Sunday, January 25, 2015

Indo-US Relations: The Way Forward

Amb Kanwal Sibal, 
Dean, Centre for International Relations and Diplomacy, VIF

India’s relations with the US in the last decade have undergone a transformation. Ever since our independence, our relationship with the US has been marked by suspicion, lack of empathy and differences in world view. In recent years, many in India have viewed with cynicism US using the excuse of its “values” to justify its interventionist and regime change policies marked by, what is more, glaring double standards. We have been chary of excessive engagement with the US lest it acquires too many leverages over our policies. The US has sanctioned us in critical strategic nuclear, missile and high technology sectors ever since our 1974 nuclear test. US policies in our neighbourhood, in particular with regard to Pakistan, have damaged our security. In this background, the shift towards growing mutual confidence, wide ranging political, economic and security related engagement in recent years has been an unprecedented change.

In 2010, during his India visit, President Barack Obama described the India-US relationship as a defining one for the 21st century. What “defining” may actually mean is difficult to define. It could mean that the US sees India growing into a major global power in the years ahead, and believes that the relationship forged between the oldest and the largest democracy, between the world’s largest and the third largest economy in time, with their shared values of democracy and pluralism, could define how international relations will be played out in the 21st century. This would imply that India and the US together could determine the configuration of international relations and the principles governing them and that they could optimally manage global commons and work for the consolidation of political and human values universally. This sounds rather grandiloquent, but such rhetoric comes easily to the Americans.

India has been more subdued in its rhetoric. Despite the general sentiment towards the US becoming more positive and the opprobrium attached to being seen as “pro-US” virtually disappearing, there has been political reluctance to embrace the US too tightly to avoid any perception within the country and externally that India was diluting the independence of its foreign policy. But India too has used vocabulary about relations with the US that is contrary to realities. We have said that India and the US are “natural partners”, when objectively this has not been the case for the last 67 years and is not likely to be reflected in our ties in the years ahead either.

Democracy and pluralism can be a bond, but in relations between the US and India, this bond has not shielded us from punitive US policies. In our case, US did not have to active on democracy promotion to gain geopolitical advantage as it has done in other geographical areas, but it has targeted us in the 1990s on human rights issues, especially relating to Kashmir, and remains censorious on issues of treatment of religious minorities and religious conversion prompted by domestic Christian lobbies. It is well to remember that it denied Narendra Modi a visa for the US for nine years under an act of which he was the only victim. In any case, US conduct towards India over the years has not given much weight to India being a democracy. Cold War geopolitics has guided its policies for most of the time, and later it has sought to curtail and smother India’s strategic capabilities. In contrast to this, the US has been benign towards military dictatorships or done business with authoritarian regimes in our neighbourhood, often at India’s expense.

Beyond that, it is unrealistic to speak of a natural partnership between the world’s strongest political, military, technological and economic power, the head of a powerful military alliance with military bases in several countries, one that considers itself endowed with the responsibility of maintaining the word order, that is rich in natural resources and one that shapes the global agenda in all fields and a developing country beset with huge problems of poverty, technologically weak, militarily import-dependent and economically still far away from even middle income status. There can hardly be a “natural partnership” between two countries unequal in so many ways, unless it is one of dependence. We are not in the same geopolitical area as the US; we do not have common enemies, and we do not face similar security challenges. If we did, we might have had reasons to gravitate towards each other naturally because of such shared interests.

A natural partnership would also imply that there is a basic convergence in thinking and goals that would draw two countries together even if a gulf occurred at times. In other words, it would not be natural for them to stay apart and be distant from each other as such differences would be bridgeable not fundamental in nature. If viewed in this light, we should look at the expression “natural partnership” as a rhetorical flourish rather than describing the reality of our relationship. Our interests have actually not been served by US policies in West Asia, towards Pakistan, its support for jihad to fight the Soviet Union which has spread extremism and terrorism in our region, its willingness to engage the Taliban and its handling of Afghanistan. The US has fuelled China’s rise for strategic reasons rooted in the Cold War and the interests of its corporate sector. Its views on China’s policies in South Asia, especially Beijing’s relationship with Pakistan that damages our security in many ways, have been problematic for us.

