On Monday at AEI, George Perkovich, Diane Farrell, Walter Lohman and Daniel Twining joined Sadanand Dhume to discuss whether the U.S.-India relationship will live up to its potential as a transformational partnership between the world’s oldest and largest democracies. Perkovich argued that the relationship is oversold: the lack of U.S.-India convergence on Iran, climate change and the World Trade Organization, coupled with a stagnation of defense cooperation, solidifies the fact that expectations have not been, and will not be, fulfilled. Disagreeing with Perkovich, Farrell stressed that India and the U.S. need each other for trade: India has a rapidly expanding consumer middle class and a need for job-creating foreign investment, with up to 800,000 people per month projected to join the workforce in the years ahead.
India’s massive infrastructure projects are pushing the country to reflect on its budgetary policies and the ways in which it can attract foreign investment. While supporting a U.S.-India partnership, Lohman emphasized that while the partnership is strategic for the U.S., the same is not necessarily true for New Delhi. India will continue to do that which serves its national interest in narrow, tactical terms — an approach that threatens US-India ties.
Finally, Twining defended the relationship and described it as a U.S. “long-term bet,” hoping India will maintain its strategic autonomy and become a major player in the global system. He noted that the U.S.-India partnership is experiencing a series of convergences ranging from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar and China to the Arab Spring, all of which continue to drive the two countries together. All panelists agreed that the U.S.-India relationship is a multilayered debate engaging each state’s national interests, strategic visions and domestic issues and that a developing India will create a stronger and more democratic world.
--Jennifer McArdle and Victoria Finn
On his visit to India in 2010 — the third successive trip to the country by a sitting U.S. president — Barack Obama hailed the U.S.-India relationship as “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”
But while trade, military and diplomatic ties have expanded dramatically since the end of the Cold War, there’s a growing sense in Washington, D.C. that the relationship between the U.S. and India is not living up to its potential. As evidence, skeptics point to disagreements on the Middle East and nuclear cooperation as well as the slowdown in defense cooperation. From India’s perspective, U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan is a point of criticism. Meanwhile, in language harking back to the Cold War, some in New Delhi argue that India should remain “nonaligned” between the U.S. and China.
Will the U.S.-India relationship live up to its potential as a solid partnership between the world’s oldest and largest democracies, and have potentially transformative consequences for Asia and the world? Or are Washington, D.C. and New Delhi destined to fall back into a pattern of drift and disagreement? A panel of experts will discuss these possibilities.