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Natural Allies: A Blueprint for the Future of U.S.-India Relations

Natural Allies: A Blueprint for the Future of U.S.-India Relations

Paper

October 20, 2010

Author: Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: India and South Asia Program; The Future of Diplomacy Project

 

PREFACE

The economic, political, and military rise of India is reshaping world politics and promises to make India both a true global power and one of the most important bilateral partners of the United States. This report, authored by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns and CNAS Senior Fellow Richard Fontaine – and endorsed by over 20 esteemed foreign policy experts - provides a blueprint for the path forward for this critical relationship.

"The recommendations in this report are based on the belief that the United States has an interest in working more closely with India and in assisting its further emergence as one of the world’s great powers," the authors write. "This will require policy changes by both the United States and India. Many of these changes will be difficult, and some differences may endure. But the potential gain is worth the effort. Now is a critical time in this partnership, a moment to transform past bilateral accomplishments into regional and global successes. We urge American and Indian leaders to seize it."

 

INTRODUCTION

The emergence of India as a new major global power is transforming the world’s geopolitical landscape, with profound implications for the future trajectory of our century and for America’s own global interests.

A strengthened U.S.-India strategic partnership is thus imperative in this new era. The transformation of U.S. ties with New Delhi over the past 10 years, led by Presidents Clinton and Bush, stands as one of the most significant triumphs of recent American foreign policy. It has also been a bipartisan success. In the last several years alone, the United States and India have completed a landmark civil nuclear cooperation agreement, enhanced military ties, expanded defense trade, increased bilateral trade and investment and deepened their global political cooperation.

Many prominent Indians and Americans, however, now fear this rapid expansion of ties has stalled. Past projects remain incomplete, few new ideas have been embraced by both sides, and the forward momentum that characterized recent cooperation has subsided. The Obama administration has taken significant steps to break through this inertia, including with its Strategic Dialogue this spring and President Obama’s planned state visit to India in November 2010. Yet there remains a sense among observers in both countries that this critical relationship is falling short of its promise.

We believe it is critical to rejuvenate the U.S.- India partnership and put U.S. relations with India on a more solid foundation. The relationship requires a bold leap forward. The United States should establish a vision for what it seeks in the relationship and give concrete meaning to the phrase “strategic partnership.” A nonpartisan working group of experts met at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) over the past eight months to review the main pillars of the U.S.-India relationship and we articulate here a specific agenda of action.

In order to chart a more ambitious U.S.-India strategic partnership, we believe that the United States should commit, publicly and explicitly, to work with India in support of its permanent membership in an enlarged U.N. Security Council; seek a broad expansion of bilateral trade and investment, beginning with a Bilateral Investment Treaty; greatly expand the security relationship and boost defense trade; support Indian membership in key export control organizations, a step toward integrating India into global nonproliferation efforts; and liberalize U.S. export controls, including the removal of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) subsidiaries from the U.S. Entity List.

These and the other actions outlined in this report will require India to make a number of commitments and policy changes, including taking rapid action to fully implement the Civil Nuclear Agreement; raising its caps on foreign investment; reducing barriers to defense and other forms of trade; enhancing its rules for protecting patents and other intellectual property; further harmonizing its export control lists with multilateral regimes; and seeking closer cooperation with the United States and like-minded partners in international organizations, including the United Nations.

The U.S. relationship with India should be rooted in shared interests and values and should not be simply transactional or limited to occasional collaboration. India’s rise to global power is, we believe, in America’s strategic interest. As a result, the United States should not only seek a closer relationship with India, but actively assist its further emergence as a great power.

U.S. interests in a closer relationship with India include:

•    Ensuring a stable Asian and global balance of power.
•    Strengthening an open global trading system.
•    Protecting and preserving access to the global commons (air, sea, space, and cyber realms).
•    Countering terrorism and violent extremism.
•    Ensuring access to secure global energy resources.
•    Bolstering the international nonproliferation regime.
•    Promoting democracy and human rights.
•    Fostering greater stability, security and economic prosperity in South Asia, including in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

A strong U.S.-India strategic partnership will prove indispensable to the region’s continued peace and prosperity. Both India and the United States have a vital interest in maintaining a stable balance of power in Asia. Neither seeks containment of China, but the likelihood of a peaceful Chinese rise increases if it ascends in a region where the great democratic powers are also strong. Growing U.S.-India strategic ties will ensure that Asia will not have a vacuum of power and will make it easier for both Washington and New Delhi to have productive relations with Beijing. In addition, a strengthened relationship with India, a natural democratic partner, will signal that the United States remains committed to a strong and enduring presence in Asia.

The need for closer U.S.-India cooperation goes well beyond regional concerns. In light of its rise, India will play an increasingly vital role in addressing virtually all major global challenges. In order to chart a more ambitious U.S.-India strategic partnership, we believe that the United States should commit, publicly and explicitly, to work with India in support of its permanent membership in an enlarged U.N. Security Council; seek a broad expansion of bilateral trade and investment, beginning with a Bilateral Investment Treaty; greatly expand the security relationship and boost defense trade; support Indian membership in key export control organizations, a step toward integrating India into global nonproliferation efforts; and liberalize U.S. export controls, including the removal of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) subsidiaries from the U.S. Entity List.

Our recommendations are based on the belief that a stronger and more prosperous India will allow for a more vibrant U.S.-India relationship and that the United States should encourage and facilitate India’s rise as a full stakeholder in the international community.

 

For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center at 617-495-1400.

For Academic Citation:

Armitage, Richard, Burns, Nicholas, & Fontaine, Richard. "Natural Allies: A Blueprint for the Future of U.S.-India Relations." Paper, Center for a New American Security, October, 2010.

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