In fact, India and the US have had to overcome a difficult legacy. The US has for decades done great damage to India’s strategic interests by obstructing the development of our nuclear and missile capabilities and denying us dual use technologies by imposing global sanctions through its domestic legislation as well as international export control regimes. At the same time, it has overlooked Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear and missile technologies from China and has taken a tolerant view of serious Pakistani infractions of the non-proliferation regime, even shielding the Pakistani kingpins from international scrutiny. It has politically undermined India’s sovereignty over J&K by frequently intervening on Pakistan’s behalf and helping it to keep the issue alive internationally, though it has been more circumspect in recent years. Even now it refuses to recognise Indian sovereignty over Jammu & Kashmir and prefers adopting an equivocal position that leans in favour of Pakistan’s core position by references to “consulting the wishes of the Kashmiri people”, which indirectly denies the legitimacy of the election process in J&K. It has armed Pakistan in the past despite the obvious security implications for India and continues to do so even now. It has also been responsible for unleashing jihadi terrorism in our region by legitimising such groups and their ideology in the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan, unmindful of the consequences for our region and the exposed position of India to such forms of religious mobilisation. It has been unduly tolerant of Pakistan’s use of these terrorist groups against us as an instrument of state policy, despite its war on terror. Even now, despite the shelter given to Osama bin Laden by Pakistan, its support to Afghan Taliban groups that target US/NATO troops in Afghanistan, the ISI abetted attacks against our diplomatic representations there and explicit accusations by former Afghan President Karzai about Pakistan’s use of terrorism to destabilise Afghanistan, the US has been focused essentially on its own concerns about an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan with Pakistan’s assistance and has treated regional and Indian concerns as of secondary importance.

The US is aware of Pakistan’s double-faced Afghan policy and its obsession to counter Indian presence and influence in Afghanistan. The US has always discouraged Indian military assistance to Afghanistan- other than providing training to Afghan security forces- in deference to Pakistan’s sensitivities, though it supports India’s economic assistance, even to the point of wanting to do India-US cooperative projects there. The US decision to open a dialogue with the Taliban which disregards India’s objections to any political accommodation with it without insisting on the red lines laid down by the international community creates potential problems for India. It continues its failed policy of offering carrots to Pakistan, including military aid, in the hope of buying its co-operation. The manner in which Pakistan army chief General Sharif has been treated during his lengthy visit to the US in December 2014 suggests that the US has not been able to forge a clear policy of dealing with a country whose duplicitous conduct it recognises. Secretary Kerry went to the extent of calling the Pakistan military a binding force when he met the General, which has the unfortunate implication that the US endorses the political role that the Pakistani military sees for itself in the country as the ultimate custodian of the idea of Pakistan, even if this was not Kerry’s intention.

Notwithstanding all this, it is necessary for India to have as friendly a relationship with the US as possible. The US cannot be ignored because of its superpower status. It has to be managed in a way that one can extract the maximum from the relationship while minimising the compromises one has to make to achieve that. The 2005 India-US nuclear deal opened the doors for establishing a relationship at a much higher level than ever before. With the dissipation of strategic distrust as a result of the deal, the range of bilateral engagement expanded phenomenally. Numerous sectoral and subject specific dialogues were set up with the US, covering the areas of energy, education, health, development, science and technology, trade, defence, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, high technology, innovation and the like. With no other country do we have such wide ranging institutionalised dialogues. The objective has been to build up Indian capacities in a number of sectors with US technology and know-how, a process that would assist in India’s development and growth, giving the US getting greater access to an expanding Indian economy as a result.

