One of President George W. Bush’s greatest successes in international affairs is the institutionalizing of an American partnership with India. From Bush’s earliest days he had kind words to say about what he considered a burgeoning multi-ethnic and multi-cultural democracy in the Indian state and he cemented these ties in the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-proliferation Enhancement Act, just passed by US Senate and India parliamentary months ago. This Act does much more than create a framework where the two great powers could share nuclear technology and resources. It is a strategic symbol of an alliance that appears to have many bright days ahead.
This partnership did not come about without controversy and geopolitical tension, however. The Nuclear Cooperation Act pretty much completely bypassed the Non Proliferation Treaty, which the US was instrumental in creating and still backs mightily, and there are reasonable fears that it could have done irrevocable damage to its future ability to curtail proliferation. That being said, I think this was a wise, realist move by President Bush. India has nuclear weapons and they are not going to give them up. Combine this with the democracy connection and the growing power of China in the region and this looks to me like a sensible balance of power move.
India and the United States share more than just democratic governments and a dependency on customer service telephone operations, they each seek to contain the growing power that is China and equally fear the rise and existence of Islamic extremism. With India on board, the US now has strong relations all around China, ie. Japan, Australia, Philippines, and Indonesia. Some of course are stronger than others. For India, their nuclear program has now been brought out of the shadows and they can feel more secure with a US strategic investment. Regarding Islamic terrorism, though the two great powers (India and the US) may not share every counterterrorism policy choice, they each stand by each others fight, with India helping provide financial resources in Afghanistan and with Secretary of State Condi Rice racing to Mumbai immediately after last years attack to show solidarity.
The Bush administration was able to accomplish this growing partnership with New Delhi while at the same time maintaining crucial ties with Pakistan, India’s bitter rival, which was no small feat. Though the war in Afghanistan has gone poorly of late, the past administration should be given props for handling the delicate regional situation rather well in recent years. It is easier said than done to support up one rival’s nuclear capabilities while at the same time working hand and hand with the other. Of course, it has been reported that the US does indeed also work with the Pakistani military on securing their nuclear weapons, though this is done very, very quietly.
There is still much to go over in Bush’s foreign affairs’ disappointments and accomplishments. I really want to tackle the question of Bush the Realist vs. Bush the Idealist. The India-US relations he fostered mainly represent realist notions of the balance of power and security first thinking, but there was also the ‘democratic friends’ aspect as well. What do you think of all this?