Sunday 25 June 2023

Modi and Biden script history in Washington (The Sunday Guardian)

 Although the United States and India have been the two largest democracies in the world from the period when India became independent 75 years ago, the India-US relationship has gone through several twists and turns, high points and dips, periods of storm and sunshine. Had Franklin Roosevelt survived throughout his last 4-year term rather than passing on almost at the start of it, and had B.R. Ambedkar or Sardar Patel been nominated the Prime Minister of India rather than Jawaharlal Nehru, the two countries would, from the start of their official relationship, have become the closest of friends. Nehru had the Old Harrovian’s prejudice of the New World, looking on the US as a bumptious newcomer to the galaxy of big powers. In contrast, the military in Pakistan began its odyssey of leeching on to one great power after the other. Prior to Independence, M.A. Jinnah had teamed up with Winston Churchill in a joint effort to ensure that the “beastly Hindoos” (in Churchill’s eloquent prose) got left with as little of British India as possible. Myanmar, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal and of course (then undivided) Pakistan were snatched from the control of New Delhi once the Congress Party took over the reins of power. Heavily under British influence, London worked hard at separating the Gulf countries from the close relationship that they had had with India during their time. The Indian rupee had been in general use within the Gulf region for a long time, but was replaced with other currencies as India was regarded by London with suspicion by many and distaste by more than a few policymakers in that capital because of the perception that Nehru was in the Soviet camp, a presumption that was untrue. Throughout the decades of the India-USSR relationship during Cold War 1.0 between Washington and Moscow, not once did India conduct military exercises with the Soviet Union nor permit a single Soviet soldier to be stationed in India. The obsession of Whitehall, soon adopted by the White House, to wrest Kashmir away from India and hand it over to its creation, Pakistan, led to a situation when there was very little option but to rely more and more on Moscow as protection against the British obsession to appease Pakistan through the gift of yet more Indian territory than was already handed over to it

Tethered as they were to the policies favoured by the ruling scions of the Nehru family, neither Prime Minister Narasimha Rao nor Manmohan Singh was able to craft a relationship with the US in the fashion that they favoured. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee alternated between bouts of Nehruvian dream think and Sardar Patel practicality. President George W. Bush made an error that finally led to the reconquest of Afghanistan by the Taliban in 2022. This was to spurn Vajpayee’s offer of a partnership with the US to rout extremists in Afghanistan in favour of once again (as in the 1980s) outsourcing that problem to its creator, the Pakistan army, in 2001. In 2009, Bush and Manmohan Singh went ahead with the India-US nuclear deal, but it was only in 2014, with the coming to power of Narendra Modi, that the India-US relationship moved onto the fast track. During the 21-23 June State Visit by the Prime Minister to the US, what could be the defining relationship of the 21st century has come of age. India and the US are entering an era of technology partnership, as well as the beginning of joint production of cutting edge defence systems that will begin to reveal its full potential by 2029. It goes to the credit of President Biden that despite a well-funded campaign by the Sino-Wahhabi lobby to jettison the State Visit, he remained firm and understood its potential. In the era of Cold War 2.0, the US and India are indispensable partners. Together, both countries have the ability to ensure that the Indo-Pacific be rescued from the onset of hegemony and remain free, open and inclusive. PM Modi’s State Visit to the US is scripting history by placing the relationship between the two largest democracies on a trajectory that ought to have begun in 1947, but has been delayed for over seven decades.

No comments:

Post a Comment