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Indo-US relations: More of the same

BS Reporter/New Delhi 08 Nov 12 | 01:00 AM

As neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney mentioned India during their campaign, which was focused on domestic challenges, it is safe to say that with Obama in the saddle now, it will be more of the same on the bilateral front – no real big-bang discoveries or disclosures, with relations trundling along known trajectories: Economy and trade, defence ties and counterterrorism cooperation. The fine print is likely to be cooperation in agriculture – which until some years ago was non-existent.

But it is in the regional and multilateral arena that things could change. Although no big foreign policy initiatives should be expected from India, which also goes to the polls in 18 months, India will have to prepare itself for an unavoidable and almost inevitable blowback in 2014 when foreign troops begin leaving Afghanistan. Elections in Pakistan could alter the political balance in that country, something that both the US and India will have to prepare themselves for. And both India and the US will be watching events unfold in Iran where a promised rogue attack by Israel, if not prevented, could have unpredictable consequences on the extended neighbourhood.

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During his visit to India last November, Obama urged India to step up to the plate and ‘behave its size’ in world affairs. He was talking in the specific context of events in Myanmar but it is no secret that the US would like India to be its ally in the east to contain China’s power as far afield as the South China Sea where the Obama administration in its first term has sought a multilateral solution to competing territorial and economic claims. A change in the Chinese leadership may herald a new trajectory.

The greatest danger, however, lies in the management of Afghanistan – the slow exit of foreign forces, the preparation and training of Afghan National Security Forces ( along with a healthy budget to finance them) and a monitoring a free and fair election in the country that mainstreams the Afghan Taliban, incentivising their entry in electoral politics. If the US, India, and Pakistan fail to do this during Obama’s second term, the world will be more unsafe, as opposed to more safe over the next four years.

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