from those of the United States, including in relations to China,' it said, and noted that Washington and New Delhi 'both want their share of economic, military and soft power to grow relative to China's -- or at least not to fail -- but both will also pursue cooperation with Beijing.'

Barack Obama

Thus, the report predicted that 'for the foreseeable future, the three States will operate a triangular relationship, with none of them being close partners of the others,' and reiterated that 'this is another reason why promoting multilateral institution-building is a sound US strategy, and why India should be valued in its own right, not as a partner in containing China.'

Taking aim at the likes of veteran Indian diplomat and erstwhile foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, former Bush administration official Daniel Twining and Indian-American scholar Sumit Ganguly, who have all expressed a nostalgia for the Bush administration and assailed the Obama administration for trying too hard to cooperate with China in addressing regional and global challenges and has not done enough to bolster India, the report declared, 'Like a Rorschach test, commentary as President Obama prepares to go to India tells as much about the authors as it does about the president, his policies, or India.'


Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with US President Barack Obama in November 2009
Photographs: Pete Souza/White House
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'Many in India believe the US has tilted towards Beijing'

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'Much of the commentary is negative, but this in part reflects the tendency of people to speak up only when they have something negative to say,' the report said, noting that 'more interesting is the proclivity of critical Indian pundits to yearn for the friendly presence of George W Bush.'

Barack Obama

The report added, 'For their part, many American commentators see Chinese and Pakistani monsters sneaking up behind Obama's thin, unsuspecting frame and wonder why he is not standing closer to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.'

'Nostalgia often colors perceptions and mixes fact with wishful projections,' it said, and cited the example of former Bush administration officials Evan Feigenbaum arguing that 'Many in India believe that the Obama administration has tilted its policy toward Beijing in a way that undermines Indian interests,' even as he acknowledges that 'Obama's China policy is broadly consistent with that of every US president since Richard Nixon."


Image: President Obama at the Great Wall of China
Photographs: Pete Souza/White House
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'Bush did more for India than he did for any NATO ally'

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But Perkovich said in his report, 'Putting aside wishful or partisan thinking about the results of Bush administration policy, one can see easily why some India elites long for the exceptional favour the former president bestowed on their country. Bush did more for India than he did for any NATO ally, including the United Kingdom, notwithstanding Tony Blair's lonely, reputation-destroying support for the war in Iraq.'

Barack Obama

To lend credence to his argument, Perkovich pointed out that 'Blair urged the Bush administration to try to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, revive negotiations on a climate change treaty, and expend political capital to revive the Middle East peace process. He was rebuffed on all counts.'

'India, on the other hand, spurned Bush's pleas to join the military coalition in Iraq and blocked his efforts to restart world trade liberalisation and isolate Iran. Bush responded by giving India a global nuclear deal so lopsided that one of its architect (whom Perkovich names as Philip Zelikow) called it a "gift horse."'

The report said, 'The Bush administration offered more and asked for less of India than it did of any other country, save perhaps Israel.'


Image: Then US President George W Bush with Dr Singh in New Delhi, March 2006
Photographs: Reuters
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'Special treatment of India is unrealistic'

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But the report felt, 'The special treatment of India was unrealistic and therefore unsustainable,' and suggested that Washington 'would be wise to continue such a tilted relationship only if American national interests coincided closely with India's preferences across most of the important bilateral, regional, and global issues now facing policy makers.'

Barack Obama

'Careful analysis of US and Indian interests does not show such a close convergence,' it said in answering the very question is raised and therefore recommended that 'a sound and sustainable US policy toward India should more accurately reflect multiple American, Indian and global interests.'

The report said, 'Rather than maintaining the pretense of partnership, a truly pro-India policy would acknowledge that India has different near-term needs and interests as a developing country than does the US, even as its recognises that each will benefit in the long run from the success of the other.'

Thus, it predicted, 'Most of what the US government can do for India lies in the broader global arena, and most of what India needs at home it must do for itself.'


Image: Dr Singh with President Obama, November 2009
Photographs: Pete Souza/White House
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Chinese rise in the region can be peaceful if...

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The report also poured cold water on the envisaged Indo-US global joint venture to promote democracy worldwide, which was a strong recommendation by a report released last week by the Centre for New American Security titled, 'Natural Allies: A Blueprint for the Future of US-India Relations,' which called for Washington and New Delhi to 'work together to spread the culture of democracy in lands where it does not yet exist.'

