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Indo-US relationship: The need for objective approach
The US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Biswal, wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Times of India on March 4, calling for a broader and deeper Indo-US relationship. Her job, as of now, appears to be to move forward and carry on the assessment made by the US Vice President Joe Biden during his visit to India July last year. Biden then hoped that the US and India would shape peace and prosperity in the 21st century. He called for increased trade relationship with India.

Biswal admitted that while the Indo-US relationships do have many challenges to face, yet she was sure that those would pale in comparison to the strength of their enduring commitment. She highlighted trade, commerce and cooperation in counter-terrorism, defense deals, space programs, education and social interaction as having promises in enhancing the shared prosperity and envisioning a common future. But she cautioned about copyright and patent infringements in India saying that implementation of proper, friendlier laws would help both the countries.

I presume the probable readers to be somewhat aware about the present status of the Indo-US relationship but Biden's articulation of about half a trillion USD worth of trade between the two countries is very ambitious and I tell you frankly that India cannot take that much. How it can happen is a rather simple thing to ponder. Growth would induce higher demands in India thus offering more and more American companies to venture into this 300 million plus sized market.

Nationalism on the other hand would demand production of many things at home and therefore, the US companies would create more second producing capabilities in India and they in turn would not only meet the domestic demands but also re-export to the US and export to secondary and tertiary markets wherever there is demand for their products.

The whole trade done through India will be counted as Indian even though Indian share in profits will not be matching high. This is a very good way to increase GDP in a second producing country while primary producers take away the maximum. If I understand something about the region it is both predatory and problematic.

The investment may turn out to be predatory as well as in the longer term because with increasing consumption both politicians and public would become more vocal. Now in this increasingly competing, conflicting and adrift consciousness dominated era there will be more demands for equality ignoring the inevitable consequences of economic interaction. The politicians, most of the time irrespective of political identities, have only few means in their hand: to offer more subsidies and more affirmative actions.

While it is true that with increasing economic activities tax collection and other government receipts will increase, but not in tune with the twin demands of better infrastructure and increased socio-economic equity. The fact is that Indian state's resources would mostly be exhausted with either of the two but then in reality both matter.

The Indian government as a consequence will be compelled to borrow more and more capital from the markets and international lending institutions, strengthening the grip of the US on Indian matters. Excessive printing would contribute to inflation, as always. In the passing remarks it should be mentioned that population rise will not be handy for India, most of the time.

The investment can create a lot of problems. Like, in return for increased profitability to Americans, Indians may start demanding many concessions; many among them would be those that the US cannot fulfil even if it wants so. The economics would be used by Indians to balance political asymmetries.

The most notable among them would be in India's relationship with Pakistan and China. The fact is that Indians want an unambiguous American support to their positions over their relationships vis-?-vis Pakistan and China without ever trying to become America's ally.

The equally noticeable fact is that it is never that simple as said, more so, when Indians as a group are pleased reading any reports suggesting demise of American hegemony in the world. Many Indians dream about using American state as a buffer; on policy matters, between them and China. This dream can never come true as the US would charge full political and strategic costs for that and this may imply that it is wishing to have a naval military base somewhere in India's East Coast without fully reconciling to Indian position on Arunachal Pradesh. This is inconsistency inherent in human minds and that is there in American minds too.

Moreover, there are over fifty Islamic states in the world and because of them and because of Pakistan's geo-strategic position in the region, the US cannot abandon it fully in favor of India. The fact is that Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asian states are too important for the US to accept dictated Indian position on Pakistan. While the US can take a pro-Indian stand over Kashmir for a while but this should be mostly considered as time-dependent as it can change with the circumstances but only in very long-term.

Now India and the US have unresolved differences over India's copyright laws and these cannot be reconciled by mere nudging and urging. The fact is that India has such laws as they exist today because Indian elites believe that they are beneficial to India. But without amending them there may be limits to investment coming into India and rate of investment may not increase to the levels as desired by India. It is also true that the US has impending and urgent issues at stakes vis-a'-vis China over intellectual property rights.

But India should not think about forging an 'anti-American' alliance with other BRICS nations, most notably with China, to compel the US to come to its or their terms as the case may be. Please do not think that I am suggesting that Indians do not understand what is good for them.

On matter relating to technology transfer Indians should go slow or else they will spoil a burgeoning Indo-US relationship. The fact is that the US could transfer critical technologies to India but after testing it otherwise. Other than usual practice of measuring anti-American sentiments among political, business and media elites and among public, the US would observe India?s positions on things that matter most to it.

The fact is that India's long-time wish of becoming a permanent member of the expanded United Nations Security Council (UNSC) would, to a great extent, depend on how India behaves towards the US in particular and the West in general. To be realistic India has to be reasonably pro-American on international matters in order to get a permanent seat in the expanded UNSC.

On one issue that India and the US can cooperate rather easily is over the counter terrorism. India is never being accused of planning and carrying out any terrorist act on any foreign soil, except with the exception of Pakistan. But Pakistan has reasons to blame India for investing into its troubles. Moreover, no major global power has ever substantiated Pakistan's claims.

Otherwise, the record of India is impeccable and this opens up the greater possibility of cooperation on handling terrorism with the US. India can also contribute positively to evolving situation in Afghanistan and act as a stabilizing force in the region. For all the positive reasons stated above India and the US can cooperate on nuclear, defense and space research as well, as India has never been accused by any nation of proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction ever since it started these programs.

The future of a thriving Indo-US relation is very promising. Only thing is that both need to understand each other in better way and set proper targets; those that can be achieved. Of course, the ball for the most part of the game is and will be in the US court.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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