Academic journal article IUP Journal of International Relations

Friends, Not Allies: India-US Equation in the 21st Century[dagger]

Academic journal article IUP Journal of International Relations

Friends, Not Allies: India-US Equation in the 21st Century[dagger]

Article excerpt

In the last six decades, India-US equation has gone through many ups and downs, mostly downswings till the 1990s. The transition of India-US relations from 'divergence' in essence in the 1950s to considerable "convergence" by the beginning of the 21^sup st^ century is indeed a fascinating, complex and compelling story. Today, the two countries can be called "friends, not allies". By way of contrast, Pakistan and the US can be seen as "allies, not friends." Two decades of liberalization and globalization since 1990s has brought the two "estranged democracies" closer than ever before. As the reform process widened and deepened (under successive governments), the country moved closer to the US ideologically and politically at home and abroad. The most significant development in the growing proximity between the two countries since the 1990s is the India-US Nuclear Deal. However, Indo-US cooperation in this sector is at a dead end now. Since the time of President Clinton, the number, variety, scope of the ever-growing linkages (called initiatives, dialogues, agreements, partnerships, and joint military exercises, etc.) between the two sides are staggering indeed. Though the two countries have no territorial or fundamental conflicts to keep them apart, both governments are wary of each other on many counts and do not see eye-to-eye on most of the crucial challenges confronting the world today. Convergence at the cosmic level and divergence at the concrete level will continue to be the key hassle in India-US relations at the present and in the future. This paper takes a close look at the India-US equation in 21^sup st^ century.

Upswings and downswings have been a recurring feature of the Government- to-Government relations between India and the United States of America during the half century of Cold War. However, people-to-people relations between the two countries continued to widen and deepen throughout the decades. This trend gathered a significant momentum after the Immigration Act of 1 965, which ended the historic policy of immigration based on race and nationality quotas. The "Land of Opportunity" opened its gates to men and women of talent and skills, which led to the immigration of doctors, engineers, scientists, academicians and skilled professionals from all over the world (including India) over the decades. These "quality" immigrants enhanced the accumulated talent pool of the nation immeasurably and transformed USA into the "knowledge society" as we know it today. This is the foundation of the enormous scientific and technology edge and the consequent strategic and military superiority America enjoys over the other nations. This crucial dimension should be kept in mind while considering the issue of America's decline today.

India's freedom struggle evoked much interest and some excitement in America because of the uniquely peaceful nature of the Mahatma's mobilization of the millions against the British rule. However, the protracted Cold War and the bipolarization of world soon after India's independence put the two governments at loggerheads. India's anxiety not to lose its newly won freedom and its determination to retain a degree of autonomy in the context of the no holds barred global confrontation between the two superpowers of the post-war years were not appreciated in the US and the West. On its part India did not appreciate the strategic concerns and the ideological anxieties of the Americans. Consequently, the bilateral relations between the two countries at the political level swayed up and down depending on the issues and events of the day. This is rather puzzling because India and America, the two multi-ethnic and pluralist democracies of continental dimensions have a great deal in common. The two countries continued as "estranged democracies" because of the not so gradual unfulfillment of mutual expectations in the context of the cold war, which dragged on for a half century. The transition of India-US relations from "divergence" in essence to considerable "convergence" by the beginning of the 21st century is indeed a fascinating, complex and compelling story1, which need not distract us here because our focus now is on the present and the future. …

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