The President’s Crown Jewel (Robert T. McLean, March 21, 2006,

While it is a widely held belief that Prime Minister Singh has minimal interest in helping the United States balance China, recent Chinese strategic advances in the Indian Ocean have the potential of encircling his country. Beijing has been strengthening its long-held alliance with Pakistan and is in the process of developing the Port of Gwadar, providing China with access to the Arabian Sea to India’s west. To the East, Beijing hopes to establish a semi-client state in Burma and currently exerts more influence with the military regime than any other external actor. These developments, coupled with disputed border lines and Chinese military advances, leave India as a natural ally of the United States and undoubtedly have factored into Singh’s assessments.

The strengthening of relations between Washington and Delhi has already had an effect on trade between the two countries. This is essential for the United States because as trade continues to grow, so too does America’s trade deficit with India. The imbalance reached over $1.2 billion in favor of New Delhi in the month of January alone. The Bush administration – in particular, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman, who also made the trip – is actively seeking Indian measures to lower its trade barriers to allow more American products to enter India’s vast and expanding market. Efforts to increase American capital into India were made during the early March trip as business leaders from both countries discussed ways to encourage investment in physical infrastructure, such as turning Bombay into a regional financial center. […]

Militarily advantages to the United States from this partnership are clear. India’s potential for manpower alone could be significant in any future conflict and New Delhi has been offered both F-16 and F-18 fighter aircraft from the Pentagon. Since 2002, India and the United States have conducted thirty joint military operations. According to Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Indians are also building three carrier fleets and have stepped up regional cooperation with neighbors such as Singapore and Sri Lanka to counter China’s quest for influence on India’s periphery.

Of equal importance, the growing alliance with New Delhi will produce concrete geopolitical gains for the United States. India has traditionally been rather hostile to American interests in international forums, such as the United Nations. However, New Delhi decided to join the United States at the IAEA on Iran, and increased congruency will continue to arise as the partnership strengthens and the Washington expands its influence with India.

As President Bush noted as he concluded his trip to India, “the United States and India, separated by half the globe, are closer than ever before and the partnership between our free nations has the power to transform the world.” Washington and New Delhi are united by a relatively parallel set of interests and values. While there will inevitably be situations that arise where our interests may vary, it is likely that India will emerge with Japan – and perhaps South Korea – as the principal American allies in Asia. The ramifications of such a development are large, and the United States, as well as the president’s legacy, will be rewarded immeasurably.

Little mentioned in regard to the India/America alliance is the vital aspect that if the Middle East were to prove unReformable the Indians cover its Eastern flank.

Getting India Right (Parag Khanna and C. Raja Mohan, February/March 2006, Policy Review)

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