NEW YORK President George W. Bush's visit to India has brought relations between the United States and India to an unprecedented level of cooperation and interdependence.Yes; the beginning of a wonderful relationship.
It is strange that this relationship should have taken so long to develop. Both countries are democracies. English is India's working language, and the educated classes speak it with rhetorical flourish. The Indian bureaucracy is well trained and competent, albeit slow-moving.
Yet until very recent years, relations between the two great democracies have been wary. It is important to understand the reasons if the new relationship is to realize the opportunity before it.
Americans think of their country as "the shining city on the hill"; its political institutions are perceived to be both unique and relevant to the rest of the world as guarantees of universal peace. Crusades on behalf of democracy have been implicit in American political thinking and explicit in American policy periodically since Woodrow Wilson - and especially pronounced in the George W. Bush administration.
That is not the way Indians view their international role. Hindu society does indeed also consider itself unique but, in a manner, dramatically at variance from America's. Democracy is not conceived as an expression of Indian culture but as a practical adaptation, the most effective means to reconcile the polyglot components of the state emerging from the colonial past.
In such a context, nuclear cooperation with India is appropriate. But it needs to make explicit an Indian commitment not to spread nuclear materials to other countries, such as America itself has undertaken.
The scope of the nuclear cooperation should avoid the rhetoric and the reality of a nuclear arms race in which China could be tempted to support nuclear programs in Iran and Pakistan as a counterweight.
The goal should be an Asia that navigates between an unacceptable hegemony by any power and an arms race that replicates the tragedies of Europe, only with fiercer weapons and even vaster consequences.
In a period preoccupied with concerns over terrorism and the potential clash of civilizations, the emerging cooperation between the two great democracies, India and the United States, introduces a positive and hopeful perspective.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Things continue to go the right way WRT Indian (dot not feather) and American relations. Henry Kissinger has a great review. You can tell he is happy.