Monday, December 29, 2008

Indian Foreign Policy

Some great stuff from my favorite South Asian diplomat about India's America delusion:

The past four-week period has also shaken up Indian illusions regarding Washington's regional policies. It is plain to see that the US never really abandoned its "hyphenated" policy towards India and Pakistan as South Asia's two important rival powers, both of which are useful in their own ways for the pursuit of the US's geostrategies

That's about right.  The pro-US bias in the Indian strategic community is driven by America-envy and regional disgust much more than it is by realpolitik.  Bush has done an expert job at playing on this Rodney Dangerfield ethos by convincing people that superpower status is possible if you sign on a sufficiently pro-US agenda.  This is really the status and respect Nehru cultivated people to expect, but India really doesn't offer enough to America to justify a broad licence.  Even the British are kept on a short leash, and their interests mesh pretty well.  

India's regional objectives--contain Pakistan, limit terror, hegemony over neighboring states, deter China, while getting guns and oil in exchange for tech support--overlap only partially with America's.  The decades old partnership with Russia is lapsing, while Iran is given the cold shoulder over a necessary pipeline deal, and other Middle Eastern states spurned, for what end?  So an English-speaking elite can feel good about being a star player on the Asian League of Democracies?  The American treatment of Pakistan shows that they value combating terror as a national priority, and India's treatment will be judged as a part of a regional settlement taking into account Pakistan's feelings.  In the 1960s, Johnson restricted food aid out of spite for India's non-cooperation with Vietnam.  

It's unreasonable to expect any more, and also bad to pass a nuclear deal which will solidify relations with the Americans at the cost of near-collapse of the government while bringing meager energy returns.  Just build some roads, privatize everything, and get the Russians on the phone.  Their Shanghai alliance has the same facade of autocratic unity that the Communists put up in the '50s, and beneath that you can see the tensions between a state which is rich in energy and land but short on people and one with the reverse endowments.  I'm sure the Russians could make better use of a South Asian ally (the Chinese already have theirs) with substantial technological expertise, the better to weigh against the Chinese, Americans, and whomever else they feel like annoying.

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