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McCain’s message to Obama, Modi: India, US can lead world in 21st century

Author: Niticentral Staff
Publication: Niticentral.com
Date: September 11, 2014
URL: http://www.niticentral.com/2014/09/11/mccains-message-to-obama-modi-india-us-can-lead-world-in-21st-century-237888.html?utm_content=buffer29fdb&utm_medium=social&utm_source=plus.google.com&utm_campaign=buffer

US Senator John McCain delivered an address on the India-US Strategic Partnership at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington on September 9.

His opening remarks gave the mood that is likely to prevail during the Modi-Obama Summit in September last. He said –

“The election of Prime Minister Modi has transformational potential – for India and our partnership. Indians are hungry for bold change, and they gave a once-in-a-generation mandate to a leader who is eager to deliver it. This change will likely extend to India’s foreign policy, including its relationship with the United States.”

Referring about his personal interactions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his India visit in July , McCain said his impression is that he sees a strategic partnership with America as integral to his domestic goal of revitalising India, economically and geopolitically – and that India’s revitalisation can, in turn, help to re-invigorate the partnership between the two nations.

This was probably the crux of his address that can be a strong message to the world. Moving on to the core reason why the US needs a strong India as a partner, McCain said –

“To re-energize our strategic partnership, we first need to recall why we embarked on this endeavor… India and the United States, two democratic great powers, can and should lead the 21st century in sustaining a liberal, rules-based international order, supported by a favorable balance of power.

India and the United States share not only strategic interests, but also values – the values of individual liberty, democracy, critical thinking, social mobility, and entrepreneurialism. That is why, contrary to the old dictates of realpolitik, we seek not to curb the rise of India, but to catalyze it.”

But important were his pointers on what he sees can be deterrents for the partnership to grow. Referring to the Indian side of the story he felt,

“Many Indians I have met are concerned that the United States seems distracted and unreliable, especially in its relations with India. They are concerned that President Obama’s declared ‘pivot to Asia’ seems to be more rhetoric than reality, in large part due to devastating cuts to U.S. defense capabilities under sequestration. They are concerned that U.S. disengagement from the Middle East has created a vacuum that extremism and terrorism are filling. They are concerned by perceptions of U.S. weakness in the face of Russian aggression and Chinese provocation. And most of all, they are concerned by President Obama’s plan to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2017, which Indians believe will foster disorder and direct threats to India.”

McCain’s reference to former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran drove home the point when he quoted Saran – “[T]he post Second World War international order,’ he said, ‘created and dominated by the U.S. and its Western allies, [is] being steadily and relentlessly dismantled.’ He concluded that the value of the U.S. role in Asia has ‘diminished.’ That is a serious charge from a longstanding proponent of our partnership and the head of India’s National Security Council Advisory Board.”

He further added what the skeptics would say – “There will be Americans who tell their President that this whole strategic partnership is overhyped, that India will never really get its act together, and that it cannot be trusted to cooperate with us in a meaningful way. I’m sure there will also be Indians who tell their Prime Minister that drawing closer to the United States is a net liability, that America is in decline, and that it is increasingly unable and unwilling to exert resolute global leadership”

McCain, however, warned –

“We need to refute these skeptics, because it would be disastrous for both countries if we fail to reach our full potential as strategic partners. For India, it would mean squandering perhaps the greatest external factor that can facilitate and accelerate its comprehensive rise to power. And for the United States, it would mean missing an irreplaceable opportunity to shape the emergence of a global power that could lead the liberal international order together with us long into the 21st century. In other words, the stakes are high, and each country has to do its part if we are to succeed.”

In light of this, what lies ahead is –

“First, India and US need to think more ambitiously about how we can invest in each other and improve our capacity to work together. The US should be India’s preferred partner on energy. America is now unlocking transformational new supplies of oil and natural gas, and India’s demand for both is rising. It is in the US interest for democratic partners like India to gain greater access to our energy, which can help them reduce their dependence on unstable or problematic energy suppliers. This will be difficult, and may require legislative changes, but the economic and strategic benefits would be immense.

We should also be India’s preferred partner for economic growth – spanning education, human capital and infrastructure development, and especially trade and investment.”

Ironically, he said while both nations are striving hard to have Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with various with every major global partner, “so we are on course to discriminate only against one another. How does that make sense? We could then work toward India’s integration into the Trans-Pacific Partnership, once it is finalized.”

He also emphasised on defence technology transfers and production and joint military exercises. But what was important was his pointers on Asia and why US needs India to emerge stronger there.

“First, South Asia, which Prime Minister Modi has clearly made a top priority. He seems to recognize, correctly, that India’s global ambitions can be hindered if fires keep breaking out close to home. This is another reason why a secure South Asia is in our interest, and why India and the United States must work together to achieve it. Most immediately, we should increase our counterterrorism cooperation and intelligence sharing. Strengthening the supporters of a rules-based international order is the best way to weaken our opponents, especially violent extremists and their persistent sponsors in Pakistan.

Another strategic priority should be the Middle East, where threats to our security, our interests, and our values have never been greater… Al-Qaeda’s recent establishment of an affiliate in India is perhaps the clearest reminder of the vital stake that our nations have in a stable Middle East. Imagine the signal India would send if it joined the emerging international coalition to confront ISIS.

Beyond material things, India has something even more unique and valuable to offer the Middle East. The region has rarely been more divided and polarized, with people told they must choose anarchy or tyranny, murderous fanatics or secular strongmen, ethnic and sectarian chauvinists or death at their hands. These are false choices that will only lead the Middle East deeper into ruin, and the living embodiment that there is a better way – a democratic, pluralistic, moderate way – is India.

“(Second) – strategic priority is East Asia and the Pacific, where the key challenge to a liberal, rules-based international order comes more from strong states and growing geopolitical rivalries. The idea that Asia’s future will be determined by the rise of any one country is wrong. We see increasing strategic cooperation of every kind in the Asia-Pacific region between the United States and its treaty allies, especially Japan and Australia, but also between these countries and emerging powers such as Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, and of course, India. Indeed, the growing partnership between India and Japan is perhaps most encouraging.

India and US must play a leading role, both together and with other like-minded states, to strengthen a rules-based international order and a favorable balance of power in Asia. None of this means that India or the US seeks to antagonize or exclude China. In fact, the India-U.S. strategic partnership, in all its forms – diplomatic, economic, military, and on behalf of our values – is critical to encouraging China to rise peacefully rather than trying to change the status quo unilaterally and coercively. More provocative to China than any of this is the perception that India and America are weak and divided.

This is also a clear indication that the US-India relations at the present juncture cannot under any situation trigger a hostility with China. However, given the East Asia conditions, if certain degree of flexing of muscles is required – the US may just be happy with Japan, India and Australia playing the role. However, the US also knows that it will lose out if it doesn’t play a pro-active role in balancing of powers in East Asia.

That is why McCain insists –

“Whether it is steps our countries can take to enhance our influence, or to project our influence together, the meeting this month between Prime Minister Modi and President Obama is, and must be, an opportunity for true strategic dialogue – not a scripted exchange of talking points, but an open discussion of the big questions.

His parting message was loud an bold –

“Ultimately, India and the United States should have confidence in one another, and in the promise of their strategic partnership, because of our common capacity for renewal, which derives from our shared democratic values. As long as our nations stay true to these values, there is no dispute we cannot resolve, no challenge we cannot overcome, and nothing we cannot accomplish together.”
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