Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

Obama Administration II & India

Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

Obama Administration II & India

Article excerpt

On the floor of the Indian Parliament, US President Barack Obama in November 2010 said, "...the just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate. That is why I can say today, in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed United Nations Security Council that includes India as a permanent member". He further extended his support to expand the membership in international non-proliferation regimes, such as the NSG, MTCR and Australia Group to include India in them. In his view India has become an "indispensable partner" of the US in the 21st century.

More than two years have since passed and Obama will remain the US president for more than three years. Will the "indispensable partnership" help fulfil all those promises? If not, due to inadequate time and fiercely complicated processes, will the "strategic partnership" between India and the US move closer towards that goal during the second presidential term of Obama?

India rarely comes on to the foreign policy radar of American presidents, particularly during the first few months of a new administration taking charge in the White House. If it does, the atmospheric is generally downbeat. This pattern has been quite noticeable in the recent history of US-India relations.

Bill Clinton, the first post-Cold War American president, for instance, was too exceedingly engaged during the early years of his presidency in handling global developments in the aftermath of the Soviet disintegration to pay attention to India. Whatever little attention that was paid did not lead to optimism. India was put on the target list of Super 301 and Special 301 clauses of US Omnibus Trade Act. Assistant Secretary of State Robin Raphael challenged the legal validity of Instrument of Accession that made Jammu and Kashmir part of India. President Clinton did not receive the credential of the new Indian ambassador for about six months. All these developments signalled that negativity would largely govern US-Indian relations in the post-Cold War era.

There is no doubt that by the time President Clinton ended his term, Indo-US relations had substantively transformed and a new foundation of bilateral partnership was inaugurated when Clinton visited India in March 2000. Clinton imposed US sanctions on India after the Indian decision to go nuclear in May 1998, but in less than two years crafted a new and decidedly constructive approach, and laid its groundwork during his visit to India.

When George W. Bush entered the White House in January 2001, doubts spread across the Indian policy making community that the new partnership launched by Bill Clinton during the closing years of his presidency may just be dumped by the new Republican administration. Sceptics felt that nothing much could be expected of George Bush, who as a presidential candidate in 2000 could not even name the Indian prime minister! Although India sprang a surprise by endorsing Bush's Missile Defence Plan in May 2001 and months later offered unqualified support to his war against terror in the wake of the 9/ 11 terrorist attacks on the US, President Bush had other more pressing problems. He was busy appealing, persuading and finally bulling Pakistan and made it a frontline ally in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban regime in Kabul, his primary pre-occupation at that time.

However, just like his predecessor, Bush ended his presidency with an innovative strategic partnership with India and cementing it with a civil nuclear cooperation agreement between India and the United States. In one stroke, India ceased to be a target of the US-sponsored international non-proliferation regimes and a new paradigm of Indo-US engagement emerged incorporating almost every conceivable dimension of cooperation and initiatives.

Such a pattern of US approach towards India was repeated when Barrack Obama of the Democratic Party became the US president in 2009. …

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