Breaking New Ground with India: Build a Valuable Indo-U.S. Strategic Partnership

April 8, 2008

To assure that Indo-U.S. relations attain more of their capacity to benefit both countries, the next President should embark on a course that can fairly be labeled “policy continuity-plus.” This course should include several progressions. In the area of nuclear energy, it should include:

  • cooperation in greatly reducing the nuclear arms threat and proliferation, based on the joint pro-disarmament legacy of President Reagan and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, which has been taken up by a quartet of American statesmen led by former Secretary of State George Shultz.

In the use of hard power and related measures, the next administration’s course of policy continuity-plus should include:

  • coordination with the Indian military especially the Navy, including expanding joint naval exercises and planning, sharing more information on deployments, and rotating responsibility for patrol duties in sea lanes—thereby establishing a force-multiplier for stability
  • designation of India as a major non-NATO ally, a privilege accorded Pakistan in 2004, to enhance technology and arms transfers
  • development of much stronger security ties involving counter-terrorism, an area of now-inexcusable lapses on the part of the United States
  • coordination to promote stability in Afghanistan (where India already has provided considerable support), as well as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma and Bangladesh
  • quiet but effective steps toward an Indo-Pakistani rapprochement over Kashmir, the greatest continuing threat to stability in the subcontinent

In the use of soft power, the next administration should engage in:

  • support for a permanent Indian seat on the UN Security Council—a step that would acknowledge India’s global status and reflect the geopolitical realities of the 21st century
  • begin the process of negotiation of a free-trade agreement with India, which would be of benefit to both countries , but would require strong presidential leadership with protectionists in Congress and elsewhere
  • academic partnerships, including encouraging more U.S. students to study in India and promoting education exchanges and joint research activity in science, health care and public health, and information technology, and
  • cooperation with both India and China in energy security and other areas, rather than vainly and unwisely attempting to use India as a hedge against China.

Pursuing this agenda will realize the advantages of a natural alliance between two of the world’s great, multi-ethnic democracies.
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