Sunday, Jul 03, 2022
Outlook.com

Checking The Mates

Modi plays a triangular balancing game with the US and China. Will he succeed?

Checking The Mates Photograph by AP

Despite recognising the pre-eminence of the US on the world stage, Indian leaders have traditionally been wary of getting too close to America. Successive governments have tried to forge strong bonds with Washington—a desire that became more evi­dent in the post-Cold War period—but without compromising on their pursuit of an independent foreign policy, maintaining equally strong bonds with other major powers. But as Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares for next week’s visit to the US (June 7-8), his fourth in two years and second to Washington this year, the unprecedented bonhomie in Indo-US relations has begun to both encourage and bother many people, within and outside the country. What’s driving this closeness? What are its implications for India, the region and beyond?

For obvious reasons, Modi’s supporters and sections within the Indian establishment are charged up, hoping that with America’s active support, New Delhi will find a legitimate place on the world stage. But sceptics worry, considering the US’s long history of fickleness and of its proneness to entertain but not quite honour ano­ther country as an equal partner. So is India junking its foreign policy, derisively called “Nehruvian non-alignment”? Is India favouring a close partnership with the US to do its bidding in Asia—to become, in effect, the ‘Voice of America’? A proposed US Congress legislation to make India a NATO-like ally, bracketing it with Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and South Korea, considered by US critics as American stooges, is also deepening concerns about Delhi’s future and ‘sovereignity’. Or is India using its growing closeness with the US to create more strategic space for itself to push development and face regional and global challenges?

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