March 17, 2005

FIRMING THE AXIS:

The Ties That Bind Delhi And Washington: Diplomats are starting to build on the two countries' strong business relations (Business Week, 3/21/05)

[W]ashington seems poised to bring its political relations up to the same level as the commercial ties. On Mar. 16, Condoleezza Rice will make New Delhi the initial stop on her first trip to Asia as U.S. Secretary of State. On the agenda will be stronger defense ties, expanded commercial cooperation, and a possible India visit by President George W. Bush. Rice will be followed in April by Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, who will sign an "open skies" agreement allowing Indian and U.S. airlines free access to each others' markets. "As India increasingly fills a global leadership role, we must build a strong bilateral partnership," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Donald Camp told Congress on Mar. 2. Says Brahma Chellaney, a security analyst at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi: "India is ready for an equal strategic relationship."

Driving the rapprochement is concern over two regional rivals. China and Iran. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is expected in New Delhi in April to discuss commercial links and resolve border disputes. But analysts say Washington is eager to use India to create a counterbalance to China's growing strength in Asia. And the U.S. would like to keep India from getting too close to Iran, which has agreed to provide gas via a pipeline that would traverse Pakistan. "It's classic balance-of-power politics on a grand scale, containing China, containing Iran," says South Asia expert Stephen P. Cohen of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.


That's a typically short-term, or Realist, view. Iran will be part of the Axis of Good too within a few years, as the Shi'a generally liberalize and democratize ahead of the Sunni/Wahhabi.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 17, 2005 7:47 AM
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