India-US Partnership: Asian Challenges and Beyond, a culmination of the joint study between the Vivekananda International Foundation and the Heritage Foundation, US, was released by Ambassador K S Bajpai, Former Indian Ambassador to the US, on 16th December 2013.
The book has contributions by experts, including Ajit Doval KC, Ambassador Kanwal Sibal, Ambassador PP Shukla, Lisa Curtis, Jeff Smith, Walter Lohman, Lt. Gen. (Retd) Ravi Sawhney, Dean Cheng, Brig. (Retd) Gurmeet Kanwal, and Thubten Samphel.
In his opening remarks, Shri Ajit Doval KC, Director VIF, recognized three major events of the twenty first century: China’s assertive rise, the 9/11 incident and the US follow up of War on Terror, and India’s emergence as a democratic, economic, military and technological power, which according to him have redefined the geopolitical considerations of the US in Asia.
In his address, Ambassador Prabhat P Shukla, Editor of the book, highlighted its relevance in identifying hurdles in India-US strategic relations and in recommending ways for overcoming these hurdles. On the issues addressed in the book, he said that the participants had correctly seen the stagnation in Indo-US relations, and the slowdown in the Chinese economy. These were not widely accepted at the time of the seminar, but are more or less the accepted consensus now. An easily achievable way of removing some of the doubts in India regarding the bilateral relationship, according to Ambassador Shukla, was for the US to correct the depiction of the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, which US maps show as extending to the Karakoram Pass. This was neither legally, nor in actuality, the correct depiction, which was to extend the line due north to Indira Col along the Actual Ground Position Line. This could then be followed with an examination of the border depiction in the Ladakh region with China. Another area of importance for both India and the US to observe and examine carefully is the worsening of situation in, not just the economy of China, but also its political structure. The increase in public and high-level expressions of caution and worry over a probable collapse of China spreading through the Chinese media and the political class cannot be ignored. Ambassador Shukla concluded by referring to the importance of a substantive dialogue between the two countries on the Asian rebalance and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Ambassador Bajpai, while releasing the book, congratulated the VIF and the Heritage Foundation for the remarkable study. Quoting from the Editor’s note, Ambassador Bajpai summed up the situation of the India-US relations as follows: “We are not happy with the US on Pakistan; the US is not happy with us on Iran; and we both are utterly confused about China”. He argued that a stagnation in relations is much less a worry than the absence of trust and assurance, without which no two nations can live and cooperate together. He therefore stressed that such collaborative work as done in this book is crucial to build trust and regenerate assurances. Ambassador Bajpai observed that be it the security of the Persian Gulf, stability of Central Asia, managing power equations in East Asia vis-à-vis China, or the vast range of issues in the Indian Ocean, India and the US are the only two nations with identical strategic goals in all these four areas and we can definitely identify some common ways to achieve these common goals.
Also present at the release was the team from the Heritage Foundation, which included James Carafano, Vice President Heritage Foundation, Lisa Curtis, Senior Fellow Heritage Foundation and Walter Lohman, Director of the Asian Studies Centre at the Heritage Foundation. Mr. Lohman discussed in brief his contribution in the book on the prospects and need for the two countries to work together in Burma. He stressed that development in Burma serves as an ideal example and opportunity for cooperation between India and the US. Ms. Curtis argued that while irritants in the relations may remain, the strategic goals of the two countries seem to converge strongly on China and the Af-Pak region as a whole and therefore the two nations, according to Ms. Curtis, are destined to cooperate strategically. Mr. Carafano congratulated the two Foundations for the exceptional work put into the study and argued that the governments of the two nations will not lead but only follow the path of cooperation. It will be ideational works, such as the present book, through exchanges of ideas and minds which are going to lead and direct the way for cooperation ahead. The two organisations needed to continue to work together in the future as well towards this objective.
It was therefore agreed that the two Foundations will continue their exchanges in order to create strong ideational grounds for the cooperation between India and the US to be realized soon.