'Obama admin should deepen ties with India'



Washington: The Obama administration needs to address its institutional deficiencies so as to deepen its relationship with India, a prominent American foreign policy expert has said.

Observing that the US-India relationship is vital to maintaining a balance of power in Asia that is favourable to the United States, Ashley Tellis of the prestigious Brookings Institute said, "Deepening the partnership requires US President Barack Obama to address institutional deficiencies in Washington, cooperate with New Delhi on Afghanistan and Iran, build up India's defence capabilities, and encourage Indian economic reform".

An important institutional improvement would be integrating the India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan bureaucracies under a single directorate in the White House and bureau at the State Department, he said.

"In conjunction, Washington ought to designate a senior official with specific responsibility for India, since it must be expected that Pakistan and Afghanistan will naturally consume substantial leadership attention in the foreseeable future," Tellis said.

The Obama Administration in the second term, he said, should seek continued Indian cooperation in achieving its strategic goals in Afghanistan and Iran.

"Partly because of disenchantment with Pakistan's duplicity in counterterrorism operations and partly because of the recognition that Afghans often welcome Indian reconstruction activities more warmly than they do other international programs, the Obama administration has strongly endorsed Indian contributions to efforts in Afghanistan and urged their expansion," he said.

In the months ahead, Washington should encourage the Indian government to increase its contributions with an eye toward enabling a successful transition, he observed. Tellis said time has come for the United States to seriously implement its long-professed strategic intention of building up Indian defence capabilities.

"Because there are no fundamental conflicts of interest between India and America, aiding Indian defence programs and defence industrialisation efforts remains in Washington’s self-interest no matter what the differences in tactics or styles may be between the two states," he argued.

During its second term, the Obama administration ought to pursue specific initiatives to take US Indian defence relations to the next level, Tellis said.

"These efforts should focus on direct defence-industrial collaboration, since military-to-military relations and defence sales have already done very well. Current initiatives in both areas should nonetheless be expanded because raising the operational proficiency of the Indian military and expanding India's inventory of US defence equipment serve American interests," Tellis said.

The top American foreign policy expert said that the United States should encourage the Indian state to accelerate the economic reforms required to raise the country's growth rates to the highest levels witnessed during the last decade.

"The United States should do everything possible to encourage the swift implementation of these reforms. They would open Indian markets to US business, generating profits for those ventures.”

"Successful market liberalisation would automatically create expanded opportunities for American participation in India's growth, with room for US contributions in the form of increased capital, technology, and expertise transfers," he said.

The reforms would also increase America's stakes in India's success, thereby providing the best guarantees of permanent US support for the country even in the face of occasional political disagreements between them, Tellis said.

PTI