May 27, 2014
Manning: Can Modi Boost Complex India-US Ties?
Narendra Modi's historic, landslide victory has raised hopes that the man himself and his BJP can, in power, revive India's sputtering economy and rejuvenate a disillusioned and rudderless US-India relationship.
It seems ages ago now, but only a few years ago India and China were spoken of in the same breath as the dynamic, rising BRIC powers reshaping the world. No more. India now appears anemic, left in the dust by a China with a GDP and military budget four times larger, and, most telling of all, by Beijing's strategic focus and assertiveness.
After the Cold War, a belief that the US and India were natural partners became fashionable in Washington. Since then the formal bilateral relationship has gone through many ups and downs. Rhetoric from successive US administrations cast India as big emerging market, as strategic partner, as essential Asian balancer (of China) and, the world's biggest democracy.
The US has held an unrealistic assumption of overlapping interests, though little of the sort has emerged. India has always been a prickly, strategically autonomous actor. Even when common purpose seemed within reach, India's elite bureaucracy, still with the mindset of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), often obstructed potentially convergent policies.
With Modi in place, the BJP-dominated central government, now led by a proven Thatcher-like and market-oriented Hindu conservative, will prompt another cycle of hype.