Shreesh K. Pathak
The foreign relations of a country on the world map is not only crucial for its existence there but also for its survival in the near future. The foreign relations between any two countries are important from any stand, political, social or economic, for both the countries landing themselves into the 'understanding'. In this era of global economic crisis, it has become a prime importance for any country to assume a healthy relation with its neighbours and other countries so that a peaceful and prosperous life can be assured to its citizens. And as such the India-American relations can be specifically defined as the bilateral relations between the United States of America and the Republic of India. Both of these countries have a rich history of the relations they have gone in for the betterment of the future of their citizens and their economic advancement.
India, the largest populous democracy of the world, its foreign policy has always regarded the concept of neighbourhood as one of widening concentric circles, around a central axis of historical and cultural commonalities. With a very rich history of healthy relations with many countries of the world, India has focused on increased financial security for its citizens and a greater focus on the prosperity. Thus the economy of the countries which have undergone a relation with India has benefited vastly due to the ethnic work culture of this democratic republic. India is often considered a leader of the developing world and was one of the founding members of several international organizations, most notably the United Nations, the Nonaligned Movement, the Asian Development Bank and the G20 industrial nations. India has also played an important and influential role in other international organizations like East Asia Summit, World Trade Organization, the IMF, G8+5 and IBSA Dialogue Forum. India is a part of regional organizations include SAARC and BIMSTEC.
While Hillary Clinton may have termed Indo-US relations as an “affair of the heart”, in reality these two greatest and biggest democracies of the world have had a history of a plaid past. The reasons for this have been many. Firstly, before India’s independence in 1947, its external affairs were guided by, more or less, the foreign policy guidelines of the British Government and also because the two countries did not share any common linkages. Still, when we scour the pre-independence historical annals, US finds only shadowy mention, mainly in the literature produced by the missionaries and, significantly, in cultural pretexts as in Swami Vivekananda’s famous speech in the Parliament of Religions. Vivekananda was the first known Hindu Sage to come to the West, where he introduced Eastern thought at the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago, in connection with the World's Fair there in 1893. His first lecture began with the line, "Sisters and brothers of America ...” This salutation caused the audience to clap for two minutes - possibly because, prior to this seminal speech, the audience was always used to the opening address: "Ladies and gentlemen...." It was this speech that catapulted Vivekananda to fame, and he continued to address large audiences in Chicago and at numerous other locations in the US, such as Memphis, Boston, San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, and St. Louis.
Cold and Lukewarm Relations between India and USA in Cold War Period
In 1945, an American Strategic Policy document surveying the global political climate after World War II, considered the possibilities of alliances with the two nations that would soon achieve independence from Great Britain, India and Pakistan. It suggested that India, rooted in Anglo traditions, would be a "natural ally" of the United States, but that Pakistan, with its Islamic origins, would be "unreliable." The document seemed a promising start for US-Indo relations, but by the time that India finally did become independent in 1947, American foreign policy centred on the Cold War and how countries aligned with the East or the West.
The period after Second World War witnessed an era of awakening and rise of political and nationalist aspirations of subjugated people over the world and the phenomenon of colonialism started crumbling leading to the emergence of many new Asian and African states. All these states decided to have an independent foreign policy of their own and did not want to submit themselves to any superpower. It was also a time when the cold war between the Soviet and the US blocs was getting intensified. The super powers tried to win over these newly independent countries to their respective blocs. But some of them abhorred the idea of submission to any of the super powers. They wanted to pursue an independent foreign policy of their own rather than falling in line with any power bloc. It was this strategy of not joining either of the two power blocs and following an independent foreign policy that came to be known as nonalignment. Despite being one of the pioneers and founding members of the Nonaligned Movement of 1961, India developed a closer relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. During that period, India's relatively cooperative strategic and military relations with Moscow and strong socialist policies had a distinctly adverse impact on its relations with the United States.
Actually at that point of time, The US was not interested in India, and in the following decades, would even provide support to Pakistan. Pakistan was a neighbour of the Soviet Union and explicitly shielded against it, having joined both the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO, formerly the Baghdad Pact) and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and even fought against the Soviets when they occupied Afghanistan. As a reward, the US gave Pakistan training, briefings, and military and economic assistance packages. The military support going to Pakistan from the US drew the attention of the media and grew to be a subject of great heat. The heat had obvious reasons to gain an importance because of the violent dispute over Kashmir. Furthermore, Nehru's actions did lean towards the Soviet side. American military support to Pakistan, pushed Nehru more towards the Soviet Union, although he never explicitly embraced it as an ally. Rather, he and many of his successors allowed the Soviets to help build industries in India, which the country greatly needed.
