Building Closer U.S.-Indian Relations

November 9, 2005
Doug Gavel

U.S. efforts to broker an historic new alliance with India were the focus of discussion at a luncheon Wednesday at the Kennedy School. The agreement, announced this summer, lays the groundwork for enhanced U.S.-Indian partnerships in science, technology, commerce, energy, health and economics for years to come.

Xenia Dormandy, research director at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and former director for South Asia at the National Security Council, shared her insights on what makes the alliance valuable for both countries.

With respect to global politics, Dormandy said that “it behooves us to support a growing democracy halfway around the world.” With respect to global economics, India has “a quickly growing middle class and for U.S. business, this is a market we want to be in.”

Building closer ties also benefits both countries from a geopolitical perspective, Dormandy said. For the U.S., courting India as an ally will help in addressing regional issues concerning Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and Burma to name a few. For India, having the U.S. as a partner will help engender more power on the world stage.

“They are only going to become more important as you see the form of the U.N. change,” she said. “They are going to play a major role in U.N. reform.”

While some have been critical of enhanced U.S.-Indian partnerships on the military front, Dormandy defended them on practical grounds. “If we don’t do it, somebody else will,” she pointed out. “Nature abhors a vacuum. If we don’t begin developing that relationship, somebody else will fill the gap.”

Several American allies favored the alliance, Dormandy said, including Great Britain, Australia and France. Even Japan, she said, was “okay” with the agreement, despite the fact that it might be perceived to lose power on the world stage as India gains it.

And despite long-standing tensions between India and its neighbor Pakistan, Dormandy remarked that long-term stability in the region can be enhanced by sensible and smart U.S. policy.

“For the first time, over the past five years we have managed to build good strong relations with both India and Pakistan,” she said.

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