India as a nation, in foreign policy, has been acclimatized by a long reign of the Nehru clan and their sycophants while in office, to be a junior partner to the foreigner. It suited the clan'spersonal interests but India'sfailures in the international scene have been due to this low status.
Between 1950 and 1990, with a brief exception of Morarji Desai'stenure of 2-1/2 years as Prime Minister, the Indian government was a junior partner of the USSR. We failed, for example, to smash West Pakistan'smilitary machine in December 1971 under Soviet dictation. Thereafter, we lost on the negotiating table in Shimla in 1972 whatever our jawans had won for us in the war. Indira Gandhi thus was at best an adulterated ?Durga?. She left the job half-done under foreign pressure.
Times have changed, and so have the circumstances, but the junior partner mindset is still driving the foreign policy of India. The proposed Indo-US ?strategic partnership? is an example of this. When the US proposed in July 2005 the Indo-US Nuclear deal in terms that lacked specificity, the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh rushed to welcome it. He declared that the deal would solve India'selectric power supply problems, and that it was an ?historic deal?!
Today, a year later, Indian nuclear scientists are unanimous that this deal, now visible in details, would ruin India'sfreedom to pursue nuclear energy. The US lawmakers are of the view that the deal makes the US give away ?too much for too little from India?. Which means that they think that Indians can be made to yield yet more concessions, under pressure, in the direction of nuclear bondage. The deal has soured in the eyes of all patriotic Indians, but the Nehru clan and their sycophants, now back in power, see their personal interests safeguarded by pleasing the US and signing whatever the US Congress dishes out.
No bilateral relations with a foreign country, and that too with a sole super power, can be sustainable and of mutual gain unless it is structured on the calculus of costs and benefits of both countries. There are four dimensions in which the bilateral relations are thus manifested.
The first is the nurtured trust between the leaders and peoples of the two countries. This trust is founded on the mutual understanding of what one nation will do for the other in moments of crisis (the bottom line, to use an American phrase), and what one nation will not do in other circumstances, no matter the costs. Such an understanding begets trust and respect between nations since there is then no scope for being betrayed or let down, or for that matter be pressured to do or not do something by either nation.
The second dimension is the existence of complementarities of interests. Without such interests existing, no two nation can relate to each other. This mutuality produces synergies between the national interests of the two relating nations. Common enemies and similarity of problems create such synergy. Outsourcing of business and manufacturing processes is another example. In this dimension both nations will gain by cooperation and hence complementarities provide the crucial thrust to bilateral relations.
The third is in the resolution of competitive interests. Any two large nations have competitive aspirations and needs, and if these cannot be resolved satisfactorily then it weakens bilateral relations even if it can be cemented in the other three dimensions.
And finally, the fourth dimension is in matching of expectations that will exist between the peoples of the two nations. If one nation assumes that friendship means totality of convergence or submergence of all national interests, while the other nation expects it to be on purely give and take principle, then the relation between such two nations is bound to sour sooner or later because the expectations are not matched.
Expectations amongst the people of a nation can also mismatch and develop wide gaps if one nation behaves like a supplicant with the other, or if the leaders of one nation can be blackmailed into compliance by the leadership of the other nation.
Let us now look at the Indo-US relations today in the framework of these four dimensions. Indo-US relations are, in my view, weakest in the first dimension of trust. This is partly due to the way we negotiate or communicate with each other. Americans are direct, contractual, punctual and quite unemotional in making promises in bilateral dealings. Indians are indirect, believe in atmospherics and ambience, and given easily to emotional extremes of fault finding, euphoria and foot dragging. Contract adherence, keeping verbal promises, and punctuality are not of priority concern. An Indian is more concerned with form than content, on ambience than substance. This contrast in Indian-American attitude was first documented in a 1953-57 survey carried out by MIT professor Harold Isaacs and published in his book Scratches on Our Minds. As far back as 1957, Prof. Isaacs predicted that therefore, asked to choose, Americans would trust the Chinese but not the Indians in his dealings.
When I asked an American who knows India well to give me two examples of what crumbles trust between the two nations, one recent and one old, he recited the following two: The first was India'sespousal of China'scandidacy for the UNSC seat even after 1962 border war, and after receiving American arms to fight the Chinese. It was bizarre for him that after a war, which Indians called the ? Chinese invasion?, the Indian government could promote the invaders to the highest international seat of power?the UNSC with a veto.
