Reciprocity needed

Reciprocity needed

On the face of it, there is reason for India to be satisfied with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit. Although the strategic dialogue is in its infancy—this was the second round of the dialogue—the areas of co-operation are expanding. As the two sides noted, the breadth of the bilateral relationship now includes “all major issues and regions of the world.” Indeed, for the first time India was discussing with the US the situation in Central Asia and West Asia. The two sides have signed an important agreement on cyber-security. Clinton’s expression of sympathy to India’s continuing suffering of terrorism and her expression of solidarity with its fight against the scourge was well received here. Her stirring call to India to assume leadership role in Asia has warmed many hearts in the country. However, warm words, while welcome, cannot by themselves strengthen bilateral relations. There is little use in stepping up intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism co-operation when Washington’s approach to tackling terror remains narrow. Sure it is pressing Pakistan to do more to fight terrorism but that pressure is limited to getting Islamabad to dismantle the al-Qaeda and Taliban network. Consequently, India cannot be faulted for wondering over the meaning of US’ ‘solidarity’ with India’s struggle with terrorism.

In Afghanistan, the US has been appreciative of India’s positive role in reconstruction. But its support to India claiming a role for itself in the approaching endgame is unclear. It is possible that to clear the route for a quick exit, it will defer to Pakistan and keep India out. Clinton has called on India to focus on its east. That will be difficult so long as India’s concerns related to countries to its west remain unaddressed. Unmindful of India’s concerns, Washington expects Delhi to be sensitive to its interests. It has called on India to raise its voice on human rights violations in Myanmar. It has forced India to desist from doing business with Iran. India was arm-twisted into not only voting against Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons programme but also to drop out of the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project.

India’s relationship with the US is clearly tilted in Washington’s favour. This is not how the foundation for a strategic partnership should be built. The dialogue will continue but for real dividend to emerge, the partnership needs to be equal and built on the principle of reciprocity.

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