SPEAKING FREELY Singh needs to shine in Washington
By Sanjeev K Shrivastav
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click hereif you are interested in contributing.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's planned visit to the United States this week, where he will meet with US President Barack Obama, has thrown a spotlight on the state of the India-US strategic partnership.
This strategic partnership is rooted in the solid foundations of shared values and shared interests. India and the United States are collaborating with each other on a vast range of issues, and
the partnership is maturing.
In June, a successful fourth round of the annual India-US strategic dialogue was held in New Delhi. But this week's visit, which starts on Wednesday, is the highest level of India-US political interaction with the Obama administration in its second term. It provides yet another significant opportunity for both the nations to further consolidate their deepening strategic partnership.
The India-US strategic partnership has constantly deepened over the last decade despite some tough challenges. There appears to be a convergence of views and interests between both the nations. However, domestic as well as regional realities pose constraints in furthering the bilateral partnership which should always be kept into consideration during negotiations on various issues.
This visit of Prime Minister Singh is taking place at a critical time, as while Obama has settled in well into his second term Singh's government is set to finish his second term in few months left before seeking a fresh mandate at elections that must be held before May 31, 2014.
On its side, the Obama administration should inject renewed vigor and impetus in pushing further this critical partnership while on India's side, Singh's administration should do its best to achieve unfinished plans in the critical strategic partnership.
It is evident that India and the United States are engaging with each other much more closely than ever before. Both sides are deliberating and discussing various issues intensely through various existing bilateral mechanisms and official visits. So it may not be a right perception to view this partnership as in a state of stagnation. Progress is being made in this partnership on several fronts.
Occasionally, there are phases of slowdown in the ongoing momentum. One of main reasons among others for this slow down, could be attributed to the lack of adequate support to both administrations from their respective domestic constituencies for enhancement of this bilateral strategic partnership.
Also, at many times, governments are deeply occupied with their domestic issues, which slows down the momentum but is a natural process in democracy. For example, an election year has almost begun in India. A year back, there was an election year going on in the United States.
In order to reduce occasional slowdown in the momentum in the partnership, it may be suggested that there needs to be efforts by both India and the United States to identify some key areas for cooperation, such as energy, education, defense, economy, research and development, and make efforts to build a certain level of consensus among respective domestic constituencies. This could be really helpful in further consolidating this partnership.
To achieve this, it is essential for the respective governments to enhance consultation mechanisms and strategic communication with other political parties on issues relating to India-US partnership and broadly on foreign policy matters. In this regard, the role of parliamentary committees as well as mass media would be very vital and critical.
There is also need to have regular visits, exchanges and dialogues between the members of Indian parliament and the US Congress in order to enhance understanding among each other.
With regards to the future of the India-US strategic partnership, it may be suggested that India and the United States must collaborate more closely in building each others' capabilities. This can fit in with the United States' plans to rebalance its defense and economic policy towards the Asia-Pacific region.
Keeping in view the new emerging Asia and the world, the US appears to have realized that to attain a stable, secure and prosperous future, it will also need internal balancing to attain higher economic growth while providing proper job opportunities, improving infrastructure and securing energy resources. Similarly, India is in the process of poverty alleviation, providing quality education, creating job opportunities to its vast young population, as well as enhancing defense its capabilities, attempting to assure energy security, and upgrading infrastructure.
As both India and the United States engage in this process of internal balancing, these two large democratic societies and nations must help each other in building each others' capabilities - and there is enormous scope for cooperation for both the nations in this regards. This deep and constructive approach could be of immense help in evolving a clear shared vision for a secure and bright India-US strategic partnership as well as a stable world order.
Meanwhile, it would be essential to note here that India-US strategic partnership should not be viewed within the prism of balancing the rise of China. Rather, it must be about providing our peoples with a more prosperous, secure and contented life. This should be about building our nations and their capabilities. Both India and United States should welcome China if it is willing to join hands in this process.
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.Please click hereif you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.
Sanjeev K Shrivastav is a researcher at North America Center at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA)
in New Delhi.