The nuclear deal removed the nonproliferation issue from distorting our bilateral agenda with the US as well as other important members of the international community, though US nonproliferation lobbies have not given up efforts to generate pressure on India on nuclear issues in a bid to create a basis for extracting more curbs on India’s freedom to develop its nuclear weapon programme, especially by tying up our programme to that of Pakistan and advocating steps to reduce nuclear dangers in South Asia. Following the nuclear deal, sanctions on almost all Indian entities have been lifted and high technology controls have been eased to a degree. The US has committed itself to support India’s membership of the four technology control regimes: the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Agreement and the Australia Group. This support is repeated in political declarations as was the case when Modi visited Washington in September 2014 when Obama noted that India meets MTCR requirements and is ready for NSG membership, but without setting any time-tables. An actual push by the US in favour of India’s membership is lacking, not the least because, having made an exception for India in the NSG, the US would be reluctant to go out of its way to press India’s case actively. India’s task will be to prod the US to implement its strategic commitment at the earliest and not use it as a bargaining lever to extract more concessions from India in non-proliferation areas, particular on administrative arrangements for implementing the nuclear deal in full that will give the US greater access to our nuclear plants over and above IAEA safeguards, and obtain commercial contracts for its companies on its terms. The US is miffed that having done the heavy-lifting for India in the NSG, its companies have not procured civil nuclear projects in India because of our Nuclear Liability Act which provides for supplier’s liability in certain circumstances. The US has openly lobbied for an amendment of our law, and could well link its active support for India’s membership of the NSG to actual openings for its companies to build nuclear power plants in India as well as a solution to the outstanding problem of “national tracking”. During each high level visit after the nuclear deal, the issue has been raised by the US and India has been obliged to show some “progress” in implementing its commitment to acquire GE and Westinghouse nuclear reactors that would produce 10,000 MWs of power.

During President Obama’s second term, India-US ties began to lose momentum because many on the US side had expected much more to emerge from the newly minted relationship of strategic trust and this had not happened. Apart from disappointment on the nuclear power front, there were strong hopes of the US obtaining a sizeable part of India’s defence procurement pie. That the US has bagged almost $ 10 billion worth of defence contracts in the last five to six years, whether for C-130 and C-17 heavy lift aircraft, advanced maritime reconnaissance aircraft, attack, heavy lift and VIP helicopters, and in that period became India’s top defence supplier, is not seen as sufficient strategic reward for the nuclear deal and the NSG exception.

In this, the US is not giving enough importance to the point that, given its history of imposing sanctions in situations of conflict and tension or for other considerations, India is reposing great trust in building a defence relationship with the US. It is true, though, that India under the UPA government baulked at signing the three foundational agreements with the US- the LSA (logistics agreement), BECA (for access to high defence technology) and CISMOA (interoperability agreement)- that would supposedly strengthen defence bonds and make India more eligible for transfer of advanced defence technologies to India. Here the concern has been that India should not be seen as moving too far into the US defence orbit as that would cause an imbalance in its relationships with other powers. This reticence has been balanced, however, by numerous joint military exercises involving the three arms. The naval exercises in the Indian Ocean area have been particularly elaborate, involving submarines and aircraft carriers, which sends an important strategic message as these waters are crucial for the trade and energy flows for China and other east Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

Under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), the US has offered to co-develop and co-produce initially about ten defence items in collaboration with Indian partners, including Javelin anti-tank missiles. The Indian response has not been particularly enthusiastic, with the BJP government rejecting the Javelin programme for price escalation reasons and choosing an Israeli missile instead. The US is still hoping to make progress on the DTII, with the added advantage of dislodging Russia from its privileged position as India’s main defence supplier.

Some US and Indian specialists have also explained the decline of White House’s interest in India because of India’s reluctance to solidify a strategic partnership with the US and cling instead to strategic autonomy, which is seen as a renewed version of non-alignment. India has been accused of fence sitting, of being a free-loader on security provided by others, of not wanting to assume responsibility as a growing power for upholding the global system, which actually means India’s readiness to shore up the US built global order. At the official level, US leaders have expressed understanding of India’s desire to preserve its strategic autonomy and claim that they do not expect India to choose sides. The US seeks burden sharing in upholding the international system from which it feels others benefit without assuming responsibility. The dialogue on global commons is intended to steer India towards this burden-sharing concept. In the maritime domain, freedom of navigation and securing the sea lanes of communication are areas of particular interest in partnering India, given India’s dominating position in the Indian Ocean and the steady expansion of its naval power. The US attaches importance to the bilateral dialogue with India on global commons- air, space, sea and cyber- and emphasises partnership with India in defining the rules, with the intention no doubt to ensure that as India rises and seeks a change in the international rules so far defined by the West, it does so in close concert with the US. In cyberspace, cyber security has become a major international concern. India’s emergence as a major IT power and the vast expansion of its telecommunication network makes it a choice partner to develop new rules of the game with least contention.