For a new, developing country, socialist ideas of mixed economies and the nationalization of industries also seemed safer than the free market, "hands-off" approach of capitalism. With tighter management, Indian development could grow, but, with a solid industrial sector, did not have to rely entirely on Soviet (or other) aid; thus, there was no real need for India to choose a side in any US-Soviet conflict. The Indo-Soviet relationship did, however, remain stronger than the Indo-US one. India was officially non-aligned throughout the Cold War, but with a Soviet bias.
Although, the relationship between the US and India remained taut till the end of the Cold War, yet the US also maintained a shifting predilection towards India to meet its own foreign agenda. After independence, though the decade of the 50s was that of poverty and underdevelopment when a weak, divided nation was staggeringly picking up its broken bits, yet, India earned respect internationally due to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s calculative policy of nonalignment, at a time when the world had polarized into two blocs. This alienated it from America. The decision of US to sell arms to Pakistan further distanced the two countries. During his visit to the US in 1954, Pandit Nehru strongly protested against this but to little avail.
India’s strong socialist leanings and growing closeness with the Soviet Union further strained the relations. Dwight Eisenhower, known for his India leanings was the first US President to visit us in 1959. He was so supportive that the New York Times remarked, "It did not seem to matter much whether Nehru had actually requested or been given a guarantee that the US would help India to meet further Chinese Communist aggression. What mattered was the obvious strengthening of Indian-American friendship to a point where no such guarantee was necessary."
A year later America signed a four-year food agreement with India to avert a crisis. The reign of John F Kennedy (1961-1963), saw India as a partner against the rising power of communist China. This resulted in military and strategic assistance from US to India during its 1962 border conflict with China. During Kennedy’s period, US helped establish one of the first computer science departments at IIT, Kanpur. In 1969 Richard Nixon became the second American President to tour India, but not much came out of it.
The decade of the seventies saw a change in the foreign policy of the US. While it turned with warmth and support towards Pakistan, it attempted to woo China and decided to ignore India. The then President Richard Nixon’s dislike towards India and its people is often blamed for this worsening of relations. During the 1971 war with Bangladesh, US clearly expressed its support in favour of Pakistan. Indira Gandhi’s visit to the US in the same year turned out to be completely fruitless. The 1974 Pokharan nuclear test resulted in increased suspicion and innumerable economic sanctions on India. 1975 was a significant year as an embargo on arms sale to India was lifted by the then President Gerald Ford. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter visited India.
With the collapse of Communism, American interests and outlook towards the international order changed. Meanwhile its continued help to Pakistan kept India estranged from it. However, the 80s saw some sunshine and the bilateral relations began to improve due to numerous high level visits and inking of several economic, military and cultural agreements. Indira Gandhi’s visit to the US in 1982 resulted in the latter agreeing to supply fuel and spare parts for the nuclear power plant at Tarapur. Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to the US in 1985 was greatly successful as a bilateral agreement on scientific and technological exchanges was agreed upon by the two states. In 1988 India and the US signed a bilateral tax treaty. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, India began to review its foreign policy in a unipolar world, and took steps to develop closer ties with the European Union and the United States, in furtherance of its national interests.
India-USA Bilateral Relations after Post Cold War Era: New Vistas of Associations
Today, India and the US share an extensive cultural, strategic, military, and economic relationship. With the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, the Cold War ended, resulting in the rise of new geopolitical equations and providing a much needed boost to Indo-US camaraderie. Hence we see things changed dramatically after the Cold War and the scenario was to bring a decision of new and improved foreign policies in various countries, including India.
The end of the Cold War provided new opportunities for improving relations between the US and India. Indian adherence to democratic path, secularism, and free market economy and above all the vast consumer market attracted the Americans, as has always done in the case with many other nations on the globe. India also relinquished its non-aligned policy as there were no more two super powers. Pakistan has been side-tracked and the US is now India's largest trading partner. Israel has emerged as India's second largest military partner while India has built a strong strategic partnership with the United States reflecting India's policy of balanced and non-aligned relations. Thus both of the countries, India and the United States can be characterized and described by very strategic, methodical decisions as far as the relations between them is considered.
With the introduction of New Economic Reforms by Manmohan Singh, India opened its markets and the relations between the two countries got a fresh lease of life. In fact from 1991 to 2004, the stock of FDI inflow from the US increased from USD $11.3 million to $344.4 million. In 1994 PM NarasimhaRao visited America when several agreements were signed. He also addressed a joint session of the Congress. India and USA signed an Extradition treaty in 1997.
