Tuesday, May 24, 2005

India Is The New Britain

About a week ago, I wrote a despairing post wherein I mused about who are our enemies, and who are our friends. One of the just a little more than a handful of nations I decided we could truly call friends, was India. Here, from The Australian, is an article which discusses the Bush Administration diplomatic efforts at forging a solid alliance with the emerging Capatalist Democracy:

ITS logic is inescapable yet the idea has been inconceivable: a strategic partnership between the two great democracies, the US and India, long divided by distrust and the Cold War. Yet it is happening. George W. Bush has reached out to India and one of the coming debates in global politics will be over the manner and meaning of his decision to support India's quest to become a global power.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Washington in July, with Bush reportedly saying this will be treated as a "grand event", and at the year's end Bush will visit India.
A round of interviews in New Delhi this week elicited a plethora of views as India's political elite debates how far it should enter the US embrace. But India is being wooed and its pride at this is palpable.

The Bush administration, far more cohesive with Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, has launched a diplomatic offensive with India that is stunning in its rhetoric and serious in its content. "India's relations with the US are now the best they have ever been," says Rajiv Sikri, the senior official on East Asia at India's external affairs ministry.

When the two leaders briefly met in Moscow this month at celebrations to honour the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, Bush introduced his wife Laura to Singh, saying, "This is the Prime Minister of India and I'm going to take you to his country this Christmas-New Year so you can see the most fascinating democracy in the world."

The message in New Delhi is that Bush and Singh can do business. How much business they do remains to be seen but the US has set the bar very high. When Rice visited India in March she said: "This is my first stop as Secretary of State in Asia. The President has personally put a lot of time and energy into the relationship. The US has determined that this is going to be a very important relationship going forward and we're going to put whatever time we need into it." The aim was to take US-India ties "to another level."

In a calculated State Department briefing in Washington on March 25 (now famous in New Delhi), the real US purpose was made explicit. The spokesman said that Bush and Rice earlier this year "developed the outline for a decisively broader strategic relationship" between the US and India. When Rice went to New Delhi she presented this outline to Singh, its purpose being "to help India become a major world power in the 21st century", the abiding dream of the Indian elite.

The spokesman continued: "We [the US] understand fully the implications, including military implications, of that statement."

The article goes on to explain some of the ways in which America will help India with it's military and energy needs. Equipment and technology to be shared includes "top-of-the-line" military jets, and help with their satellite systems.

It is rare in the past 100 years that a US president has sent a signal of this dimension. India thinks it can manage this US embrace on its own terms. It knows that China and the world will have to take India more seriously and India will have to give China assurances it is not joining any US "containment of China" strategy. All this is already under way.

Singh's media aide Sanjaya Baru says: "India is an ancient civilisation and has a mind of its own on each issue. But our views are moving in parallel with the US and Anglo-Saxon world." Baru sees a new realism in India's policy that dates from the 1991 economic reform era with growth now running at 6 per cent to 7 per cent each year.

Singh, an economic technocrat, has declared that India's new role in the world will be defined by how it manages globalisation. That is a long advance from Nehru. And it dictates a diplomacy to underwrite entrepreneurship, markets and technology, with all that implies for a more positive view of the US.

I believe this is the right move. India looks like the new Britain; a natural ally, who stands for the same principles, and against the same enemies.