Tuesday, October 04, 2005

On India and the US

For those of you who don't know, relations between the United States and India are at their highest level in the history of the Indian state. The rapprochement heated up lthis past spring when Bush agreed to greenlight the sell of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan that had been held up by Bush 41 in 1990 due to concerns over Pakistan's nuclear program. This was done as a reward to Pakistan for it's valuable help in the GWOT. Not surprisingly, this decision greatly upset India, but the Bush Administration said that India would be able to purchase "the next generation of sophisticated, multirole combat aircraft, including upgraded F-16 and F-18 warplanes, as well as develop broader cooperation in military command and control, early-warning detection, and missile defense systems."

Fast forward to July 15th of this year and the historic visit to Washington DC by Indian PM Manmohan Singh. The PM and President Bush seemed very pleased with the agreement they struck during Singh's visit. It called for numerous joint initiatives between the two countries. But by far and away the most significant objective was that India will be permitted to acquire civilian nuclear technology internationally while retaining its nuclear arms. As this article makes clear, this monumental policy shift is being done primarily to use India as a counter-balance to China.
The US is offering India high-tech defence and space cooperation in terms of satellites and launch vehicles, Patriot and Arrow missiles and a greater role in global institutions.
I have been following this very closely since the F-16 decision was made and I was very surprised that more people hadn't picked up on the sea change in policy that had occured since the nuclear technology decision and now. Although, I suppose, with everything that happened between that, it's understandable.

Last month, when the IAEA voted to condemn the nuclear activities of Iran, while several countries decided to abstain, India voted "yes." I think it was praktike who first noted the surprise yes vote. One of my original blog friends and consistent over the past 18 months a favorite blog of mine,Stygius, mentioned that had India not voted yes, it was quite likely that Congress would've been inclined to reject the civilian nuclear cooperation project with India. I sent him an email linking to a Times of India article which copied this explicit statment from India to Iran:
"The Prime Minister received a phone call from President Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the Iranian request. The (Iranian) President raised the issue about Iran's nuclear programme in the IAEA. Prime Minister advised him that Iran should consider taking a flexible position so as to avoid a confrontation. The Prime Minister repeated the necessity for Iran to make concessions to this end. India supports the resolution of all issues through discussion and consensus in the IAEA."
The Times underscores that "eldom, if ever, has the government been so direct and candid in conveying a foreign policy shift through an episode some American policy analysts saw as a test case for India-U.S ties." To me, the vastly improved relations between India and the US represent Bush's most important foreign policy achievement.

Styguis replies:
More importantly than Iran -- and I use 'more importantly' deliberately -- are the implications of this shift for Russia and China.
To which I write back:
Regarding Russia and China, that's a good point and one I hadn't adequetely contemplated it. It is pretty late but off the top of my head, I'd imagine that China wasn't very happy. Russia and China both voted to abstain on the vote and were most likely expecting India to follow suit. I wonder if PM Signh notified Putin or Jintao about his decision like he did with Ahmedinejad. China had engaged in an unprecedented diplomatic courtship of India aimed at healing their decades old rivalry as well as preventing India from siding with the United States. That appears to have failed. India seems to be investing quite a great deal in the nuclear energy pact they signed with Bush, that was something China or Russia weren't capable of giving them. Not to mention, India has free reign to purchase as many F-16s as they want from us, which in turn would help them push the balance of power between them and Pakistan more in India's favor.

However, William Arkin laid out the ongoing military exercises that are ongoing or schedule to begin in the next few months involving India, Russia and China, in pretty extensive detail. Apparently, the US and Indian armies will be conducting several exercises soon and the India/Russia/China group have one scheduled for next year. So who really knows if the India vote was a huge policy change in the eyes of China and Russia. You're thoughts are more than welcome on this.
So, over to you Stygius. :)