Then we look at global issues where the US and India, particularly in four areas can work together and they are the
cyber domain, public health, climate and clean energy and
The US-India defense relationship is now being looked at as
the crown jewel of the strategic relationship. Especially now
that you have someone like Ash Carter, who was the author of
the DTTI, as Defense Secretary. How bullish was the task
force with regard to this facet as being a catalytic driver?
There was consensus on this as a major development and
how well it was been going. This should not only continue to
make progress in terms of defense trade and co-pro-duction, but be rapidly expanded exponentially in the
We also noted that nonproliferation cooperation
with India has also been going very well and should
certainly continue, and that now we got a strategic
convergence between New Delhi and Washington
that is bringing about greater scope for cooperation.
Also, India shares Washington’s concerns about the
challenges of Islamic extremism and that cooperation
in this area also calls for greater strategic convergence.
What did the task force see as imperative vis-à-vis
India’s global outreach? Hasn’t this got to manifest
itself in the neighborhood and remove the impediments that may inhibit this outreach because of the
continuing tension with Pakistan?
Was there a call for resurrecting its talks with
Pakistan and reaching some sort of rapprochement?
We note in the report that it’s important for India to
not to be dragged down by its conflict with Pakistan.
In fact, the words we use are that India is poised for
power and prosperity if it remains focused on its
domestic transformation and it should not have to in
the decades ahead have its options limited by
So, one of the recommendations is that the US should
encourage India to improve its relations with Pakistan as an
investment in its own rise.
At the same time, it is important that the US should ensure
that Pakistan meet its obligations as a State to tackle terrorism from its territory and that the US should be prepared to
take some very specific steps if Pakistan is not willing to rein
So we say Washington should be prepared to end US taxpayer funding for defense equipment sales and Coalition
Support Funds reimbursement at a minimum. We take a
pretty firm stance on that.
Obviously, the task force met and the report was completed
before the Bihar election where the Modi juggernaut was
stopped in its tracks. What does this defeat of the BJP do to
the task force’s prognosis — both in terms of predictions and
expectations? Has it got to be reviewed in the short-term?
I don’t believe necessarily. You saw the way the Modi government decided to introduce 15 new economic reforms. So,
they obviously, have looked internally and said, we’ve been
defeated in Bihar, but we’ve got to move forward in our economic plan — that that is what is important for the nation.
That is central to India’s growth and rise to power.
The lesson of Bihar is a lesson of what will happen domestically and internally with India and what happens with
India’s relations internationally will not have an immediate
result from that.
But, we’ll have to see what unfolds. Though I thought it
was interesting that the first kind of set of actions that the
government took at the center were reforms.
With your years of being a South Asia policy wonk, an
India-watcher, and your stint as a diplomat, what’s your take
at a broader level of the BJP’s debacle in Bihar?
India is a huge democracy. There are elections taking place
every few months, it seems like, in India. So, there’s always
going to be a kind of pendulum swinging in big democracies,
particularly federal democracies.
But I agree there are obviously immediate implications and
this is a setback in terms of the Modi government’s efforts to
try to gain more seats in the Upper House.
It places brakes on its ability to look toward faster legislation. But they are already looking internally toward what lessons should come out of this.
They’ve got their own domestic issues within the party that
they’ve got to be working out in the same way that you’ve got
internal party disputes in any kind of major democracy. We’ll
see how it comes out.
I personally would be surprised if they didn’t walk away
from this with the lesson that they had a lot of support for the
platform of economic growth reform and building India to a
power on the world stage and that’s something that they
should stick with.
Let’s talk about all the post-mortems that are taking place
that the BJP and Modi are being held hostage by Hindutva
forces, which is why they argue Modi has been silent in the
wake of all the awful things that have been going on from the
lynching of a Muslim for allegedly storing beef to the killing of
Dalits and the apparent raging intolerance toward minori-
ties. Then you contrast it with the passionate appeal by Indian
President Pranab Mukherjee and his commitment to India’s
secularism, pluralism and protection of minorities. How do
you read all of this?
That reflection is already going on, isn’t it? The letter that
was sent (by the BJP elders) hints at some of that. But the
thing about India is that everything is so transparent. There’s
this really engaged media, and a very active public debate.
You see everything happening very much out in the open.
People really yelling at each other and saying, is
this the future of our country and other people saying what is your definition of secularism is all part
of an engaged democracy.
These are all choices that the Indian parties and
Indian citizens are really going to work out. To me,
it looks like this huge debate already is well under
One of the things that Americans admire so
much about India is this great tradition of being a
really diverse and inclusive place. So, you see some
concern about that being expressed when you see
things like the recent New York Times editorial or
when you saw the President’s comments at Siri
I don’t believe people have forgotten, but that’s
also contextualized in the sense that India is a
huge, huge, country and it has a lot of challenges.
It has also done a lot of other things that have been
quite positive. Everything’s taken in the broader
How relevant and significant is Modi’s outreach
to the Diaspora with regard to the task force’s recommendations in so far as their role in the US-India partnership and in this envisaged joint venture?
We don’t have a particular Diaspora recommendation, but
we talk about the Diaspora and its important role as a bridge
between India and the US.
The last section of our task force focuses on global issues
where India and the US together could make a unique contribution. Two of the areas that I mentioned earlier that we
highlighted are cyber domain and public health.
Part of our rationale there was that the private sector
already has so much cooperation between the Indian scientific talent pool and the technological talent pool in the US…
and there’s a way to harness that private sector energy further and take it to the next level. It could be truly transformational.
We talk about it in the context of cyber IT and cyber security as well as in public health. Biotech in both countries has
a huge talent pool doing a lot together in terms of research
and innovation, clinical trials, vaccine research and this sort
of thing can make a big difference.
So, we don’t talk about this as a uniquely Diaspora contribution, but in these two areas you find them so closely knit
together in the private sphere and they could be coming
together even more with a private-public approach.
The big shift 3Page A4
practice of diplomacy and international
relations at the Kennedy School at Harvard
and also a member of Secretary of State
John Kerry’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board
— threw his weight behind the idea of a
‘The Asia-Pacific is going to be the most
critical region of the world for the US in the
next 50 years, for obvious reasons given the
economic weight of that region, given the
fact that the most powerful militaries will
all be in the Indo-Pacific,’ he said in his
‘We’re going to have to deal with China
and that’s going to be a very difficult, com-
plex undertaking of being partnered with
China and also being competitor with
The relationship with India, he said, was
going to be strategically important in all of
this: ‘To have a market economy democracy
rise into global power in the Indo-Pacific is
in the national interests of the United
States. That’s what Bill Clinton believed,
that’s what George W Bush believed, that’s
what Barack Obama believes.’
He pointed to the importance of having
both Republicans and Democrats ‘in our
highly dysfunctional capital’ agreeing that
India’s rise was strategically important.
That’s why, he said, ‘India has become one
of our most important military partners.’
Acknowledging the highlight in the
report about India conducting more mili-
tary exercises with the US than any other
country, he added, ‘That’s an extraordinary
fact… the US has become, and is now begi-
nning to displace Russia, as the largest sup-
plier of advanced military technology to
‘This is very important — the strategic
basis for the US. President Clinton opened
the door to the relationship, President
George W Bush made it a centerpiece of the
relationship, and President Obama has
Alyssa Ayres, left, with Charles ‘Chip’ Kaye, co-chair of the CFR task force in New York. DON POLLARD
Lessons from the disappointment over US-India nuclear deal