Welcome to a new era in Indo-US relations

Vol 3, PW 22 (24 Nov 99) People & Policy

It is difficult to remember a time when relations between the United States and India were so warm.

For veteran observers of the Cold War, when Washington was allied to Pakistan and India allied to the Soviet Union, the present wave of pro-India sentiment sweeping Washington is almost nauseating. On Tuesday (16th November) for example, the House of Representatives passed an India Resolution calling on President Clinton to transform relations with India into a, Strategic partnership, akin to the Special Relationship between the US and Britain.

The resolution was introduced by Gary Ackerman, co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India, and accepted by a resounding 396 votes, with only four congressmen voting against. Even George Bush, frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President and hardly renowned for his foreign policy acumen, has been talking of India.

This coming century will see democratic India's arrival as a force in the world, said Bush in his first major foreign policy speech last week, India is debating its future and its strategic path, and the United States must pay it more attention. We should establish more trade and investment with India as it opens to the world.

We should work with the Indian government, ensuring it is a force for stability and security in Asia. Quite.

So, whats behind this recent attraction Answer: Pakistan. Washington, like the rest of the world, is worried at the thought of a bunch of crazy generals who put democratically-elected prime ministers on trial, while holding the world to ransom with their finger on the nuclear button.

By contrast India a country that has never experienced a military coup, and regularly (almost too regularly) changes its government appears stable. Add to this Islamabad's support for the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan who shelter the Saudi bomber Osama bin Laden and it is not difficult to see why the US prefers India to Pakistan as its new South Asian partner.