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Editor's December Blog

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Even as the country celebrates Navy Day it is worth placing the Indo-US relationship in the context of the opportunities offered by the service that keeps the seas safe. The Navy operates over the horizons, revelling in the vastness of the oceans. Vaster the better, is at the core of the Navy’s thinking. And in a very real way that is also the crux of the Indo-US relationship. The Navy is, curiously, the pointer to the potential of this nascent relationship.

Just as the Navy sees the vastness of the horizon as an opportunity, so is the potential of the Indo-US relationship. It is limitless in many ways, much like the horizon afforded by the oceans. The panorama of options is enormous for the largest democracies in the east and the west to work together. And they are all driven by the happenstance of a common worldview, as both countries strive for similar contours on the global map. On the larger image there is little to differentiate, philosophically, between the two. Both desire a world where the rule of law prevails, with democratic principles and practices. Where regulations are to move forward rather than retard growth and where disputes are resolved through dialogue rather than through deaths. There is a commonality of purpose, more than seems apparent and obvious. Yet, there are problems and they are deep enough to merit greater attention and care.

More than anything else there is yet a great deal that both countries need to learn about the other. This is a new relationship, in many senses of the word. And as is with any courtship there are hiccups, there are doubts, just as there is a fundamental attraction. So in this learning phase a greater deal of patience is required, for both are not necessarily moving at the same pace. In some situations and on some issues, one is ahead of the other. And if that suggests a dysfunctional situation, it needn’t be as serious as it is made out to be. For the learning period is underway and must be treated as such.

There is a tendency to assume that this is a natural relationship and it will all fall in place. That never happens, not between individuals, never between institutions and certainly not between two countries divided by many miles of water and waste, as well as history. For both come from very different perspectives and ethos. While one is largely insular, the other has been expansive for more than a century. There is vast gulf between the two as they have approached the world and its problems. So a greater appreciation of the differences is in order, firstly. In the recent past it has been a case of imperial overreach by the United States and a serious case of under-reach by India. By all accounts India has been punching lower than its weight. The process of correcting is yet to be seen to be underway. But more than anything it is in the makeup of the relationship where the hurdle is. It is still driven more by individuals rather than institutions and therein resides the catch. For it requires institutional attachment to add permanence to it. Nowhere better to begin than the Navy, with its vision that stretches the horizons.



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