Accessibility links

Report: US-India Relationship Needs Re-Energizing

A new report by a Washington-based policy group is urging President Barack Obama to use his visit to India early next month to move the U.S.-India relationship significantly forward, and help India's emergence as a great power. Recommendations in the report by the Center for a New American Security come about two weeks before President Obama departs for India as part of a four-nation Asian trip.

The report says India has emerged as a new major global power, a fact that is transforming the global geopolitical landscape. In this regard, it says a strengthened U.S. - India partnership is imperative.

But while noting major progress in improving U.S. - India ties under former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the report refers to what it calls fears that "forward momentum" has stalled.

One of the co-chairs of the study, former undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns, says President Obama has an important opportunity to re-energize the relationship. "We have a vital American interest to sustain this partnership, to build it, and sustain it for decades ahead. India may not be a formal treaty ally, although some Americans wouldn't object if India wanted a formal alliance. But it is going to be a democratic partner for us for the future," he said.

Burns praises what he calls the energy President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others have applied to the relationship with India, adding that Mr. Obama has an opportunity to re-frame it and see it evolve.

Former deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage is the other co-chair of the group that issued the study. "This relationship, although desired by successive administrations in the U.S. and I think desired by our friends in India, is not and cannot be self-sustaining. We have to work at this every day," he said.

Prepared as a blueprint for the Obama administration, the report says the U.S. has "a compelling interest in facilitating democratic India's emergence as a global power to help shape a world order conducive to our common interests and values."

Among steps the U.S. should take, it recommends a public and explicit commitment by the U.S. to work with India in support of its effort to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, an expanded U.S. - India military partnership and defense trade, and liberalized U.S. export controls.

It also discusses steps India needs to take to move the relationship forward. Again, former undersecretary Burns. "India has obligations too, because this relationship like any good relationship is a two-way street. Implement the civil nuclear agreement, reform the nuclear liability law, reduce barriers to defense trade, deal with the problem of intellectual property rights violations," he said.

The report notes that the U.S. - India Civil Nuclear Accord remains unimplemented three years after it was concluded in 2007, risking severe damage to relations. It calls for changes in nuclear liability legislation passed by India's parliament. Provisions of the law have upset U.S. companies, but the Indian government has so far ruled out any amendments to it.

On regional issues, the report calls U.S. - India discussions about Pakistan and Afghanistan inadequate, and urges more robust dialogue about Pakistan and more effective cooperation in the global effort to end Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

On the question of power balances in Asia, the report says neither the U.S. nor India seeks to contain China. Armitage spoke about the conclusion that strengthened U.S. - India cooperation and strategic ties between the world's two largest democracies increases the likelihood that China's rise will be peaceful.

"This is not in any way a containment of China, but it is a recognition that the chance of a peaceful re-rise of China on the international stage can be increased if assisted by two, strong democratic powers," he said.

Former U.S. ambassador Frank Wisner said the report reflects a recognition that differences between the U.S. and India can be managed, and that a stronger partnership is necessary. Contributors to the report, he said, were convinced that the cause of democracy is intimately tied [to] the weight the U.S. and India can put behind it.