Maybe everyone else knows about this and I just missed it; in any event, unlike so much of the news that dominates today’s headlines, this, as reported in The Australian, is actually important:
Its logic is inescapable yet the idea has been inconceivable: a strategic partnership between the two great democracies, the US and India, long divided by distrust and the Cold War.
Yet it is happening. George W. Bush has reached out to India and one of the coming debates in global politics will be over the manner and meaning of his decision to support India’s quest to become a global power.
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Washington in July, with Bush reportedly saying this will be treated as a “grand event”, and at the year’s end Bush will visit India.
The Bush administration, far more cohesive with Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, has launched a diplomatic offensive with India that is stunning in its rhetoric and serious in its content. “India’s relations with the US are now the best they have ever been,” says Rajiv Sikri, the senior official on East Asia at India’s external affairs ministry.
In a calculated State Department briefing in Washington on March 25 (now famous in New Delhi), the real US purpose was made explicit. The spokesman said that Bush and Rice earlier this year “developed the outline for a decisively broader strategic relationship” between the US and India. When Rice went to New Delhi she presented this outline to Singh, its purpose being “to help India become a major world power in the 21st century”, the abiding dream of the Indian elite.
The spokesman continued: “We [the US] understand fully the implications, including military implications, of that statement.”
“Military implications” includes “a top-of-the-line version of the F-16, hi-tech defence and space co-operation in terms of satellites and launch vehicles, Patriot and Arrow missiles, and access to civilian nuclear technology,” as the Bush administration looks forward to the time when India may be an important counterbalance to China.
As usual, President Bush is thinking big, and thinking for the long term. Everyone knows how many talented people India produces, but until now, its economy has been held back by anti-capitalist prejudices left over from the post-colonial era. If India can liberate its economy, it could be a very formidable ally.