There is a widespread belief that the US-India relationship will emerge like a Bollywood film: Perhaps there will be some opposition at the beginning, some tension in the middle, and a plethora of music and dance along the way, but in the final moment the main characters will conquer all impediments and live in harmony ever after. This belief is prevalent in American foreign policy groups, in which lazy dominant social assumptions still abound.
The reason behind this optimism in US-India relations.
This optimism is based on conceptions of a shared political culture (both nations are democracies), partly similar perceptions of threats (China and Islamist terrorism), and common economic interests. Because prominent Indian Americans are so well-represented in business, culture, and politics — from Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai and Television star Mindy Kaling to Vice President Kamala Harris.
However, this perception has encouraged American leaders to assume that the connection with our nation only demands the rare picture opportunity with the prime minister and government-to-government agreements. It is thought that we will take the time to learn about American acts that influence their life, possibly with the help of Pichai’s main product, thus little effort is put into connecting with them.
The lack of communication is much to blame for the growing mistrust we have of US foreign policy goals. According to a recent survey, we rank the US above Pakistan as the second-largest credible threat to their nation after China. This is shocking. The survey, performed by Morning Consult, a US-based global business intelligence firm, also reveals that we are more likely to attribute the conflict in Ukraine to the US and NATO than to Russia.
In the Global South, it’s usual to question the Western account of the conflict, but further research is needed to understand how we view the United States as a threat to their nation. The Biden government should at the very least acknowledge and correct its incompetence in managing relations with a nation the president ostensibly views as an essential partner.
It would be oversimplified to say that our mistrust of American motives stems from the Cold War when India supported the Soviet Union and the US supported Pakistan. There are stories that parents used to tell their kids when they were growing up in India in the 1970s about how Richard Nixon sent a task force escorted by the USS Enterprise into the Indian Ocean to raise Pakistani spirits during the conflict that would eventually result in the establishment of Bangladesh. The Indian Navy pals of the father told tall tales about their willingness to launch suicide attacks against the American fleet if all else failed.
Washington, however, has long since shifted its allegiance from Islamabad to New Delhi, and the United States Navy now frequently engages in joint drills with the Indian Navy. India plays a significant role in the US-led Quad, a security alliance that also includes Australia and Japan and aims to restrain Chinese aspirations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Surely no rational Indian would believe that the US poses a credible military threat to them?
The fear, according to Rick Rossow, a specialist on India at the Center for Strategic and Studies, is due to what American military activities elsewhere may do to Indian interests.
As one of the world’s top importers of hydrocarbons, Rossow, who maintains the Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at CSIS, notes that American policies that increase the cost of oil and gas have unintended consequences for India. There is no doubt that the nuclear deal in Iran and the war in Iraq have significantly contributed to the damage to our economy.
However, the conflict in Ukrainian is a more complex situation. Indians should have sympathy for a nation fending off the imperial aspirations of a tyrant because they live in a democracy and have a vivid national experience of the devastation caused by British colonization. There is no question that President Vladimir Putin, not the US or NATO, was the main force behind the conflict, even taking into account New Delhi’s historic relations with Moscow and its financial gain from the conflict in the form of discounted Russian oil.
Part of the issue is that the Indian administration has been passing off its blatant opportunism as a type of admirable, nationalistic resistance against pressure from the West, unchecked by a compliant media. Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar has charged the West with hypocrisy and claimed it is selective in its anger to escape awkward questions regarding New Delhi’s reticence to denounce the Russian incursion.
But equally significant is the fact that neither the US nor Ukraine have vigorously presented their arguments to an Indian audience. The war may be the focus of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s administration, but the Biden administration ought to perform better.
Why not, exactly? For starters, it hasn’t given a damn. Its lack of even the most basic means of communication with the Indians is arguably even more concerning. There is a persistent lack of speakers of any Indian language at the State Department. New Delhi, lacks an ambassador. Since Biden was elected president, the seat has been vacant.
The Republican-controlled Senate has obstructed several Biden nominees for ambassadorships, so this is hardly an outlier. However, Eric Garcetti’s selection for the Delhi position has drawn criticism from Democrats as well. The former mayor of Los Angeles has been accused of disregarding sexual harassment and bullying by a former top staffer; he disputes this.
It’s perplexing that Biden has continued to support Garcetti’s campaign for the past 15 months: The mayor lacks any unique knowledge of India. Even worse, the embassy has had five charges affairs over the previous two years and the State Department is unable to even pretend to preserve stability there. The one who had been in office the longest had zero experience in India.
The last call.
Though most were made of Harris’s lineage during the election period, the Biden White House lacks a notable India expert, and the administration has not taken advantage of the fervor Harris aroused among Indians. The damage caused by long-term American negligence may be repaired by giving the vice president the reins of Indian policy.
edited and proofread by nikita sharma