May 21, 2005


Bush's Indian gambit (The Australian, 21may05)

ITS logic is inescapable yet the idea has been inconceivable: a strategic partnership between the two great democracies, the US and India, long divided by distrust and the Cold War.

Yet it is happening. George W. Bush has reached out to India and one of the coming debates in global politics will be over the manner and meaning of his decision to support India's quest to become a global power.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Washington in July, with Bush reportedly saying this will be treated as a "grand event", and at the year's end Bush will visit India.

A round of interviews in New Delhi this week elicited a plethora of views as India's political elite debates how far it should enter the US embrace. But India is being wooed and its pride at this is palpable.

The Bush administration, far more cohesive with Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, has launched a diplomatic offensive with India that is stunning in its rhetoric and serious in its content. "India's relations with the US are now the best they have ever been," says Rajiv Sikri, the senior official on East Asia at India's external affairs ministry.

When the two leaders briefly met in Moscow this month at celebrations to honour the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, Bush introduced his wife Laura to Singh, saying, "This is the Prime Minister of India and I'm going to take you to his country this Christmas-New Year so you can see the most fascinating democracy in the world."

The message in New Delhi is that Bush and Singh can do business. How much business they do remains to be seen but the US has set the bar very high. [...]

While Bill Clinton's 2000 visit to India symbolised a new outlook, the conceptual change has come under Bush. Ashley Tellis, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says it has been shaped by Rice, her new deputy Bob Zoellick and counsellor Philip Zelikow.

Bush initially appointed Bob Blackwill as US ambassador to India to upgrade the relationship and the 2002 National Security Strategy, which said the US sought a "transformation in its bilateral relationship with India".

Now it is going further -- the US has recast decisively its policy towards India and South Asia. The core judgment is that a strong, democratic and influential India is an asset for the US in the region and the world. The US no longer narrowly defines India within the terms of its rivalry with Pakistan and Bush accepts the reality of India as a nuclear power.

Bush's thinking is shaped by India's democratic values in contrast with China's authoritarianism.

100 years from now it is not unlikely that the alliance with India will be considered one of the President's three or four most important achievements.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 21, 2005 7:15 PM

"far more cohesive with Condolezza Rice as Secretary of State"

No kidding.

Posted by: AWW at May 22, 2005 12:20 AM

Beyond the geo-political aspect, India has a large supply of something the U.S. desperately needs: Engineers.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at May 22, 2005 1:55 AM

No, America has engineers -- what we need are allies with equally good engineers.

Posted by: jd watson at May 22, 2005 5:23 AM