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A New Deal for New Delhi

Op-Ed, Wall Street Journal

March 21, 2005

Author: Robert D. Blackwill, International Council Member, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

 

Condoleezza Rice's visit to New Delhi last week boosted the U.S.- India relationship and demonstrated that she and her new colleagues at the top of the State Department view India as a rising great power. John Kenneth Galbraith once said, "There are few ironclad rules of diplomacy but to one there is no exception. When an official reports that talks were useful, it can be safely concluded that nothing was accomplished." Ms. Rice's talks in India were more than useful.

Gone are the days when the State Department viewed India myopically through the lens of India's long troubled relationship with Pakistan. Washington has also stopped playing nagging nanny regarding India's nuclear weapons program.

No bilateral relationship in George W. Bush's first term changed as positively as that between India and the U.S. This is important because of congruent vital national interests of the two countries. Each is an enduring target of jihadi terrorism. Other nations will weaken and fade in the global war on terror. The U.S. and India will not. Each is at immense risk if weapons of mass destruction become instruments of terror. New Delhi Washington, New York and Mumbai would be prime targets. Each economy needs the continued reliable flow of energy from the Persian Gulf, including through protection of Indian Ocean sea lanes. Each has a huge stake in the peaceful and responsible emergence of China as a great power. Each would be in serious danger if Pakistan with its nuclear weapons and infrastructure of terrorism were to shake apart, succumb to Islamic extremism or again begin to export its nuclear weapons technology.

And each shares the democratic values that are so much on the march these days. When I asked then-Governor Bush in early 1999 about the reasons for his obvious and special interest in India, he immediately responded, "a billion people in a functioning democracy. Isn't that something? Isn't that something?" The concept of democratic India, a heterogeneous, multilingual, secular society with its vibrant press and respect for the rule of law, has a particular appeal for this president.

Moreover, never in the history of the U.S.-India relationship has the State Department's seventh floor had three policy makers with a global orientation toward India. (Usually it has had none.) State today has the secretary herself, Deputy Secretary Robert Zoellick, who was the first Bush cabinet member to visit India in 2001, and Counselor Philip Zelikow, who directed for several years the most prestigious nongovernmental dialogue between the U.S. and Indian strategic elites.

And note what these folks have done after only weeks in office, under the president's guidance and with the strong support of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. In India, Ms. Rice opened up wide the possibility of U.S.- India cooperation on nuclear power generation; co-production with India of multi-role combat aircraft; intensified collaboration on missile defense and expanded defense trade and cooperation; and a larger role for India in international organizations.

These issues had been the stuff of Washington interagency struggle and stalemate for years. Ms. Rice in New Delhi began to grind down the bureaucratic Etruscan shards.

So what next for the U.S.-India relationship? What more can be accomplished in the context of Foreign Minister Natwar Singh's talks in Washington next month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's call at the White House in July, and President Bush's visit to India at the end of this year or early 2006?

The U.S. should integrate India into the evolving global nonproliferation regime as a friendly nuclear weapons state. We should end constraints on assistance to and cooperation with India's civil nuclear industry and high-tech trade, changing laws and policy when necessary. We should sell India civil nuclear reactors, both to reduce its demand for Persian Gulf energy and to ease the environmental impact of India's vibrant economic growth.

We should enter into a vigorous long-term program of space cooperation with India. Such a joint effort would capture the imagination of ordinary citizens in both countries. It is now anachronistic or worse for Washington to limit its interaction with India's civil space efforts because of concern that U.S. technology and know-how will seep into India's military missile program. Why should the U.S. want to check India's missile capability in ways that could lead to China's permanent nuclear dominance over democratic India?

We should sell advanced weaponry to India. The million-man Indian army actually fights, unlike the postmodern militaries of many of our European allies. Given the strategic challenges ahead, the U.S. should want the Indian armed forces to be equipped with the best weapons systems and that often means American. To make this happen, the U.S. has to become a reliable long-term supplier, including through co-production and licensed manufacture arrangements, and to end its previous inclination to interrupt defense supplies to India in a crisis.

We should announce that in the context of the basic reform of the U.N., the U.S. will support India as a permanent member of the Security Council. Although this would not happen for many years, nothing else would so convince the people of India that the U.S. had truly transformed its approach to their country. At the same time, we should promote the early entry of India (and China) into the G-8. Their economic punch and increasing geopolitical reach demands that they be at the head table.

Finally, we should initiate an intense and secret discussion with India regarding the future of Pakistan, including contingency planning.

India, too, has its share of antique governmental reflexes that need to be overcome. It should now engage in a major way to help build a civil society in Iraq. It should join the U.S. much more actively, if quietly, in trying to persuade Iran to give up its insistence on a full fuel cycle and Tehran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. (This is more important than current U.S.-India differences over a gas pipeline to India from Iran which may well never be built). It should generously fund Palestinian reform. It should become a member of the Proliferation Security Initiative which calls for interdiction of suspicious ships on the high seas. It should multiply its military exercises with American counterparts, including on counter-insurgency.

It should continue its efforts to normalize relations with Pakistan. It should work ever more closely with the U.S. to deal with regional instability emanating from Afghanistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, the latter a growing center of international terrorism. It should substantially reduce barriers to encourage the export of U.S. goods, services and investment to India, in part to deal with the outsourcing problem. It should be a much more cooperative partner with Washington in the Doha trade round.

This is an exceedingly ambitious bilateral agenda. Old bureaucrats don't fade away; they just dig in. So the Bush administration and the Congress government in Delhi must push through these fundamental changes in policy from the top down. It can be done.

Mr. Blackwill is president of Barbour Griffith & Rogers International, a Republican lobbying firm. He was U.S. ambassador to India from 2001–2003, and deputy national security adviser for strategic planning in 2003–2004.

 

For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.

For Academic Citation:

Blackwill, Robert D. "A New Deal for New Delhi." Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2005.

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