The US at one time described India as a lynchpin of its pivot or rebalance towards Asia. Now it is avoiding embarrassing India by such a discourse. The underlying motivation behind the pivot and US interest in drawing India into this strategy is China, though this is not stated publicly in such open terms. India has been cautious about the US pivot towards Asia as its capacity and willingness to “contain” Chinese power is doubted because of the huge financial and commercial interdependence forged between the two countries. India seeks stable and economically productive relations with China and wants to avoid the risk of being used by the US to serve its China strategy that raises uncertainties in the mind of even the US allies in Asia. However, under the Modi government, India has become more affirmative in its statements about the situation in the western Pacific and the commonalities of interests between India and the US and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region. The government has decided to “Act East”, to strengthen strategic ties with Japan and Australia, as well as Vietnam, conduct more military exercises bilaterally with the US armed forces as well as naval exercises trilaterally with Japan. Modi has spoken publicly about greater India-US convergences in the Asia-Pacific region, to the point of the joint statement issued during his US visit being intrinsic to India’s Act East and Link West policies.

The last decade has seen a significant expansion of India-US economic ties, with trade in goods standing at $62 billion and the total exchanges, including investment, amounting to almost $100 billion, making the US India’s largest economic partner as a single country. Vice-President Biden, during his July visit to India spoke of $500 billion of bilateral trade if the right choices were made in removing trade barriers and inconsistencies in the tax regime. This has been echoed by Secretary Kerry when he participated in the Vibrant Gujarat summit. The US has welcomed relaxation in FDI norms in sectors like telecom, defence and insurance.

The political drift in India-US relations has been accompanied by the deterioration of the business atmosphere in economic ties, with sections of the US corporate sector, that in the past have worked hard to improve overall ties between the two countries, leading the campaign in the US Congress against India’s trade, investment and IPR policies, prompting a year long investigation into these policies by the US International Trade Commission. Alongside this, the US Trade Representative began an investigation of India’s IPR under Section 301 of the US Trade Act. Issues of Preferential Market Access in the telecom and solar sectors which are seen as protectionist, those regarding our patent laws, and retrospective application of our tax laws have mobilised some giant corporations to campaign against us. We, on the other hand, have problems with US restrictions on movement of personnel from India to the US in the IT sector, the increased costs of H1B and L1 visas that impose sizeable costs on this sector, the campaign in the US against outsourcing and our own concerns about US protectionism and market access for some of our products, as well as the unresolved issue of the totalisation agreement, on which the US response is not positive

It is in this larger background that Prime Minister Modi chose to accept President Obama’s invitation to visit Washington in September 2014, contrary to assumptions that because of the visa denial insult heaped on by the US for nine years, he might not accord priority to engaging the US so early. In his judgment, however, his personal pique was less important than the country’s interest; he was clearly interested in making a revived relationship with the US a crucial part of his development agenda.

The visit presented him with a difficult challenge as he went at a time when the mood towards India had soured because of the reasons outlined earlier: our nuclear liability act preventing US firms to get business in India, our reticence in forging stronger defence ties with US, including in defence manufacturing, commercial concerns of US companies in the pharmaceutical and solar power sectors because of our patent laws and local manufacturing requirements, the stand off at the WTO on the food subsidy issue. It was not immediately clear how much the visit would achieve; in the event, in terms of concrete outcomes, the result seemed to have been modest- more in the nature of establishing mechanisms to sort out problems rather than actual breakthroughs. No real closing of differences that divide us was announced, which was understandable as not much preparatory work was possible prior to the visit which was more to mend fences than achieve dramatic results. Moreover, many of the issues involved would require policy, legislative and administrative responses from our side and cannot be solved on the basis of purely political goodwill and diplomatic flexibility.

To recall, in the joint press briefing, Modi said that he believed that with the change in Indian policies and processes, the India-US relationship will grow rapidly in the coming years. This may well be true, but no time-frame was outlined for this and the change in policies and processes in India requires time, even with the best of intentions. The Americans, on the other hand, are by nature impatient. The joint statement stated that both sides will facilitate actions to increase trade five-fold, meaning almost reaching US-China levels, which is unachievable in any realistic time-frame. They pledged to establish an Indo-US Investment Initiative and an Infrastructure Collaboration Platform to develop and finance infrastructure. An agreement on the Investment Initiative has been signed in Washington this month, but bringing about capital reforms in India is not something that can be achieved in a hurry. It is also unlikely that the US will develop industrial corridors like Japan or competitively build highways, ports and airports and the like. India has offered U.S. industry lead partnership in developing three smart cities, but the details of the partnership have to be worked out. The two leaders committed to work through the Trade Policy Forum- which has not met for some years despite efforts on our part- to promote an “attractive” business environment- without specifying any metrics- and to establish an annual high-level Intellectual Property (IP) Working Group with appropriate decision-making and technical-level meetings as part of this Forum. This group has been holding meetings in advance of Obama’s visit. They reaffirmed their commitment to implement fully the U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement and establish a Contact Group to advance this. The Contact Group is also engaged in problem solving before the President’s visit, but the issue are legally complicated and a solution has to stand the test of public and legal scrutiny.