Then the rule of the AtalBihari Vajpayee government came. In 1998 the NDA government tested nuclear bombs at Pokhran for a second time. This test drew the immediate attention of the US, resulting in US sanctions under the Glenn Amendment Act. The Clinton administration and Vajpayee exchanged representatives to help build relations. In March 2000, President Bill Clinton visited India. He had bilateral and economic discussions with Prime Minster AtalBihari Vajpayee. Over the course of improved diplomatic relations with the Bush administration, India has agreed to allow close international monitoring of its nuclear weapons development while refusing to give up its current nuclear arsenal. India and the US have also greatly enhanced their economic ties.
Global War on Terrorism and India-USA Relations
The 9/11 attack on America in 2001 became a new parameter that began to influence the political world over including the Indo-US relations. Terrorism, nuclear proliferation, the rise of China and economic and environmental concerns became major factors determining the ties between the two states at the dawn of the new millennium. While the terror attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Centre created suspicions against Pakistan, China’s rapid rise became a major cause of concern for the US. India began to be looked upon by the world’s only superpower as a safety valve in South Asia. Bill Clinton’s love for India further catapulted us from the peripherals to the position of a ‘strategic partner’.
In 2000, India and the USA agreed to establish a Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism. And in the same year Bill Clinton became the fourth American President to tour India on a highly successful trip that literally changed equations between the top leaderships of the two countries. The George W Bush years are argued to be the best for India, though not as much of the world at large. In 2001, Bush lifted post-Pokharan II sanctions imposed on India. In 2002, the Indo-US High Technology Cooperation Group came into being. During the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., President George W. Bush chose India as the country to control and police the Indian Ocean sea-lanes from the Suez to Singapore.
The tsunami that occurred in December 2004 saw the U.S. and Indian navies work together in search and rescue operations and to reconstruct the damaged lives and land. An Open Skies Agreement was made in April 2005. This helped enhance trade, tourism, and business by the increased number of flights. Air India purchased 68 US Boeing aircraft, which cost $8 billion. In 2005 an Open Skies Agreement signed between the two countries. In the same year Manmohan Singh visited America and many agreements, including the civil nuclear deal, were inked. In the 21st century, the US has become India`s largest investment partner with an American direct investment of $9 billion accounting for 9% of total foreign investment into India.
Initially, it was believed that due to the Obama administration’s excessive emphasis on China and the promises made on Iraq & Afghanistan, relations with India would take a back seat. The fears were supported by the fact that in February 2009 India was excluded from the list of countries that the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton toured during her first South Asia visit. But Mrs Clinton allayed the fears when she visited India in July in the same year and called India a “key partner”. She institutionalized what is known as ‘Strategic Dialogue’ between the countries.
In the same year India strongly criticized Obama administration`s decision to limit H-1B visas and that issue continues to be a thorn in the two sides. On May 2009, Obama reiterated his anti-outsourcing views and criticized the current US tax policy for favoring companies who outsourced jobs. The ties in his reign have been highlighted by symbolisms – Dr Manmohan Singh was the first head of the state that Obama hosted after becoming President, this is his biggest state visit to any country, he calls Singh a ‘guru’ and has spoken glowingly about Mahatma Gandhi and enviously about India’s knowledge and economic prowess. Singh’s visit of 2009 was marked by a new Knowledge Initiative, launch of US-India Financial and Economic Partnership etc. With this visit of President Obama, touted as his largest in his presidency term till now, there is a potential of correcting the chart which seems to be going away from the path set be his recent predecessors. It is a chance for India to showcase warmth which is at once symbolic of its love for the Americans and is also an indicator that they can depend on their partner in the East. That partner may not be China if everything goes well.
Indo-US Nuclear Deal: Mutual Need of Time
The U.S. Congress on October 1, 2008, gave final approval to an agreement facilitating nuclear cooperation between the United States and India. The deal is seen as a watershed in U. S. -India relations and introduces a new aspect to international non-proliferation efforts. First introduced in the joint statement released by President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 18, 2005, the deal lifts a three-decade U.S. moratorium on nuclear trade with India. It provides U.S. assistance to India's civilian nuclear energy program, and expands U. S. -India cooperation in energy and satellite technology. But critics in the United States say the deal fundamentally reverses half a century of U.S. non-proliferation efforts, undermines attempts to prevent states like Iran and North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons, and potentially contributes to a nuclear arms race in Asia.
"It's an unprecedented deal for India," says Charles D. Ferguson, science and technology fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. ”If you look at the three countries outside the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) -Israel, India, and Pakistan-this stands to be a unique deal." India would be eligible to buy U.S. dual-use nuclear technology, including materials and equipment that could be used to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium, potentially creating the material for nuclear bombs. It would also receive imported fuel for its nuclear reactors.
