How Obama’s India Policy Has Made America Stronger
Image Credit: White House Photo by Pete Souza

How Obama’s India Policy Has Made America Stronger


(The Diplomat over the next few weeks will be featuring the U.S. Presidential Election and what effect it may have on the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific region. Our hope is to provide a broad array of opinions and ideas from both sides of the political spectrum. Note: All opinions published are those of the author and not the views of this publication.)

As the 2012 presidential election draws near, it is clear that American voters will face a stark choice on issues ranging from a woman’s right to choose to the future of America’s social safety net. Differences over foreign policy, in particular, have recently taken on renewed significance. In his speech at the Democratic National Convention, President Barack Obama outlined his administration’s impressive foreign policy record, while pointedly calling out Governor Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan as “new” to the field. His critique resonated powerfully with ordinary Americans, who are more confident about President Obama’s ability to handle international crises than his inexperienced challengers.

Realizing that their woeful lack of foreign policy credentials could prove a real Achilles’ heel, Romney and Ryan have politicized the tragic attack against American diplomats in Libya in a distasteful attempt to undermine President Obama’s global statesmanship. Such ploys are diversionary tactics and should fool no one. The Obama administration has proven its mettle time and again in a series of major foreign policy wins, including the elimination of Osama bin Laden, decimation of Al Qaeda’s leadership, withdrawal from Iraq, and winding down of the war in Afghanistan.

Building on these successes, President Obama has stepped boldly into the 21st century by advancing a forward-looking strategy of “Asian rebalancing” that capitalizes on new opportunities and recognizes emerging challenges – unlike his Republican opponent, who remains hopelessly mired in the distant Cold War past. As we enter what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called America’s “Pacific Century,” the Obama administration has taken far-sighted measures to permanently station U.S. Marines on Australia’s northern coast, redeploy American naval power with a predominantly Pacific posture, and explore new deep-water harbors in countries like Vietnam.

Partly anchoring this reorientation has been an expansion of the United States’ strategic partnership with India. Since taking office, President Obama has made significant strides in deepening ties with the world’s largest democracy, holding his first state dinner in honor of Prime Minister Singh, visiting the country himself, sending countless members of his Cabinet to India, and declaring American support for a permanent Indian seat on the U.N. Security Council. Obama’s “India policy” reflects a principled approach rooted in liberal values, for both democracies share deeply held commitments to universal franchise, secular government, and the rule of law. Equally important, it demonstrates the Obama administration’s recognition that India’s strategic interests are converging America’s.

President Obama’s success in strengthening the U.S.-India partnership partially rests upon deepening commercial ties. Under his leadership, these have never been stronger: bilateral trade and investment is expected to surpass $100 billion for the first time this year. Particularly important from a strategic standpoint is the fact that American defense sales to India, one of the world’s fastest growing defense markets, are growing rapidly. Building on this foundation, the Obama administration has expanded cooperation with New Delhi on a range of issues vital to U.S. national security. In June 2010, President Obama launched an annual U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue for both countries’ senior leaders to engage directly on topics ranging from counterterrorism cooperation and nuclear nonproliferation to cybersecurity and climate change. These high-level talks are more than just a symbolic milestone: they underscore the substantive depth of the two nations’ expanding security partnership, reflected, for instance, in the fact that the United States and India jointly participated in 56 separate military exercises across all services last year, which was more than India held with any other country during that time.

In West Asia, the Obama administration has partnered with India to promote regional stability and combat terrorism engendered by religious fundamentalism. As the last U.S. troops prepare to pull out of Afghanistan, American policymakers realize that India could act as a stabilizing influence in the war-torn country. New Delhi’s record on development assistance in Afghanistan over the past decade is solid, and its willingness to commit additional capital and know-how is promising. In recent months, Obama administration officials have been working more closely than ever before with their Indian counterparts to train Afghan security forces, civil servants, engineers, and others to bolster the Afghans’ capacity on-the-ground and increase the prospects for a lasting peace.

Meanwhile, in East Asia, an increasingly assertive China presents both Washington and New Delhi with arguably their most complex bilateral relationship. The two democracies’ dynamics with Beijing share important parallels: most notably, each seeks to deepen economic ties with China while managing an uncertain security future. In response to China’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean, development of its first aircraft carrier, acquisition of several new nuclear-powered attack submarines, and commercial port construction in Burma, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, the Obama administration has increased maritime cooperation with the fast-growing Indian Navy to safeguard this naval “crossroads” of the global economy.

The Obama administration’s steps to deepen America’s partnership with New Delhi represent a major success for U.S. foreign policy. Halfway around the world, India is situated in a region crucial to the United States. Both liberal democracies face common challenges across Asia – from combating fundamentalist violence in the west to preventing authoritarian power plays in the east. And with Washington facing impending defense budget cuts, struggling allies in Europe, and an increasingly unreliable partner in Pakistan, India could become a “linchpin” of America’s strategic reorientation toward Asia.

President Obama’s engagement with India rests on the twin pillars of common values and converging interests. His foresighted bridge building has advanced democracy, boosted our economy, and left America stronger. Governor Romney, meanwhile, has hardly mentioned India, reflecting a deeper failure to formulate a strategic vision for U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century – yet another sign that he is dangerously out-of-touch with present day realities. Voters would do well to remember this when they go to the polls in November, for U.S. national security hangs in the balance.

Manik Suri is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Advanced Study of India, a Truman Security Fellow, and a J.D. Candidate at Harvard Law School. He has held positions at global investment firm D. E. Shaw & Company and the White House National Economic Council.