Barack Obama

This study, co-chaired by former senior Bush administration officials Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, argued that while neither the US nor India seeks 'containment of China, but the likelihood of a peaceful Chinese rise increases if it ascends in a region where the great democratic powers are also strong.'

The Carnegie report said, 'While India's democratic character is intrinsically of tremendous value, it serves little instrumental power for US interests.'

It acknowledged that the 'United States traditionally proselytises democracy around the world and would very much welcome the credibility that Indian leaders could give it in developing countries if they teamed up.'


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Don't enlist India to reform the world

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But the report pointed out that 'Indian leaders do not try to convert others to democracy,' and that for New Delhi, 'promoting democracy is too redolent of the missionary colonialism that Indians still culturally resist, and it is anathema to the State sovereignty that India still prioritises.'

Barack Obama

'India's admirable long-term struggle to perfect its own democracy is the most important contribution it can make to the larger cause of democracy promotion around the world,' it said, and added: 'Washington should not disappoint itself by trying to enlist India is larger American projects to reform the world.'

The report said, 'India and the United States share the virtue of being democracies, but this may be more its own reward than a source of abiding friendship or useful cooperation,' and argued, 'India and the United States are both too imperfect to get away with telling themselves or other states how to govern.'


Image: Obama addresses administration officials at the White House
Photographs: Pete Souza/White House
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US must publicly back India's UNSC bid

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Perkovich did not make any explicit call for the US to endorse India's bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, but said 'the US should commit, publicly and explicitly, to work with India in support of its permanent membership in an enlarged UN Security Council.'

Barack ObamaThe Carnegie report while acknowledging that 'this body can hardly claim to represent international society in any dimension if it does not include India,' said, 'India is not yet prepared to partner with the US in strengthening many of the rule-based elements of the international system -- the project that has been the objective of American leadership since the end of World War II and, with renewed vigour, in the era of globalisation.'

'The broadest indication of India's divergence from US positions in the United Nations is its record in the UN General Assembly,' the report said, 'where it has voted with the United States approximately 20 percent of the time."


Image: Obama addresses the UN Security Council
Photographs: Pete Souza/White House
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Nuke deal won't energise Indo-US ties

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On the US-India civil nuclear deal, the report said the agreement that is touted as the centerpiece of the envisaged US-India strategic partnership was unlikely to be the catalyst it was expected to be in transforming the relationship.

Barack Obama

'Ironically, there is evidence that the nuclear deal will not accomplish its primary objective of transforming Indo-US relations,' it said because nuclear energy was 'simply not important enough to the Indian economy or policy -- outside of globalised urban elites -- to transform India's political willingness to accommodate American interests where they do not already converge with its own.'

The report said that strategic affairs expert C Raja Mohan, an avowed advocate for the deal as being the transforming agent of the relationship, now argued: 'Progress on the bilateral defence/security agenda is the key to Delhi's willingness to cooperate with Washington across the board.'


Image: Dr Singh at the White House dinner, November 2009
Photographs: Pete Souza/White House
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'India is daring US to apply sanctions on its companies'

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To support this contention, the report said the deal that raised expectations in Washington that India would now move to accommodate US interests, 'for example in sanctioning Iran for its illicit nuclear activities,' had shown no such inclination.

Barack Obama

'India has refused to cooperate with recently passed Congressional sanctions to block exports of refined petroleum products to Iran and investment in Iran's energy sector. In effect, India is daring the US to apply extraterritorial sanctions on its companies.'

Consequently, it said, far from winning India's cooperation on this issue, India's refusal to go along with his highest international security priority of the US had 'emboldened Iran and made other States less inclined to support the US in isolating Iran.'


Image: Obama interacts with American and Indian CEOs at the White House
Photographs: Pete Souza/White House
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Can India or Pak help US out of Afghan quagmire?

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On Afghanistan, the Carnegie report said: 'The US cannot avoid disappointing either Pakistan or India, or both,' with its policy and 'Afghanistan therefore demonstrates the limits of US partnership with India and Pakistan.'

Barack Obama

'Understanding these limits does not give us an answer to the question of what the US should do in Afghanistan it the current strategy proves unsuccessful,' it said.

But it predicted, 'It does clarify that neither Pakistan nor India is going to significantly help the US out of the quagmire, and that American policymakers will have to repair relations with both India and Pakistan in the aftermath of any unhappy Afghan denouement.'


Image: A US soldier during Operation Helmand Spider in Badula Qulp, Afghanistan
Photographs: Tech Sergeant Efren Lopez/US Air Force
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