The second instance was the Indian Prime Minister'sdeclaration that India and US were ?natural allies?, and promised in 2002 to send troops to Iraq. The Indian government soon thereafter somersaulted 180 degrees for no apparent reason, and got instead an unanimous resolution passed in Parliament to condemn the US for invading Iraq?on the very day Saddam Hussein'sstatue was dragged through the Baghdad streets by the Iraqis! A promise in American eyes is a verbal contract that cannot be broken without penalty. But the Indian leaders broke it without explanation. For us, ?majboori? excuses all contract breaking.
However, in the second dimension of complementarities, India and US are made-to?order partners. US is a capital-rich, technology-endowed, and a skilled labour?short country. India is labour surplus in skilled and unskilled workers, capital starved, and technology deficient country that has a huge middle-class market with an appetite for western goods. It is a perfect match, provided Indian laws are streamlined and modernized especially in taxes, labour hiring statutes, and financial disclosure rules.
India also has much needed complementarities with the US in combating of terrorism since the enemies are the same-Al Qaeda and it'scancerous mutations. India'sarmed forces need modernization, and if mutual trust can be built up, India can be equipped to become the most modern armed force for defending democracy globally.
It is significant that Western Europe after World War II and China post 1980 became economic and military powers because of their liberal access to markets, weapons and finance that the US provided, even if commercially. India cannot accelerate it'sgrowth rate to 10 percent and above and sustain it for over a decade unless the US partners with India on technology, finance and defence. No wonder, the Indian communist oppose any truck with the US, because otherwise it would mean that India will be able to overtake China. The Left Front in India is programmed to ensure that does not happen.
Third, we Indians should not become euphoric with every statement of praise by US leaders. Americans have understood this weakness, and hence use flattering language as a substitute for concrete action. Recall how India'smedia was blaring two years ago the news that US, UK etc., were going to make India a UNSC member with a veto. Why has it not transpired?
We Indians need to understand that there are competitive factors in Indo-US relations that require to be comprehended and if possible resolved. Therefore, US is not going to build India into a world class country to become a possible competitor in the future. US does not trust India enough to believe that India would not do so. Nor is the US going to make us a ?counter-weight? to China as some starry?eyed Indians think. India is useful perhaps as a conduit to Tibet for the US, but to think that the Indian armed forces will be modernized by the US to the level that India can globally challenge China is ridiculous. Such modernization India has to do by itself.
The Indo-US nuclear deal has to be understood in this context-US is not going to make India as a nuclear weapons power. Giving India nuclear energy capacity that is sufficiently safeguarded is another matter. Even Belgium, small country, generates 75% of it'selectricity from nuclear power on technology provided by the US.
There is also a lurking fear amongst strategists in US as to what will happen to US economic lead in the world if India becomes a front runner in innovation ? Today US is ahead of all other nations because most epochal innovations of the last hundred years have been home-grown in US. India today has a huge and growing 15 to 40 years old population-our demographic dividend. If this population can be educated in world class primary and secondary educational system then the dividend can be cashed in the form of cutting edge technologies and frontier research&development. Then India will become a competitor to the US thereby threatening US global lead. China cannot do that since it is not a democracy. No authoritarian society can innovate. For research one needs a free expression and discourse which only democracy can provide.
To actualize this potential, India will have to invest 6 percent of it'sGDP in the education sector [presently 2.6%], and 3 percent of GDP in R&D [presently 0.8%], and give up crazy ideas such as reservation in institutions of higher learning. If we give an Indian of any caste access to world class primary and secondary education, then because of our uniform DNA, any Indian of any caste can compete equally with anyone in India.
Reservations in education and jobs should therefore be restricted to SCs and STs only, as Hindu society'sprayaschit [atonement] for the past, but only for one generation of these groups. Reservations for Muslims and Christians is absurd since they were ruling classes of India for a thousand years.
Finally, for improving our mutual understanding by matching our expectations of each other, I think India must make clear that despite a host of amenable and blackmailable leaders in India, the people of India will never accept client or junior partner status for India. For a time, a big power can play on the petty ambitions or primordial fears of Indian politicians to get compliance, but in the end such a foreign power will come to grief because of democracy in India.
India has also to recognize that if we are to get the maximum out of the US relations for our progress then there is minimum we have to deliver in the US interests. For example in Iraq, it is our interest to recognize that a US retreat from that country will embolden terrorists in India. We cannot afford to let the US lose in the Iraq involvement, no matter how fooloish have been the US actions. We as Indians and in our own interest must find a way to help the US out of the mess they are in.
Terrorists like Osama Bin laden have already identified US-India-Israel as the three main enemies of Islam. No matter how much Indians proclaim secularism, these terrorists will target Hindus. Hence, we must meet them on their own grounds, for which a US-India-Israel compact is beneficial. The question is how to frame a policy that synergizes in the four dimensions outlined earlier. India stands to gain by an healthy relationship with the US in the coming decades.