Over the coming four years, US leadership to shape this region will be essential, for both positive and negative reasons. Positively, the consolidation of a wide-ranging strategic partnership with India could change the course of history in the 21st century by establishing lasting habits of cooperation between the world’s largest democracies. Negatively, US leadership is essential to prevent Pakistan’s many pathologies—state complicity in terrorism, weak institutions, a foreign policy that exports insecurity among others—from spilling over in ways that undermine fundamental US (and Indian) interests in the future of Afghanistan, non-proliferation, the defeat of terrorism and the dampening of extremism.
India is still in the process of casting off its legacy of non-alignment and statist economics. But its leaders have identified the US as a vital partner for India in the long term, just as American leaders have pursued a revolutionary strategic partnership with India with an eye on shaping the future balance of power and values in the international system. The US and India share a convergence of interests across the spectrum. Both seek to balance growing Chinese power and influence in Asia to encourage China’s peaceful rise. Both want to defeat terrorism, moderate extremism and promote democratic state-building in South Asia, especially in Pakistan and Afghanistan, to ensure that responsible governments rule with a focus on internal development rather than fomenting external insecurity. Both want to ensure freedom of the maritime commons in the Indian Ocean, across which most world trade in energy flows. Both want to strengthen an open and liberal international economy in ways that will fuel their knowledge, technology and manufacturing sectors.
The next US administration can work with India to take bilateral relations to the next level. This should start with a specific agenda to deepen the underdeveloped economic relationship between the two countries through robust investment and free trade agreements—matched by expanded opportunities for people-to-people ties in mutually rewarding commerce, education and research. Washington and New Delhi can cooperate more intimately on Afghanistan, the Arab Awakening, missile defence, maritime security in the Indian Ocean, East Asian security with partners like Japan, and in multilateral institutions like the UN.
The overall objective of Indo-US alignment on the key issues facing our societies would be the construction of a preponderance of democratic power in Asia and the international system—with the US-India partnership at its core. India need not abandon “strategic autonomy” as part of closer US ties. On the contrary, American investment, training, trade and military sales are all designed to make India stronger and more prosperous. Only a strong and successful India can be strategically autonomous, given the growing challenges posed by its dangerous neighbourhood.
The US may want to focus more on strengthening Pakistan’s economy and, in particular, its deficient energy sector, as a way to offset the rise of radicalism associated with the country’s chronic economic crises and to build goodwill among a population that is fervently anti-American. Liberalisation of trade, including duty-free treatment of Pakistani textiles into the US, will be as important (if not more important) than official assistance in this regard. India can play the leading role here by further lifting restrictions on trade and visas with an eye on strengthening Pakistan’s moderate majority that opposes the militarisation and radicalisation of the state and its foreign policies.
In Afghanistan, the next American administration will need to fill out the existing strategic partnership agreement with a commitment to keep substantial US forces in-country: to train Afghan forces, contain Taliban attacks against state institutions, keep insurgents in Pakistan off-balance and ensure that neighbouring powers with predatory designs do not fill a vacuum that would otherwise be left by US retreat. Afghanistan’s 2014 elections will be pivotal to the post-Western dispensation of the country, and US engagement with friends like India will be key to ensuring that the gains the country has made over the past decade are sustainable.
International support for Afghanistan will also be instrumental to helping it build a self-sustaining economy not dependent on foreign aid. In this regard, Afghanistan can serve as a gateway for South Asian trade and investment with Central Asia. Joint American and Indian approaches to the states of Central Asia can help that region sustain its independence from its neighbouring great powers. Central Asia could also be pivotal to India’s ability to secure energy resources to drive an economy that is expected to grow rapidly. And crucially, the more moderate states of Central Asia also play an essential, if often unrecognised, role in containing the export of Pakistani extremism.
American policy, often working on parallel lines with India’s, can contribute to the process of democratic state-building and free-market economic growth in the other key South Asian states of Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, all of whom are underdeveloped, post-conflict societies in which the military plays a strong role. Bangladesh is especially promising as a potential partner for greater US engagement. Goldman Sachs has identified Bangladesh as one of its “N-11” economies or next-generation BRICS. Differentiated partnerships with both New Delhi and Washington will be critical to helping Bangladesh consolidate these gains and join India as part of a “South Asian miracle” of the kind East Asian economies have experienced.
Beyond the many affinities that link the American and Indian people, and the many interests that compel their governments to pursue closer cooperation, India and the US have a vital role to play in ensuring that Asia remains pluralistic and free rather than Sino-centric. India’s rise requires China to be more cautious in its support of Pakistan—because Beijing now has more to lose from pursuing policies that undermine Indian interests. A closer Indo-US alignment would also give China a greater stake in stabilising its own fluctuating relations with India—because Chinese military threats and territorial revanchism risk putting China on a path to conflict not only with India, but with its American friends.
Given America’s own stake in improving relations with a rising China, it is imperative for New Delhi and Washington to put in place joint concepts of operations and pursue joint planning for a range of scenarios related to Chinese activities in Asia. And it is essential for the US and India to work together in regional and international institutions to ensure that they uphold basic international standards. Our countries can also enjoy the multiplier effects of concerting with other like-minded Asian states, including Japan, America’s most important Asian ally and a growing partner for India.
Looking ahead, the prospects for American renewal and Indian reform could recast the global balance of power and values in ways that make our two countries, more than China, the leaders of the 21st century.
(Daniel Twining is Senior Fellow for Asia at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and a former member of the US Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff responsible for South Asia.)
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
The column ends on a wonderful note. This is the promise that led President George W. Bush to invest so much capital on India and the nuclear deal. We need two decades of solid economic growth to make it happen.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT