US Fetters Strategic Ties

The New Indian Express

16th June 2010

It has become ritualistic for American leaders and officials to declare at the end of every bilateral meeting how important India is for the US. During the just concluded strategic dialogue between the two countries, secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, repeated it. She quoted the US president to state, “India is an indispensable partner to the US.” The statement may please many, but the statement conceals an iniquitous US policy aimed at securing India’s cooperation with little regard for the latter’s interests.

India would do well in not taking delight in the statement, rather as a nation whose partnership is indispensable for shaping the 21st century in a manner that George Bush was inclined to see the relationship. The issue is not one of semantics. The former reflects India’s importance in furthering US interests while the latter would imply cooperation to address global challenges including those that are in India’s interests. It appears that in the glare of US attention, the need to demand that the partnership be built on an equitable foundation, is being lost on India.

Insistence by the US that India prove its worth to become its partner by toeing its line on Iran, by understanding its arms supplies to Pakistan, and not pursue its goal to play a more constructive role in Afghanistan are testimonies to this inequitable partnership. Its policy towards Islamabad has led many commentators to even suspect that the US is once again hyphenating its relations with India and Pakistan.

It began with the attempt of the Obama administration to appoint an interlocutor on the Kashmir issue in the hope that settling the problem would free Pakistan to commit more troops in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The US expected India to understand its compulsions without being sensitive about the security implications it could have for India.

The US has also been selective in sharing critical intelligence and less than forthcoming in its cooperation with India in the fight against terror. The US has done little to show that sharing of intelligence has actually benefited India. Intelligence is only selectively shared to protect the US and when it does not embarrass its ally, Pakistan. Some US foreign policy analysts have averred to this dichotomy. Lisa Curtis, senior fellow at Heritage Foundation, whose pro-Pakistani slant is well-known, had testified before the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs on February 26, 2009 that, “Despite general convergence of American and Indian views on the need to contain terrorism, the two countries have failed in the past to work together as closely as they could have to minimise terrorist threats.”