India-US political engagement
IT’S a time of deep thinking about India’s political relations with the United States of America when New Delhi is paying a heavy cost for its improving and strengthening relations with Washington, especially after cessation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) and consequently, the US becoming single super power of the world, although it was done without jeopardizing earlier relations with any country, even the Russian Federation, it however, made India easy prey of both China as well as Pakistan with whom New Delhi’s relations are already at its lowest.
Barring the decade of ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai’ of mid-1950s, Beijing and Islamabad remained on friendly terms, while they together, maintained an enmity with India on regular basis which have become more visible and aggressive with its warming of relations with the US.
At the juncture, emergence of Russia and its decision to work strategically with Beijing and Islamabad have hurt India in real and emotional terms because it feels alone in the region and neighbourhood, practically, a power sandwiched between expansionist Beijing and terrorist Islamabad for no faults of its own.
In this era of globalisation and liberalisation when relations between nations have become interdependence, it is neither possible nor feasible to break or suspend relations with any country, it however, can easily exert pressure and contain these powers to avoid needling New Delhi unnecessarily when the later wants to live in peace and let others live.
Not only India but there are so many other states in South Asia and Southeast Asia loyal and faithful to the US are being tortured and harassed by Beijing only because they have been pro- America without being anti-China.
In contrast to Donald Trump, who encouraged bilateralism and buried multilateralism in American foreign policy, all such states are watching carefully the external policy of Joe Biden with utmost hope to come forward for their rescue.
Bilateral relations between India and the US enhanced in post-1962 phase because now America began to support India against the Communist China, but again after the India-Pakistan War of 1965 Washington lost interest in the region while India becoming diplomatically active move forward as a forerunner of Non-aligned Movement whose membership spread across the world, the newly independent countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America in particular, and India in the lead role.
The two countries once again in early 1970s took U turn when on a secret mission Kissinger visited Beijing and under a strategy Pakistan, China and the US came closer sensing the alarms, New Delhi signed a twenty-years Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with the USSR to counter its effects during Indo-Pak war of 1971, which ended in the emergence of Bangladesh, a sovereign and independent nation and at the time US openly supported Pakistan.
Relations between the two remained slow and hostile further owing to India’s nuclear explosion in May 1974, followed by the annexation of Sikkim in the Indian Union.
Even the coming of first non-Congress government under Morarji Desai in March 1977 did not succeed in improving the Indo-US relations significantly who claimed to be genuinely Non-aligned.
The decade 1980s showed some improvements because again the USSR was active in the region with its intervention in Afghanistan in December 1979, compelling America for closer relations with New Delhi.
At a later stage, the growing power of China and India became a concern for the US and culminated ultimately in US rivalry with Beijing along with coming closer with New Delhi to contain China’s hegemonic power at regional and global level especially from the Presidentship of Barrack Obama, a large portion of US foreign policy has been devoted to contain Beijing.
The Indo-US relations reached a peak from cooperation to strategic partnership in last two decades because India emerged in the 21st century as increasingly vital to core US foreign policy interests and by the time became a dominant actor in its region, and the home of more than one billion citizens, characterized as a nascent great power and an indispensable partner of the US.
In comparison to earlier when Indo- US relations were excellent, the Presidentship of Donald Trump, beginning in January 2017 India faced more ups and downs on several counts despite free mixing of Trump and Narendra Modi, who assumed power in May 2014.
Bilateral relations apart, Trump’s harder attitude towards China and Pakistan gave some relief to India as America openly supported India when China attacked Doklam in 2017 and also warned Pakistan to end US aid as it has done nothing to defeat terrorism in the region.
In the context revival of Quad, a regional alliance to encircle China is a favourable step in on the part of US.
Most likely, as visible from the policy orientation of Joe Biden, he will not only continue the India and South Asia policy of Donald Trump but will act in a more systematic and aggressive way to stop Chinese excesses in the region and across the globe.
— The writer is Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, B N Mandal University, Madhepura, Bihar, India.