Strong Indo-U.S. Relations is Important
By Nehginpao Kipgen
The five-day visit of the Indian prime minister to the United States, which began on November 22, is an important step in the bilateral relations of the two largest democracies of the world. Manmohan Singh is the first foreign leader to have made an official state visit to the White House under Barack Obama’s presidency. This has a great significance for both nations.
The relations between the United States and India have not always been in good terms. During the Cold War era, India was a pioneer in the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). India was committed to neither the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nor the Warsaw Pact. During those years of tensions, the United States supported Pakistan, while India enjoyed the support of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The visit comes at a time when there are many in India who have expressed the view that the Obama administration pays a lesser attention to India, while engaging heavily with its traditional rivals. This allegation heated up especially during Obama’s maiden week-long visit to Asia, which began on November 12.
Because of its booming economy, China has become a closer partner of the United States. The fight against Al-Qaeda militants has brought Pakistan and the United States closer. These developments have often disappointed the Indian leadership. India has had wars with China and Pakistan in the past.
The mistrust between Washington and New Delhi significantly dissipated during president George W. Bush’s administration. A civilian nuclear cooperation accord was signed into law in 2008 after years of close communication and tough negotiation. The Obama administration is willing to push forward with this agreement.
The Indian prime minister was given a warm reception inside the White House. Singh noted that India and the United States are bound by common values of "democracy, pluralism, rule of law and respect for fundamental human freedoms."
Obama stressed the importance of global security: “We both recognize that our core goal is to achieve peace and security for all peoples in the region, not just one country or the other.”
The discussions centered around improved cooperation on security, clean energy and climate change. It was also a moment to reinvigorate the relations established between the two nations during the Bush’s administration.
The two leaders focused on bilateral relations and how they can work together in the face of global challenges. Controversial issues such as Indo-Pak tensions and the controversy over the disputed Kashmir region were not emphasized.
President Obama was meticulous in presenting Washington’s dealings with Beijing and Islamabad. The United States needs Pakistan in its fight against terrorism. Similarly, Washington needs the support and cooperation of Beijing and New Delhi to maintain peace and security in the region.
The United States also needs the cooperation of both China and India in its efforts to replace the 1997 Kyoto protocol on carbon dioxide emissions. A success treaty on climate change, which will be discussed in Copenhagen in December, greatly depends on the cooperation of some of the big polluters – China, India and the United States.
Washington and New Delhi may not agree on every single issue, nevertheless, it was a positive development that leaders of the two largest democracies of the world met to discuss several global challenges.
As the largest democratic nation on earth, India needs to demonstrate its global responsibility in speaking out for human rights and the need to advance fundamental democratic values in the region and around the world.
To confront the global challenges of the 21st century, a strong Indo-U.S. relationship is important.
Nehginpao Kipgen is a political analyst and general secretary of the U.S.-based Kuki International Forum (www.kukiforum.com). He has written numerous analytical articles on the politics of Asia for many leading international newspapers in Asia, Africa, and the United States of America.