Manipal, India — Unlike in the West, where couples meet, mate and then decide on marriage, in India it is parents, family and friends that substitute for Cupid. Not accidentally, few such pairings are driven by romantic considerations. Instead, an assessment is made of how the two families can benefit from the match, rather than simply the individuals on whose behalf a decision on pairing is being taken.
Unsurprisingly, the choice of Mom, Dad, Uncle and Family Friend is seldom that which either the groom or the bride would have selected, had they the right to do so. Interestingly, most such marriages work, usually much better than in societies where personal choice is given precedence over family needs.
Over the past five years the United States and Indian militaries have been discovering each other, much like a couple brought together under family pressure. Fresh from their interaction with counterparts in Pakistan -- whose military goes ape at the prospect of a U.S.-India alliance -- and loaded with tales originating from the time of the Indian-phobic Winston Churchill about the " unreliable" Indians, those within the U.S. military that began dealing with the Indian army, navy and air force came prepared to dislike their new contacts.
If the Americans were distant, the Indians were paranoid, and several promising careers within the three services were blighted on the charge of "fraternization" with a U.S. officer, usually female. Not merely more private actions, but even an exchange of "inappropriate" emails was cause for retribution. Only very recently has the Indian establishment come to accept that a consensual relationship between two adults, each of whom may wear the uniform of what is today an allied country, need not be treated as a security disaster.