On IT related issues, Modi publicly pressed for Obama’s support “for continued openness and ease of access for Indian services companies in the US market”, without obtaining a reaction from the latter. On the food subsidy versus trade facilitation standoff in the WTO, Modi maintained his position firmly and the subsequent compromise with the US has secured the Indian position. He welcomed “the US defence companies to participate in developing the Indian defence industry”, without singling out any of the several co-development and co-production projects offered by the US as part of the TDDI. The reference in the joint statement to India and the US intending to expand defence cooperation to bolster national, regional and global security was rather bold and ambitious. If such cooperation bolstering national security makes immediate sense, the reference to regional security does not, given that the US continues to give military aid to Pakistan. After announcing $ 1 billion of military aid to Pakistan at the end of December 2014, a further package of of $532 million was announced. It was subsequently denied by the US that this aid was on the basis of certification that Pakistan was acting against terrorist groups on its soil. Actually, US has been giving national security waivers to Pakistan under the Kerry-Lugar legislation that makes aid to Pakistan contingent on verifiable actions by it to suppress terrorism. As regards India-US defence cooperation bolstering global security, it could be understood in the context of securing the sea lanes of communication in the Indian Ocean area, but beyond that it is not clear what the intention is, and it can lend itself to considerable geopolitical speculation. It was decided to renew for 10 years more the 2005 Framework for US-India Defence Relations, with defence teams of the two countries directed to “develop plans” for more ambitious programmes, including enhanced technology partnerships for India’s Navy, including assessing possible areas of technology cooperation.

On geopolitical issues, India showed strategic boldness in the formulations agreed in the joint statement. Modi’s reference to the great convergence on “peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region” was significant in terms of China’s assertiveness there. That he said that the US was intrinsic to our Look East and Link West policies suggests that India now views the US as being almost central to its foreign policy initiatives in both directions, which is a rather bold formulation geo-politically speaking. The joint statement spoke of a commitment to work more closely with other Asia Pacific countries, including through joint exercises, pointing implicitly to Japan and Australia, and even Vietnam. In this context, the decision to explore holding the trilateral India-US-Japan dialogue at Foreign Minister’s level was significant.

On the issue of terrorism and religious extremism, India and the US have rhetorical convergence -which is easy- and some specific cooperation on counter-terrorism issues which is found useful, but, on the whole, our concerns are not adequately met in view of the fact that US regional interests are not fully aligned with India’s. Modi did not support the US position on the ISIL in West Asia, though some in India advocated this. In fact, he called for the fight against the ISIL to be more inclusive, suggesting the inclusion of Iran and Syria in it. The joint statement called for the dismantling of safe havens for terrorist and criminal networks, to disrupt all financial and tactical support for networks such as Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the D-company and the Haqqanis, leaving the Taliban out, an omission that is striking because of its implications. In any case, such statements against Pakistan-based terrorist groups have been made before but are treated as pro-forma by Pakistan in the absence of any real US pressure on Pakistan to curb Hafiz Saeed who, in fact, is being given even more political space by Pakistan to continue his extremist tirades. Even Lakhvi is being treated by Pakistan with calculated ambivalence, despite India-US joint calls for bringing those responsible for the Mumbai massacre to justice.

During his Washington visit, Modi apparently invited Obama to be the chief guest at our Republic Day on January 26, 2015- a bold and imaginative move characteristic of the Prime Minister’s style of functioning. That this unprecedented invitation was made in the first was surprising, and it was equally surprising that it was accepted at such short notice by Obama. It had become conventional wisdom over the years that such a gesture could not be made to the US President because of the history of our relations and many points of divergence in thinking and policies that still exist. It is evident that Modi and Obama struck a good personal equation. The earlier alienation has been supplanted by empathy. Obama made the unprecedented gesture of accompanying Modi to the King Memorial. This certainly helped to invest Modi with political prestige as India’s man of destiny, a “man of action” in Obama’s words. These developments have widened India’s foreign policy space with both friends and adversaries.

