Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Our Indian Friends

 

Why do Americans spend so much time analyzing China’s growth, but not India’s? Yes, the growth of Chinese economic and military power since Deng Xiaoping proclaimed “to get rich is glorious” has been nothing short of extraordinary. But India has also embraced markets over the years, and the results have been equally amazing. We tend to think of India in terms of its relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan, and in terms of its cultural power, rather than in terms of the economic and geopolitical benefits of a prosperous South Asian democracy. But that should end. We have a lot to gain by befriending India, and a whole lot to lose.

The Bush administration made it a point to solidify ties with this formerly nonaligned country. It seems like the Obama administration shares the same goal, but unfortunately also sees India as a lower priority than Afghanistan, Iran, reset with Russia, and “strategic reassurance” with China. Of course, an India closely aligned with the United States could help with some of these strategic dilemmas, and hedge against other threats. Why can’t Obama spend less time assuaging America’s competitors, and more time supporting her friends? A good place to start would be an Indian-American free trade agreement. It’s one European idea Obama ought to emulate.

There are 8 comments.

  1. Duane Oyen Member
    Matthew Continetti: Why can’t Obama spend less time assuaging America’s competitors, and more time supporting her friends? A good place to start would be an Indian-American free trade agreement. It’s one European idea Obama ought to emulate. ·

    I agree- the India relationship was one of Bush’s best moves.

    Of course, there is now also the idea that you can’t tilt towards India, because that angers Pakistan, and we need Pakistan to provide the essential fig leaf for pulling out of Afghanistan.

    • #1
    • July 17, 2010, at 1:57 AM PST
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  2. Peter Robinson Founder

    I have no comment to offer here, Matt, except to note my humble opinion that you’re exactly right about this–exactly. In China, we face, if not–and, I pray, never–an outright enemy, then certainly an antagonist or opponent. But in India we see a fellow democracy, unencumbered by any military ambition other than that of keeping the Pakistanis in check, intent on economic growth, and appreciative of–and, really, a member of–the West. While getting, roughly, nowhere with China–or with Russia or the Middle East–Obama has been all but ignoring India. Baffling.

    • #2
    • July 17, 2010, at 2:18 AM PST
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  3. James Poulos Contributor
    Duane Oyen: I agree- the India relationship was one of Bush’s best moves.

    Of course, there is now also the idea that you can’t tilt towards India, because that angers Pakistan, and we need Pakistan to provide the essential fig leaf for pulling out of Afghanistan. · Jul 16 at 1:57pm

    Peter Robinson: […] While getting, roughly, nowhere with China–or with Russia or the Middle East–Obama has been all but ignoring India. Baffling. · Jul 16 at 2:18pm

    I understand there are two main difficulties facing the current team. One, yes — in order to keep our relations with Pakistan from heading in a really woeful direction, we have to carefully finesse our relations with India from time to time. Two, India was assigned to Richard Holbrooke, a — let’s say difficult — man utterly rejected by the Indians. Floating over Obama’s India policy has been a determination that the Indians haven’t made things as easy as possible. Nonetheless, when it comes to India, America can, and should, do more. It’s important too that this is an area where there’s likely some strong conservative and libertarian agreement.

    • #3
    • July 17, 2010, at 2:58 AM PST
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  4. Apoorva Shah Inactive

    Right on the money, Matt. India is one of the few issues where we truly have bipartisan consensus, or if anything, at least consensus on the center-right. But while the Obama administration always talks about our foreign policy as a positive-sum game, I can’t help but think that in light of our policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Obama team thinks that it just doesn’t have the ability to devote significant time to building the India relationship. And let’s be clear, India takes time. One of the Bush administrations best moves was not simply passing the US-India nuclear deal, but having the patience to let it saunter through the Indian political process.

    As Anang alludes, Indian domestic politics are unwieldy, and I still don’t think we know who our go-to man is. There’s of course Prime Minister Singh, but he’s the elder statesman. Who’s going to do the due diligence to find out the next generation of Indian protagonists in the US-India relationship?

    • #4
    • July 17, 2010, at 4:37 AM PST
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  5. Profile Photo Member

    The democratic party has no love for India. Which is separate from Bubba’s fetish for the country because of his hippie past.

    Bush definitely tried to create a better relationship with India and the diaspora in America. He mentioned lobbying for a seat for India on the UNSC last year.

    India happens to be the second largest provider of aid after America in Afghanistan. Indian culture, mainly bollywood also has an effect.

    The president showed his love for the country during Hillary’s all important first tour of Asia last year, which did not include a stop in New Delhi.

    India is somewhat hobbled by its own left of center politics. On one hand, India prefers to keep its troops to itself, rather than aid America’s startup efforts in the middle east. On the other, it wants to enter the first world vis-a-vis the private sector AND preserve its antiquated bureaucracy and socialist approach to governance. The middle class isn’t as much of an electoral powerhouse as it would like to believe.

    The current approach is somewhat byzantine. Reactive approach to security, don’t rock the gravy train, keep the money flowing

    • #5
    • July 17, 2010, at 6:01 AM PST
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  6. Duane Oyen Member

    Peter Robinson: In China, we face, if not….an outright enemy, then certainly an antagonist or opponent.

    Peter, may I (gently) challenge this statement? I’ve had a fair bit of exposure to both Taiwan and China over the last decade. I don’t see any antagonism, nor do I see an “opponent” other than in terms of rivalry of a power and a rising would-be power. I think that many on the Right read too much Gordon Chang (the guy who writes at Weekly Standard and Pajamas, not the excellent professor at Stanford with the same name). In fact, I encourage you- talk with Stanford’s Chang- ask him about the very complex issue of PRC-ROC relations: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/history/people/chang_gordon.html

    For example, many on the Right talk about smuggling Bibles into China. Reality? When the Nanjing printing company completed its 1-millionth Chinese language Bible (available in most bookstores), the local Party leaders rushed down to get in on the newspaper photo-op. The biggest investors in China? Chiang Kai-Shek’s KMT/GMD businessmen.

    PRC angels? No, just very nationalistic people who want to be big. Not expansionist.

    • #6
    • July 18, 2010, at 3:30 AM PST
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  7. Thomas Glenn Kiger Inactive

    The Indians are good people. That’s one of the first places I want to go when I start traveling.

    • #7
    • July 20, 2010, at 3:37 AM PST
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  8. Duane Oyen Member

    To add a couple of additional points.

    1) No one is saying that Hu, et al, are angels. They are authoritarians who want to hang onto power internally and rise to be the dominant country in the Pac Rim. But that is different from military expansionism; China simply does not have a history over the last millennium of being expansionistic empire-builders, no matter who is in charge. The Mongols and Manchus came in, they weren’t annexed, Tibet “is historically China”. After Mao, the Northern Vietnam quest petered out; Korea was a time-context situation. BTW, taxi drivers in Beijing openly refer to Mao as a “psychopath”.

    2) Some information is censored (social network and some blog web sites blocked, etc.). However the English language news sites are generally not blocked- and the entire population is encouraged to learn English. Also, every kid under 30 knows exactly what proxy servers will pierce the wall- and the government knows it.

    3) The government is already in a populist mode; internal protests after the earthquake damage were mollified and published, not suppressed

    4) Most desired job that men fight to get? PLA recruit. No deployments, play soccer all day, steady work.

    • #8
    • July 21, 2010, at 2:06 AM PST
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