Dealing with Delhi is a serious matter

23 جولائی 2009
After decades of ill-considered mutual indifference, the US and India are finally taking each other seriously. Perhaps that will come to be seen as one of the most significant achievements of the late and unlamented Bush administration. But the first official visit by Hillary Clinton as US secretary of state to Mumbai and Delhi will not be plain sailing. Building trust between the world’s two greatest democracies will call for concessions from both sides.
The bilateral relationship has certainly been transformed. Two-way trade boomed during the Bush years, up from $30bn to almost $60bn between 2004 and 2007. The biggest stumbling block – India’s nuclear programme – has become a source of co-operation on civil nuclear energy. Defence is a growth area for collaboration, as is counter-terrorism. Mrs Clinton’s symbolic gesture of staying at the Taj Palace hotel in Mumbai, the most prominent target of November’s terror attack, will be much appreciated by ordinary Indians.
But both sides have hard bargaining to do on global and regional challenges: reaching agreement on a post-Kyoto pact to curb global warming; clearing obstacles to trade liberalisation in the Doha round; and engaging India in stabilising the conflicts in neighbouring Pakistan and Afghanistan, including Kashmir.
On global issues, Delhi is concerned that the US pays too much attention to China. But like it or not, Beijing has a more consistent world view, making it an easier partner to deal with. India’s perspective on global challenges can be surprisingly narrow. Its bouts of belligerent self-righteousness – even when it has much to be self-righteous about – do not help.
Delhi is right that the rich nations must do far more to reduce carbon emissions than the poor. The rich created the problem. But India is irresponsible in flatly rejecting any global targets. In the Doha round, India was blamed for being particularly intransigent. But the US also has to go further in scrapping farm subsidies, and opening its market to Indian exports – including of IT services.
On Pakistan and Afghanistan, India needs to engage more positively. Getting its dialogue with Pakistan back on track after the Mumbai bombings is an essential first move.
India’s much-improved relationship with America is good news. Mrs Clinton must show she is ready to respond to genuine Indian concerns. In exchange, India needs to be more coherent and responsible in its own global engagement.
(Courtesy Financial Times)