Proponents of the agreement argue it will bring India closer to the United States at a time when the two countries are forging a strategic relationship to pursue common interests in fighting terrorism, spreading democracy, and preventing the domination of Asia by a single power. Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace-who was intimately involved in negotiating the civil nuclear agreement with India as senior adviser to the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs-said in congressional testimony in 2005that the deal recognizes this growing relationship by engaging India, which has proven it is not a nuclear proliferation risk. Other experts say the deal lays out the requirements for India to be recognized as a responsible steward of nuclear power. "This is part of a process of making India a more durable and reliable nuclear partner," Schaffer says.
Other group of experts say the deal would encourage India to accept international safeguards on facilities it has not allowed to be inspected before. This is a major step, experts say, because the existing non-proliferation regime has failed either to force India to give up its nuclear weapons or make it accept international inspections and restrictions on its nuclear facilities. President Bush's bilateral deal correctly recognizes that it is far better for the non-proliferation community if India works with it rather than against it," writes Seema Gahlaut of the University of Georgia's Centre for International Trade and Security in a CSIS policy brief.
It recognizes India's history of imposing voluntary safeguards on its nuclear program. Proponents of the deal say India has an excellent record of setting credible safeguards on its nuclear program for the last thirty years. After the safeguards on the U. S. supplied Tarapur nuclear facility expired in 1993, for example, India voluntarily established a new agreement with the IAEA to continue the restrictions. The deal recognizes that India has a good record on proliferation. Although it is not a signatory to the NPT, India has maintained strict controls on its nuclear technology and has not shared it with any other country. Proponents of the deal say this restraint shows that India, unlike its nuclear neighbour Pakistan, is committed to responsible nuclear stewardship and fighting proliferation. In May 2005 India passed a law, the WMD Act, which criminalizes the trade and brokering of sensitive technology.
The deal rewards India's decision to adopt similar nuclear export standards as those imposed by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). India has thus far chosen to abide by stricter export controls on nuclear technology set by the NSG, a group of forty-five nuclear-supplier states that coordinates controls of nuclear exports to non-nuclear-weapon states. Experts say if India chose to lift these voluntary restrictions, it could easily sell its technology to far less trustworthy countries around the world. The U.S. deal would reward the Indian government for its voluntary controls and give New Delhi incentive to continue them, against the demands of Indian hardliners who question what India gets out of placing such limits on it.
Critics call the terms of the agreement overly beneficial for India and lacking sufficient safeguards to prevent New Delhi from continuing to produce nuclear weapons. "We are going to be sending, or allowing others to send, fresh fuel to India--including yellowcake and lightly enriched uranium--that will free up Indian domestic sources of fuel to be solely dedicated to making many more bombs than they would otherwise have been able to make," says Henry Sokolski , executive director of the Non-proliferation Policy Education Centre, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving awareness of proliferation issues. While India has pledged that any U.S. assistance to its civilian nuclear energy program will not benefit its nuclear weapons program, experts say India could use the imported nuclear fuel to feed its civilian energy program while diverting its own nuclear fuel for weapons production. New Delhi has done similar things in the past; India claimed it was using nuclear technology for civilian purposes right up to its first nuclear weapons test in 1974.
India-United States Strategic Partnership: Strengthening Economic & Defence Ties
A strategic partnership between two countries may be defined in terms of shared values and areas of cooperation in the spheres of defence, foreign policy, economy, energy, human resource development, and the environment by taking into account existing geopolitical realities and diplomatic practices. A strategic partnership should be viewed as a long term commitment and it is essential that both partners develop a clear understanding and vision about its objectives and practices. It is also imperative that a strategic partnership be based on mutual trust and respect for each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and shared values. Deliberating upon India-United States relations in October 2008, then US Senator from Illinois and presidential candidate Barack Obama had said that India is a “natural strategic partner” for America in the 21st century and that the United States should be working with India on a range of critical issues from preventing terrorism to promoting peace and stability in Asia.
