Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra Speaks on “Re-Ordering of Indo-US Relations”

Department of Political Science, organized a lecture by Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra, Chairman, American Studies, SIS, JNU, on the topic “Re-ordering of Indo-US Relations: A Possible Road Map for the Modi-Obama Administration,” at the Department of Political Science, JMI on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014.

Prof. Mahapatra started off by saying that in international relations there is “continuity and change.” And to know what has changed in the relationship, we first have to know what was there before. Therefore, to talk of the present Indo-US relations we first have to go over the past.

At the time of Indian independence, Prof. Mahapatra said, the United States was the richest country in the world, and still is. While India was among the poorest countries in the world. The US foreign policy at the time was governed by alliance politics in opposition to the USSR during the cold war. While India’s foreign policy was governed by non-alliance politics. Officially, India was neither with the US nor with the USSR.

Three core areas of India’s interests affected India’s relations with the US, which are, he said:
i.) The Kashmir issue
ii.) Indo-Pakistan relations,
iii.) The China factor.

However, for the US it was the containment of communism. All of US foreign policy was seen through the lens of containing the spread of communism.

And at the time, Prof. Mahapatra said, Pakistan tried its best to stop the US from having good relations with India. It made India look more aligned with the USSR thus driving the US away from building relations with the US. In addition, India had a socialist economy with a closed market in opposition to the wishes of the US for a more open Indian market.

But when the Cold War was over, there was a paradigm shift in Indo-US relations. The two important factors which stood in the way as a roadblock between Indo-US relations, namely Pakistan and China, were not there anymore. Then another factor which led to a change in relations was India’s economic reforms. India adopted a more liberalized economic system after the Cold War. These three factors made it possible for India and the US to come closer and have better bilateral relations.

After the 9/11 attacks, during the Bush administration, India-US relations got even better as India partnered and helped the US in their war on terrorism. And when Obama came to office, relations got even better.

But when Modi got elected as prime minister, Prof. Mahapatra said, people thought there might be a degradation in the Indo-US relations because the US had denied Modi a visa for so many years before he become the prime minister. It was sure to cause a damper in the relations. However, Modi and Obama turned out to be very pragmatic people, prof. Mahapatra said. Just after Modi’s swearing in, Obama invited Modi to the US for a state visit, which Modi has accepted as he is scheduled to go to Washington D.C. in September.

And in conclusion, Prof. Mahapatra predicted, there will be a continuation in Indo-US relations. Relations will only get stronger in the economic area and diplomatic area. Though there will still be divergences on some issues, there will be more convergence on a lot of other issue. Thus differences will not affect the strengthening and further building of Indo-US relations.

Listen to the complete lecture here:

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