US President Barack Obama recently visited India, taking a step ahead in strengthening ties between the world’s two important democracies – one the oldest and another the largest.
At a time when changes in global politics are taking place rapidly, the US and India are intent on cooperating with each other on a number of issues. Initiatives in various areas including security, science and technology and healthcare were announced during Obama’s visit. Moreover, Obama went on to announce support for India`s quest for permanent membership of a "reformed" UN Security Council "in the years ahead".
In an exclusive interview with Biplob Ghosal and Kamna Arora of Zeenews.com, Dr Harsh V Pant, an expert on Indo-US ties, discusses the arithmetic of relationship between India and the US in the wake of rising China.
Dr Harsh V Pant is a professor of defence studies at King`s College, London.
Q: Do you think the US’ support to India’s entry into the UNSC is a counter to China’s rise?
Dr Pant: Obama`s announcement had more to do with assuaging concerns in India that his administration was not as well disposed towards India as Bush administration was. And he wanted to make his visit a success. Declaring the US’ support is a cost free option for the US as nothing is likely to happen on this front anytime soon.
Q: In your view, are India and the US natural partners?
Dr Pant: Yes, they are, and here China is a major factor. Both the US and India cannot deal with China without actually strengthening their partnership. But there are several short-term issues, most important of which is Af-Pak. There is a strong divergence between the two on this issue that needs to be rectified. But even in the long-term, India will never be an ally of the US in the mould of Britain and Australia.
Q: Why was Pakistan not a part of Obama’s current Asia trip?
Dr Pant: Simply because India would not have welcomed him with as much warmth if he were visiting Pakistan during the same trip. Obama had to demonstrate that he is pursuing with the policy of his predecessor of de-hyphenating India and Pakistan.
Q: Why does the US refrain from acknowledging that Pakistan has not prevented infiltration across the LoC, or slam ISI for supporting LeT?
Dr Pant: The US is doing this but not in the manner in which India would like it to. The US needs Pakistan to fight the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan`s cooperation is crucial if there is any hope of US forces getting out of Afghanistan by 2014. Therefore, it can`t alienate the US military establishment.
Q: Do you think the US might accept some limited or complete nuclear cooperation with Pakistan?
Dr Pant: This is not very likely given the strong opposition to even limited nuclear cooperation with Pakistan in the executive and legislative branches of the US government. And now when China is colluding with Pakistan on civilian nuclear energy cooperation, the US would be even more reluctant to go down this path.