Bush needs caution in wooing India (JOHN O’SULLIVAN, 2/28/06, Chicago Sun-Times)
India is not a neurotic superpower but it is still an ambivalent one. Almost all the economic and political developments cited above point the country toward adopting an economy strategy of free market globalization and a political one of alliance with the United States. The two countries share a common language, common liberal democratic values, similar legal and political institutions (inherited in both cases from the British), a common strategic rival in China, and a common enemy in al-Qaida. These similarities help to explain the growing Indian diaspora in America, the boom in U.S. companies outsourcing to India’s own Silicon Valleys, the ease of military cooperation between Indian and U.S. military forces, and the fact that America is more popular in India than in any other country.
Altogether, India’s progress is bottom-up rather than top-down. It is also bipartisan. Both government and opposition have advanced the economic reform agenda in the last 14 years. So a change of government would probably not mean a drastic change of policy. It is likely to last.
Yet there are powerful groups that for various reasons dislike the switch of policy from socialism and neutralism to globalization and a pro-American diplomatic stance. India’s “Regulation Ra” is naturally opposed to losing its control over economic life. Traditional industries would like to keep their protective subsidies. Influential left-wing intellectuals dislike the new official embrace of free market capitalism and globalization. Factions in the Congress government hanker for India’s former role as the morally upright leader of the Third World sympathetic to global socialism. And some Indians are simply nervous about getting into bed with a partner as large and overwhelming as the United States.
Bush should therefore go carefully in wooing New Delhi. Rather than stress the exclusive nature of the Indo-U.S. partnership — which frightens as well as flatters — he might want to point out that other friends of India are also linking themselves more closely to the United States in the post-Cold War world. Howard’s Australia is one. Tony Blair’s Britain another. After the recent election in Canada, Stephen Harper’s new government is likely to move closer to the United States. In fact the English-speaking world, plus Japan, is gradually emerging as an informal U.S. alliance. And in that alliance India would be a junior partner to nobody except the United States.
There’s safety in numbers — not only in the war on terror but also as a way of avoiding unintended domination in alliances led by a generous but sometimes careless United States.
India is the ideal location for the President to present himself as the humble American he spoke of in his debate with Al Gore.