Overcoming the Hesitations of History: An Analysis of U.S.-India Ties
U.S.-India relations have not progressed as far or as fast as advocates have hoped. There is little doubt as to India’s strategic importance to the United States, as well as the critical role it will undoubtedly play on the global stage in this century. The history of U.S. ties since India’s independence are complex, and involve decades of divergence and estrangement, but with a decidedly upward trajectory over the past two decades. Historical tensions, however, still loom large in today’s relationship. It was in the summer of 2016 that India’s Prime Minister told a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress that India had “overcome its hesitations of history” with regard to the United States. It was a breakthrough declaration, but did it reflect the reality between Washington and New Delhi?This study tests the Prime Minister’s proposition that history has been overcome. It first provides a detailed overview of the some of the shifting geopolitical dynamics in Asia, and in particular, India’s rise. It examines the U.S. approach to India since its independence in 1947, and then in a systematic way considers five years in particular (1962, 1971, 1998, 2005 and 2015) as case studies to examine in detail the gains that were made, the setbacks, and draws forward the important lessons for academicians and policymakers alike.There have been other studies of U.S. and India relations over the years, but few that identified the key lessons, the deficiencies, the areas of promise, what has worked and what has failed. It is in this study that those historical lessons are carefully identified and analyzed, with a set of recommendations to chart a new way forward – one that takes into account the foreign policy architecture of the 21st Century, in which there is a diminishing interest in formal alliance structures. Where and how do the U.S. and India advance their relations in this environment? This study provides a diagnosis of the problems, utilizes the case study methodology, evaluates the prospects for progress, and identifies the components that would offer the best chance to create a durable and lasting partnership.
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