After four decades of mutual suspicion and mistrust, the transformation in India-United States relations began to take place during the last years of the Bill Clinton presidency and which bloomed during the presidency of George W. Bush. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks on America, US National Security Strategy, 2002 noted that “U.S. interests require a strong relationship with India.” A joint statement issued by Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Bush in January 2004 declared that India-United States “strategic partnership” includes expanding cooperation in the areas of easing restrictions on dual use technology export to India, increase in civil nuclear and civil space cooperation, as well as expanding dialogue on missile defence. These steps were known as “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership” (NSSP). In July 2005, the successful completion of the NSSP was announced by the US State Department under which a series of reciprocal steps were taken, such as expansion of bilateral commercial satellite cooperation, removal or revision of some US export licence requirements for certain dual use items etc. A significant joint USA-India statement issued during the state visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the United States on July 2005 and another joint statement issued during President Bush’s three day visit to India in March 2006 further paved the way for a stronger strategic partnership between the world’s largest and oldest democracies. The developing India-United States partnership reached a major milestone when the historic India-United States civil nuclear cooperation agreement was signed in October 2008, marking the end of India's 34 year isolation from the global mainstream in the sphere of civil nuclear energy technology.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a five day visit to India in July 2009, and stated that the India-United States relationship was “overdue for an upgrade” and that her trip to India will serve as the first step towards that vision which she had earlier referred to as “U. S. -India 3.0” version.It is now the responsibility of the Obama administration-2 and the UPA-2 government to carry forward the momentum that has already been built. There are indications that the Obama administration looks forward to strengthening the strategic partnership.
It is essential to highlight the factors that are furthering this developing strategic partnership. The shared value of democracy is a binding factor which leads to the expectation that India and the United States may never have a direct confrontation with each other. Apart from the civil nuclear agreement, defence ties have grown over the years. The “Defence Framework Agreement” signed in June 2005 aimed at formalising and providing a rationale as well as direction to the growing defence relationship. India’s defence equipment imports from the United States since 2008 stands at US $3.1 billion in terms of contract signed. It is expected that the recently signed End Use Monitoring Agreement (EUMA) will provide a boost for US defence technology transfer to India.
India has conducted more joint military exercises with the United States than in any other country. The Malabar series of joint naval exercises are now an annual feature. Malabar-08 was a purely bilateral exercise in which the major thrust was on Surface/Air Operations, Advanced Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW), Surface Firings and Submarine Operations, etc. Institutional mechanisms are in place for counter terrorism cooperation with the establishment of the US-India Counter-terrorism Joint Working Group (CTJWG) in January 2000 and the Cyber Security Forum in 2001. Similarly, the United States International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance to India has gone up from $0.5 million in 2001 to $1.5 million in 2007.
Economic cooperation has been growing steadily. According to the US Census Bureau figures, total India-United States bilateral trade in 2008 was $43.38 billion, which is 11 percent higher compared to the previous year when it was $39.04 billion. India has been placed at the 14th position among the 15 largest trading partners of the United States during January-June 2009.Government of India sources suggests that the total value of US Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow into India was $1.8 billion in the financial year 2008-09, as compared to $1.09 billion during the previous financial year, which indicates a 65.47 per cent growth. This progress has been made despite the ongoing global economic crisis and the downturn facing the business process outsourcing industry. There are plans to expand the India-US CEO Forum (constituted in July 2005) so that more senior business persons can be involved in the bilateral economic dialogue process.
At present more than 90,000 Indian students are studying in colleges and universities in the United States. Now Fulbright-Nehru scholarships are being planned for priority areas like management, agriculture, energy, democratic governance, public policy and environment. Realising the importance of cooperation in the area of space, science and technology, the two countries have taken steps towards further cooperation. A Science and Technology Endowment agreement was concluded during Secretary Clinton’s visit in July 2009. Similarly, partnerships in the domain of healthcare, which includes HIV, tuberculosis, and avian influenza, are gradually expanding. Both nations are committed to a clean energy future and are engaged in new energy and climate change dialogue. The forthcoming United Nations climate change conference at Copenhagen in December 2009 will be a testing forum for the climate change dialogue between the two nations.
The United States and its NATO allies are engaged in the Afghan conflict which will enter its ninth year on October 8, 2009. India has been actively involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and India’s efforts cannot be ignored. India has invested nearly $750 million in recent times thus making it the sixth largest bilateral aid donor. India is involved in many projects in Afghanistan such as construction of road networks, telecommunications development, power transmission, rebuilding the Afghan national airline, construction of the new Afghan parliament etc. There is a wide appreciation in India for the ongoing de-Talibanisation efforts of the United States and its allies, given that instability in Afghanistan has implications for India. Similarly, India’s role in the form of economic aid and reconstruction of Afghanistan deserves much appreciation from policy makers in the United States.
The India-United States strategic partnership appears to be moving towards a higher trajectory with growing co-operation in the areas of defence, economy, energy, education, environment, science, technology and innovation. In this process, the shared value of democracy is likely to consolidate mutual understanding and the partnership.
As two countries whose partnership is driven by common values and strengths, and whose joint responsibility is increasingly seen as mobilizing responses to the world’s challenges, it is better expected that the U.S. and India together can together profoundly influence the future of the peoples of both countries as well as the course of this new century before us.