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Editor-in-Chief View on INDO-US Strategic Partnership

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues his busy foreign policy season. Since assuming office in end May he has pretty much covered the regional matrix of relationships. Having invited the neighbours for his oath taking ceremony, he then cast the charm net wider across Asia. His efforts have taken in Japan, Australia and the latest being China. While Japan and Australia are expected allies, owing to existing common interests, China was a welcome departure from the script. By all accounts the visit of President Xi Jinping has taken Sino-Indian ties to a new level of confidence. It was the culmination of a busy Asia diplomatic season, so to say. But all of those visits pale in comparison to what is expected from the longer journey to the United States of America.

The journey is not only physically longer but also metaphorically. Even as both countries sing paeans about each other and the potential afforded by the relationship, the fact of the matter is that there is still much to be done. By any standards the Indo-US relationship would be the icing on the diplomatic cake, were such a dish to be on offer. While it would take a brave confectioner to put together a recipe as daring as this, it is nevertheless a fact that this cake needs to be served. It isn’t only India that would benefit from such a relationship but the US as well, not to forget the wider democratic global alliance.

The Indo-US strategic partnership has the greatest of all potentials, for the simple reason that the areas of commonality far outweigh those of differences. There aren’t any fundamental disputes that threaten to derail this relationship, or prevent it from going forward, as with the India-China boundary disagreement, for example. In a very real sense there are more areas of common interests than there is potential for disagreement. This has been evident from the track record over the last decade and half of straight talking with each other. Sure there are subjects that either side needs to raise in order to satisfy specific domestic concerns. But there is no reason to allow these issues to cloud the larger picture of convergence. And that convergence has a deep global impact.

A dynamic Indo-US strategic partnership is in a real sense the missing piece of a worldwide jigsaw puzzle that has been eluding global peace for decades. No two countries have more to offer the world than India and the US. This they can do by coming together on a mutually agreed common platform. Each brings onto the table advantages of geography, institutional strength, professional armed forces, talented manpower and India’s enormous economic potential coupled with US market leadership. All of these ingredients combine to make the diplomatic cake wholesome. But, even as the world awaits the application of the icing, there is one missing ingredient which threatens to delay, rather than prevent, this strategic partnership from acquiring its logical role.

India and the United States of America are not divided merely by geography, or that they belonged to different camps during the Cold War. What divides them and quite deeply in fact, is that the two countries bring with them vastly differing world visions. Even as the US engages with the world because it believes it needs to be connected, India continues to retain aspects of insularity that mitigate its potential. For good or for bad, the US is an outward looking country that has a global vision which it would like more nations to accept. In India’s case it is still not outward looking enough and as a result of which the country doesn’t punch upto its weight category.

The world requires leadership, even if it is wary of only one providing it. There is no reason that India and the US cannot share responsibilities across the globe, wherever it may be. There are no demarcations in this interconnected world, but common interests to be shared. But for that to happen interests need to be identified first. None is easier than the shape, structure and future responsibilities of the Indian Air Force. In less than two decades the IAF has come from being a self-avowed tactical service to one possessing a strategic vision. Even as that strategic vision develops and manifests itself, common areas appear in terms of Indian and US interests. Both countries can start the strategic part of their relationship from the air and then implement it on sea and land.

~ Manvendra Singh


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