November 7, 2012 at 20:22

Are you kidding me? Since when is disbanding the indian union even an option. get real. india and us are meant to be partners and friends, and this will be the defining relationship of the 21st century.

October 31, 2012 at 10:00

The problem with India is its inability to commit to US strategy. It is a wasted opportunity for USA as India shuttles between Russia and USA. If India disintegrates like the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia, it provides USA huge geopolitical opportunities. For instance Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bosnia, Kosovo are huge US assets in strategic places. If India breaks up into Hindi Belt, Assam, Kashmir, Bengal, Tamil Nadu, etc. each of these new nations will strive to win US support at any cost. That can be used to advance US policy through multiple competing fronts. These new nations can also exert pressure as needed on Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc. because they have similar populations which is a bonus.

nirode mohanty
October 24, 2012 at 08:17

President Bush is so far the best president for India, but commentators write  that he is a  novice in foreign affairs like Governor Romney.President Obama's policies is more cosmetics and symbolic than any substsance.He has done nothing to have India in the UN Security Council.He will not do anything good  for India to offend Pakistan.His Asia pivot policy is hinged with China, not India.Militarily, he has not given any advanced technology to India. If he is elected, India will be hyphenated with Pakistan for four years.He will increase military and economic aid to Pakistan to  be equal with India.

Leonard R.
October 16, 2012 at 13:28

IMO, this article by this Indian writer is most certainly hot air. 
I do recall some very good articles by Indian writers on this site, one by a former ambassador from Singapore comes to mind. However, this article is one of the worst I've ever read here. He does not even tell us what the differences are between Romney and Obama when it comes to India. . 

October 15, 2012 at 22:04

agreed Matt…this is been a malarkey of a foreign policy on ALL accounts! Clearly the idiot writing this article has drank much of the koolaid. It is a shame that our once trusted media has lost it's trust and become a tool of the democrats!

October 15, 2012 at 16:10

@observer I keep hearing all this nonsense about poverty,health etc etc by Americans ,Chinese and Europeans.
Don't they have any poor people in their country.i bet they have .u only talk about indian poor people.think about your country by day porr in ur country is increasing.and that day will come very soon when u guyz won't hv even bread to eat.worry about ur own country

October 15, 2012 at 02:01

@ talking points,
Can you be more specific about what you think is "hot air" or " thinking others are fools"  or "guru talk " ,  or what you don't like to hear from the Indians  ….. ? 

Carol Dijkhuyzen
October 14, 2012 at 18:40

I did not hear Romney attacking Bush's during that tragic sad 9/11…republican is a disease,we must eliminate.

October 14, 2012 at 15:53

India bracketing the radical Islamic world from the East is the only strategic hope of containing expansionist Islam for the length of time it will take for democracy to grow in Egypt, Turkey, and Iran.  Theocratic rule is hard to budge. But India's population, the size of its potential military contribution, and the depth of India's values, culture and wisdom cannot be underestimated.  It is good news – first read here – that President Obama supports India for a seat on the UN Security Council as a permanent member.  Good for the whole world.

October 14, 2012 at 12:51

@ Observer,
You are right in your observation that an open business relationship could help both the US and India. What you possibly don't know is that the US State Dept. and Pentagon officials are having sleepless nights to find a strategy to counter and neutralize the rising power of China which is well on its way to overtake, and have an economy many times bigger than the US in next fifty years.  India is another country which is also on its way to catch up with the US economy in next thirty to fifty years.  The implications of these are huge for US domination and force projection across the globe …. ! 
It would be a major milestone for the US in this century, if they can manage to get India into a client-master relationship similar to that of Pakistan.  It is however another story that the American foreign policy masterminds just have no idea or respect for how different India is from their perception ……… ! 

talking points
October 14, 2012 at 12:34

to be frank, Indian authors on this site are pretty light weight. there is no real and serious analysis, mostly hot air. I thought democracy produces truth telling and honesty. but somehow our Indian friends like to talk above reality, thinking others are fools and will believe their guru talk.
it's a waste of time to read them.

October 14, 2012 at 04:00

I'm confused that I keep hearing and reading about our pivot to Asia, since, when did we ever left Asia?As far as I know, we are still in Japan,Korea and other  states that have treaties with us since WW2.About India, even though they are the largest democratic country in the world, it really doesn't matter if they want closer relationship with USA or with other countries,their choice, but I think the most pressing problem they have is to find way to fix their dysfunctional government,so that they be able to find a solution of how to help their citizens and grow their economy. To have a stronger national security, it is necessary to have a vibrant economy by investing on infrastructure,education, and other areas that focus more on the welfare of the republic…It really doesn't matter if we have Obama or Romney in Oval Office, for the USA and India sake,I think, we better off if we have an open business relationship or trade that could definitely help both our anemic economies..

Jake in Seoul
October 14, 2012 at 00:22

'The Diplomat' is openly campaigning for Obama.

BK Raju
October 12, 2012 at 23:28

Very well put.
One can appreciate the aspects of Obama's foreign policy that were handled well enough (e.g., Myanmar) without engaging empty stereotypes anti Romney. So if I vote for Romney I support a downgrading of US-Indian relationships? Couldn't one also argue that Obama challenges US-Indian economic ties with his anti-outsourcing rhetoric? I did not see real beef in this article. 

October 12, 2012 at 13:41

big talk from a man whose country has 15 trillion dollar debt……U guyz won't even have a bread in future…

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