The ice has been broken with the US but the difficulties in forging a balanced relationship with the US remain. The US Congress has, for instance, decided to continue the investigations of India’s investment and trade policies for another year, although the US Trade Representative (USTR) halted further action under Section 301 of the US Trade Act against India’s IPR policies before his visit to India in November 2014 to hold the long delayed meeting of the Trade Policy Group. This was prompted by some steps we intend to take, but the USTR will make a final call depending on their implementation. The US maintains its opposition to local manufacturing requirements and the USTR has cautioned against extending them to the defence manufacturing sector.

With the Indian government moving forward decisively on the GST, raising the FDI ceilings in the insurance sector and amending the Land Acquisition Act, besides other steps to decontrol diesel prices, those of urea, reduce subsidies in general, disinvest in PSUs and reduce interest rates, the signalling to the US is positive.
At Washington, we agreed that we had an enhanced strategic partnership on climate change issues and we committed ourselves to working with the US to make the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris in December this year a success. This gives a handle to the US to ratchet up pressure to obtain some emission reduction commitments from India, buoyed diplomatically by the US-China agreement. Vice-President Biden had, during his July 2013 visit to India, focused heavily on green technologies and the stupendous international market for them, signalling US ambitions to sell such technologies to India.

With the latest accommodative signals from Washington and the new Afghan President on Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, we will face problems as the US completes the process of troop withdrawals by 2016. We will continue to have differences over US policies in West Asia. US policies towards Iran have affected our energy security scenario by preventing investment by our companies in the Iranian hydrocarbon fields. We had a paragraph on Iran in the joint statement in Washington, clearly at US insistence, which the Iranians would have noted with some displeasure. While the US supports India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council, the support remains on paper as the US is not politically ready to promote the expansion of the Council. On the issue of reforms of the global institutions too, we will continue to face US recalcitrance, although these issues do not concern India alone and affect the interests of some other major countries too.

Apart from the ceremonial part which has a political significance of its own, the US will expect the Obama visit to yield some visible results. This would be necessary to justify his second visit to India as President. Our side will also need to justify the invitation to Obama by demonstrating some significant results, failing which the usual criticisms on both sides will surface. On our side, there will be talk of a crucial opportunity missed, and on the US side, lack of clarity in India about how far it wants to go with the US strategically and be a real partner. It is certain that the Defence Cooperation Framework Agreement will be extended for another 10 years, with more ambitious content, including more military exercises. The US hopes for at least one joint defence manufacturing project to be announced during the visit as a start. From Defence Minister Parrikar’s public remarks, it seems something may be announced in this area, It will be interesting to see if anything is announced on naval technologies following the joint statement issued during Modi’s Washington visit. To the Americans, the Indian side now seems more open to discussing the three stalled foundational agreements, though any agreement is unlikely for the time being. Discussions on a Bilateral Investment Treaty are likely to continue for some time. Obama will not be able to give satisfaction on either the UNSC permanent membership or that of the export control organisations or reform of global institutions during his visit. On the nuclear issue, the contours of some understanding are emerging, but whether an agreement can be concluded in time remains uncertain.

While Prime Minister Modi is manifestly keen to forge stronger ties with the US, he will be mindful of maintaining a balance in our external relations. He has already reached out to China and expects to visit that country this year to maintain the momentum of improving ties and economic cooperation with it. He sent strong signals to President Putin during the latter’s visit to India in December about the value he attaches to India-Russia relations, about which the Russians are reportedly very pleased. Any thinking in some circles in India that Modi has chosen to strategically lean towards the US at the cost of our other relationships would be misreading his intentions. Modi is strengthening India’s strategic autonomy by forging stronger understandings with all our major partners by giving them stakes in India’s economic development. Modi is not thinking of taking sides but working with all sides pragmatically.

At the end of the day, India and the US have to find common ground to protect their respective interests, which is happening and should be pursued further.

Published Date: 24th January 2015, Image source:
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Vivekananda International Foundation)

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