Washington: The US and India have a "historic opportunity" to dramatically enhance bilateral ties and America's effort should be to influence rather than direct in the relationship, experts have told lawmakers here.
"The US and India have a historic opportunity to dramatically enhance their bilateral relationship," Abraham Denmark, senior vice president of the National Bureau of Asian Research, said in his testimony before the Committee on House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.
"President Obama is the first American president to be invited to India to celebrate Republic Day, and he became the first president to visit India twice while in office. This reflects Prime Minister Modi's enthusiasm for engaging the United States, as well as President Obama's commitment to set a robust agenda with India," he said.
Denmark said Modi has made it clear that he seeks to enhance relations with all of Asia's major powers.
"This is understandable, as it is in India's interests to maintain generally positive and productive relations with China and Russia. Yet beneath the surface, it is clear that Modi sees India's relations with the United States and our allies as being of particular strategic value," he said.
"His engagements with his American, Japanese, and Australian counterparts have been particularly positive and substantive. While this is partially the result of shared democratic values, one foreign policy issue is by far the most decisive in drawing India closer to the United States and its allies: a shared concern for China and its increasingly assertive approach to the Asia-Pacific," Denmark said.
Modi's concerns about a rising China are entirely understandable, given that China and India have a long- standing border dispute that has already triggered one war, he said, adding that the status of the Dalai Lama also remains a sensitive issue in their bilateral relationship.
"Moreover, many in New Delhi see China with the ability to dominate East Asia as an anathema to India's long-term interests and they are thus pursuing policies designed to enhance India's ability to check Chinese power. In this regard, the United States offers an attractive option for New Delhi," Denmark said.
"It is a reliable balance to Chinese influence, and can help promote economic and political cohesiveness in the Asia-Pacific. More concretely, India sees the United States as an important potential source of investment and new technologies -- both of which will be essential to managing its rapidly growing population and addressing its intensifying security requirements," he said.
Karl D Jackson, C V Starr Distinguished Professor of Southeast Asian Studies School of Advanced International Studies Johns Hopkins University, said as Henry Kissinger recently remarked, China, Japan, and India are each currently led by unusually strong and assertive leaders.