In a few days, Barack Obama will become the first sitting US president to visit India twice while in office.
The two countries are undoubtedly getting closer, but, it might be not as wonderful as it appears, because they both build their ties by taking advantage of each other.
The US, frankly speaking, has never treated India as an equal friend. The global strategic background at present is the reason why it values India so much. Cultivating India as a partner will enhance US influence in international affairs as well as the global economy.
For example, the US has nearly been dragged into a new Cold War with Russia due to the Ukraine crisis, while competition between the US and an emerging China also seems to be escalating. Thus, India represents a singularly positive opportunity for Washington’s “rebalancing” strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.
Developing a good relationship with India will help Washington seek more support in international affairs and reduce the influence of emerging powers such as China in Asia. In this regard, the US is only treating India as a pawn in its rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region.
Equally important, India’s rapid economic growth could provide more robust commercial ties with the US, while Modi’s new “Make in India” campaign brings Washington substantial investment opportunities.
For India, piggybacking on the closer relationship with the US will benefit the people’s livelihood through increasing economic cooperation and improving the country’s infrastructure. The US could also assist India to emerge as a major global power by backing India for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
Further more, by fostering a revitalization of the relations between the two democracies, India will gain diversified support in the fields of military and technology.
However, as a country that has long maintained nonalignment policy, India has no intention to shift its diplomatic strategy, not now and not in the future. Consequently, any cooperation could be treated as nothing but seeking mutual benefit.
Therefore, despite the fact that both sides are sending positive signals and working hard to ensure Obama’s upcoming visit will be fruitful, it will prove to be hard for the US and India to become new best friends through a single visit. Several challenges are still confronting the two nations.
Washington has significantly different agenda to work out with India on climate change. The US is trying to reach a global agreement on binding emissions targets in which developing countries would abide by specific requirements on emissions. India, however, finds itself a “victim” of the effects of climate change that are caused largely by Western nations’ industrialization long ago.
While the US is focused on extorting concessions from the developing countries over this issue, India has almost no choice but to boost its growth by using cheaper energy, with the size of its population and the current situation of development.
More critically, the development of US-Pakistan relations has cast a shadow on India-US ties. India and Pakistan have fought several wars and relations remain contentious. Even though the India-US bond has grown stronger, the US will never stop considering Pakistan as its ally in the war on terror. So, it won’t be a surprise if India responds negatively when US keeps sending military aid to Pakistan.
The US and India hold more divergence on issues such as global trade talks and the establishment of a new global economic order.
All these are reasons to be skeptical of Indian-US ties, not because their achievements and advances are insignificant, but because their relationship has no foundational moorings. So, these potential problems will be likely to frustrate relations periodically.
Obama will be warmly welcomed during his visit, New Delhi and Washington will grow closer, the two countries will strengthen their strategic partnership, but no breakthroughs will occur if all those challenges remain.
Started in year 2010, ‘Climate Himalaya’ initiative has been working on Mountains and Climate linked issues in the Himalayan region of South Asia. In the last five years this knowledge sharing portal has become one of the important references for the governments, research institutions, civil society groups and international agencies, those have work and interest in the Himalayas. The Climate Himalaya team innovates on knowledge sharing, capacity building and climatic adaptation aspects in its focus countries like Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Climate Himalaya’s thematic areas of work are mountain ecosystem, water, forest and livelihood. Read>>