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Book review
Recasting Indo-Us Relations
Divya Srivastava
Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation


India and the United States in a Changing World
Ashok Kapur, Y.K.Malik, Harold A. Gould, and Arthur G. Rubinoff (eds)

New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2002

Pages: 560
Price: 795

 

The visit of Richard N. Haass, Director of Policy Planning for the US Department of State, to New Delhi in the first week of January made it clear that engaging India is the new mantra in Washington. While addressing the Confederation of Indian Industry at Hyderabad on 7 January, he stated ??the transformation of our bilateral relationship over the past few years is a dramatic story. It is this story that the administration takes seriously. And it is a story in which this administration has invested a great deal?President Bush is committed to developing a fundamentally different relationship with India, one based upon trust and mutual values.??

�Traditionally, there has been a clash of goals and ambitions between India and the US. Malik and Kapur, explain in their introduction to this book, that factors such as distance, cultural apathy and a deep distrust of the outsider did not allow India to acquire a prominent place in American foreign policy until the end of the Second World War. The introductory essay contextualizes the crests and the troughs of Indo-US relations, whereby it emerges that, for a large part of the twentieth century, Americans lacked an understanding of Indian politics and society. Malik and Kapur argue that when India ��sought to emerge as the dominant regional power, the US crushed its ambitions by consolidating its military alliance with Pakistan, thereby creating a regional balance of power.

Tremblay, writing on the Kashmir issue in Indo-US relations argues that the US has an attitude of ?mistrust? and a paucity of interest in any region outside of the American continent. This attitude is responsible for the US ambivalence on the resolution of Kashmir issue. Tremblay asserts that the predominant US concern with regard to South Asia was to prevent a major disruption in the existing balance of power in the region. It almost seems that the American foreign policy towards South Asia was structured on the solitary premise of preventing a clash between India and Pakistan. Gary L. Ackerman, the former co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans claimed, only half in jest, that till recently, most members of the US Congress believed that ?IndiaPakistan? was a single word.

The essay by Louscher, Cook and Barto, describes military relations between the US and India as ?somewhat unique? in international politics, as both countries have often declared their desire for intimate military ties but in practice have remained decidedly cold towards each other. This chapter states that despite certain obstacles as the Cold War rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union, Indo-Pak conflict over Kashmir, US proximity to Pakistan and India?s initiative to become a declared nuclear power, both countries have recently engaged in initiatives for better military relations. An instance of such an engagement was the joint Indo-US military exercise of paratroopers in May 2002 at Agra.

Despite the fact that the US is India?s largest trading and investment partner, with Indian exports to the US totaling $4.53 billion in May 2000, India doesn?t seem to figure prominently on the economic radar screen of the US investor. Gandhi, in his essay on the financial relations between the two countries, expounds that the main reason for India?s low economic visibility is that over the years, the structure of the bilateral trade has changed very little. The essay provides basic statistics of India?s liberalization phase and the tremendous growth witnessed by the Indian software industry. However, instead of analyzing the impact of this data, Gandhi �rambles on about hackneyed complaints regarding India?s business environment, that have become part of the lore of conducting business deals in India.�

The editors conclude that the US needs to work upon the historical and strategic realities in the region, where it failed miserably previously. The first positive step in this direction was the American decision to embark upon a reconciliatory route with India. This account surveys a variety of issues afflicting India and the US that impact policy, and boasts of informative chapters on the Indo-US Science and technological relations, scholarly exchange between them, the reasons why the US failed to control the nuclear agenda in South Asia and the legislative perceptions of Indo-American relations. However, analytical depth and varied perspectives are conspicuous by their absence, particularly in the chapters on economic relations and the contentious Kashmir issue.

Albeit it is considerably informative, certain essays deal mainly in generalizations about the US and India, and repetitively so. The essays are unable to satisfy queries on the grey areas of a relationship perennially on a roller coaster ride. Nonetheless, for the uninitiated, it is a timely read, dealing with the rapidly transformed and newly emerging Indo-US ties.�

 
 
 

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