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India and the United States in the 21st Century: Reinventing Partnership


India and the United States in the 21st Century: Reinventing Partnership
India and the United States in the 21st Century: Reinventing Partnership

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Teresita Schaffer's book India and the United States in the 21st Century: Reinventing Partnership focuses on the two countries' success in forging bilateral relations and seeking common ground on global issues. Ms. Schaffer is director of the South Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C. think-tank.

The book India and the United States in the 21st Century: Reinventing Partnership is essential to understanding the present state of U.S.-India relations and the prospects for the future. So says Thomas Pickering, former U.S. Ambassador to India. The author Teresita Schaffer is former deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia, and U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka. What prompted her to write this book at this time? Ambassador Schaffer:

“I wrote this book because I had been watching the transformation of U.S.-India relations and as you know, I was in the U.S. government in charge of South Asian policy for number of years, and I was fascinated by the change that was taking place,” says Ambassador Schaffer. “It struck me that the real transformation was that India and the United States increasingly had interests that were running together, and I wanted to write about what this was going to do to our future relationship.”

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Teresita Schaffer says that adding the final phrase 'reinventing partnership' to the book's title was her idea: “The reason I called it reinventing partnership is that so many of our leaders in both countries were using phrases like natural allies and strategic partnership. And when you think about partnership the way it was practiced by the United States, none of the existing models seem to work very well for India and the United states. So, I think we have to develop a new one.”

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, India - politically and economically - has moved in a direction that brings it far closer to the United States. Free market policies, once unheard of in India, are now perceived by Indians as the best way to help the country develop economically.

India's economic growth and thirst for energy create important common interests with the U.S. The two governments also have developed a vigorous military-to-military relationship, reflecting similar security interests. Author Teresita Schaffer says they have devoted much less attention to creating a common vision of the world. “We have been very successful in building up our bilateral relationship - what we do just with one another - but we haven't gone as far yet in developing common or parallel strategies for dealing with the rest of the world.”

In her book India and the United States in the 21st Century: Reinventing Partnership, Teresita Schaffer says the big global issues in the coming decade, including climate change, nuclear proliferation, and international financial reform, cannot be addressed without India. She is convinced that the U.S. and India can become partners in the real sense of the word.

While New Delhi and Washington have much in common, problems remain. One important issue is tense relations between India and Pakistan, and what approach the U.S. must take toward both of them. For more than three decades, some in India resented what they viewed as an American search for a balance of power between Islamabad and New Delhi, despite the difference in the two nations.

Are India's unresolved problems with Pakistan still a hindrance in achieving stronger U.S.-India Relationship? Ambassador Schaffer: “I think India's unresolved problems with Pakistan are primarily a problem for India in achieving its global ambition. As far as the U.S. is concerned, I think what happened in the past twenty years is that the U.S. is not focused on what is the balance of power between India and Pakistan. That question effectively has been answered. What the U.S. is still focused on are two things: first of all, the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan what we are very familiar with; and secondly, how can India and Pakistan develop a peaceful relationship that will remain reliably peaceful.”

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In July 2005, The United States sealed with India a landmark nuclear deal that would give India access to U.S. technology necessary to build the most advanced nuclear power plants. The deal is also symbolic of a growing strategic partnership between the United States and India. Teresita Schaffer says the full implementation of the nuclear deal to the satisfaction of both parties is integral for this reinvented partnership. She is hopeful for that and says there are deep similarities between the United States and India.

"The most important of these similarities is our common commitment to democracy. Since we both have wide open systems in which everyone says what they like, I think we need to develop a style that is unique to the U.S.-India partnership where our collaboration will be somewhat selective; some issues: yes, some issues: no; but we will understand that this is how one constructs a solid friendship between these two very independent countries."

Ambassador Schaffer concludes that both India and the United States have strengths; and if they can effectively cooperate and interact in global affairs, it will provide benefits to the world in the 21st century.