Breaking More Naan with Delhi

Breaking More Naan with Delhi

Mini Teaser: The U.S.-India relationship has remained uncannily consistent. How to move ahead on this positive track.

by Author(s): Karl F. InderfurthBruce Riedel

FIVE CENTURIES ago the lure of doing business in India was so strong that a generation of bold and adventurous Portuguese navigators and sailors changed the map of the world in order to get there. Vasco da Gama and his compatriots discovered the sea path around Africa just to get access to Indian spices and peppers. Half his fleet and less than half his men returned to Lisbon from that first journey in 1499, but the world was transformed by the adventure. Portugal took control of the Arabian Sea from the likes of the Ottomans, creating the first modern European colonial empire with trading stations and forts from Goa to Muscat to Macau. Not only were the African continent and the Indian subcontinent opened to Europeans for the first time, but along the way an obscure Italian sea captain found America by mistake while looking in the wrong direction for a shorter way to India.

We are now at the cusp of another great Western adventure with India. Americans have become "India struck"-and we are not the only ones.

Visions of fabulous new markets for everything imaginable are again entrancing businessmen and entrepreneurs around the globe. Some of the statistics are indeed amazing. With a population of over a billion, Indians are a sixth of mankind. More than half are under 25 years of age. India has enjoyed growth rates of 9 percent and 9.4 percent in the last two fiscal years, and its economy is now the third largest in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. India has a middle class of a quarter billion people. Some five million new subscribers sign up for mobile phones every month in India today.

Moreover, the lure of the Indian marketplace is complemented by the attraction of its politics. India is the largest democracy in the world and since independence has had a history of freedom almost unique in the post-colonial world. This despite the searing impact of partition sixty years ago in which more than a million died, despite divisions along caste, ethnic, linguistic and religious lines, and despite the pressures of four wars with Pakistan. India's military has never sought political power. No two other major countries in the world are as natural partners in democracy and freedom as India and the United States. Yet for too long we were divided by the Cold War, opposing economic models and an agenda dominated by nuclear-proliferation issues. That is over.

The overwhelming bipartisan support for the U.S.-India Civilian Nuclear Agreement that President Bush signed last December reflects the consensus of American foreign-policy strategists that India will be one of America's most crucial partners in the 21st century. Indeed, the current state of relations between the two countries is an example of something all too rare in U.S. foreign policy, namely "Policy Continuity" (PC). This PC agenda was elucidated by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns in April when he noted,

President Bill Clinton's efforts led to the first great opening in our relations. In 2001 President Bush launched an even more ambitious drive, culminating in impressive agreements regarding civilian nuclear power, trade, science and agriculture with India's reformist prime minister, Manmohan Singh.

And there is every reason to believe bipartisan support for strengthening U.S.-India ties will continue into the next administration, Democratic or Republican. But as Ronen Sen, India's ambassador to the United States, has said, "We have not reached the point where the relationship can be placed on auto-pilot. It still needs to be nurtured."

Already, the effort to finalize the nuclear deal is entering its third year, in part because of the inertia of a U.S. administration preoccupied by Iraq. Opponents in Washington and New Delhi are hoping the clock will expire on a lame-duck Bush Administration before it is able to obtain final congressional approval for the agreement. Additionally, tensions over the deadlocked world-trade negotiations are creeping into the relationship. So, the challenge for the next president is not to coast but to build on the Clinton-Bush foundation and take it to its next stage-"Policy Continuity Plus."


The Ultimate Power

INDIA IS a decades-old nuclear power. One challenge for the United States is to see to fruition the long-held goal of bringing India closer as a partner in global efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons. The U.S.-India Civilian Nuclear Agreement is an important step in that direction. That is why Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, says it is "a milestone, timely for ongoing efforts to consolidate the non-proliferation regime, combat nuclear terrorism and strengthen nuclear safety."

Now that the United States has explicitly recognized India's status as a full-fledged nuclear power and is committed to a partnership in the realm of civilian nuclear energy, is there a broader nuclear agenda the United States and India could pursue?

In an important article published earlier this year, "A World Free of Nuclear Weapons", four distinguished Americans-George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn-argued that the world is entering a new nuclear era, more dangerous than before, with nuclear know-how proliferating and non-state terrorist groups seeking to obtain and use WMD. They argue that a bold new vision is needed to reverse this trend, citing two world leaders as inspiration for their declared goal of a nuclear-free world-Ronald Reagan and Rajiv Gandhi.

Both leaders shared an abhorrence of nuclear weapons; both leaders proposed their total elimination-Reagan at his summit with Mikhail Gorbachev at Reykjavik in 1986 and Gandhi in a dramatic address to the UN in 1988.

Shultz, Perry, Kissinger and Nunn (joined by others like former U.S. strategic-arms negotiator Max Kampelman) propose a number of urgent steps that would lay the groundwork for a world free of the nuclear threat. These include U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and efforts to secure ratification by other key states, providing the highest possible standards of security for all stocks of weapons and nuclear material everywhere in the world and halting the production of fissile material for weapons globally. But, first and foremost, they say, "is intensive work with leaders of the countries in possession of nuclear weapons to turn the goal of a world without nuclear weapons into a joint enterprise."

This could be the basis for a new U.S.-India nuclear partnership, if American officials avoid what Indians referred to in the past as "the three D's" of U.S. nuclear policy-dominance, discrimination and double standards. Regardless, there will be opponents of this new approach, especially from those in both countries that want to avoid any outside interference or treaty constraints on nuclear decision-making and plans. But proponents have the sound abolitionist legacy of Reagan and Gandhi to build on. The United States needs to take the lead and rededicate itself to the global non-proliferation agenda. A good start would be for the Senate to ratify the CTBT.


Hard-Power Choices

WASHINGTON AND New Delhi share a broad range of common strategic interests. We both want a south Asia that is prosperous, stable and democratic. We both want an Indian Ocean and adjacent waters that are open to trade. We both want to defeat jihadi terrorism. Deepening our ties is a natural outgrowth of our mutual needs.

Part of a PC Plus agenda involves strengthening India-U.S. military cooperation. We work together a great deal already. The U.S. Pacific Command is particularly eager to expand further naval cooperation in protecting the sea lanes of the entire Indian Ocean. The delivery of the former USS Trenton, an amphibious assault vessel, to India this year is a symbol of the new relationship at sea and will be a substantial addition to India's amphibious power-projection capability.

Now it is time to build further on this relationship. Admiral Sureesh Mehta, the chief of the Indian Naval Staff, has said he wants a blue-water Indian Navy that seeks "mutually respectful partnerships that ensure the stability of the Indian Ocean." The United States should take up this offer and expand our already significant naval exercises and planning, sharing more information on deployments and rotating responsibility for patrol duties in sensitive sea lanes. Alternating shifts would avoid any hint of spheres of influence and ensure greater capability to cooperate in times of crisis in the same patrol zones. Given finite resources in both navies, this would create a force multiplier for stability.

But some things will have to change for this key security relationship to move forward. For example, more than a decade after the end of the Cold War, India still buys 75 percent of its equipment from Russia. An Indian military still dependent on Moscow for new, more advanced systems and parts for old systems will be handicapped in its freedom of operation. No one supplier can ever be fully reliable. It is in India's self-interest to be less dependent on any one country for its weapons and spare parts. It is in America's interest for India to be more independent and more interoperable with U.S. forces.

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