Kerry’s stilted agenda

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit for a strategic dialogue with his counterpart Salman Khurshid is unlikely to fetch much by way of results in the most part because, with general elections looming, almost any issue with an American stamp has the potential for blowing up as another in a series of Manmohan govt’s capitulations.

News reports talk of US manufacturers being exercised about the revamped Indian rules and regulations encouraging local content and, therefore, local manufacture and industry at the expense of imports. Washington getting huffy about this is ironic considering the Obama Administration has done everything within its power to realize precisely this as a way to spur the manufacturing sector in the US and generate employment — the very reasons for New Delhi subscribing to it as well.

Pharmaceutical exports to India is the other American peeve. With Indian Courts ruling that life-saving drugs can be more cheaply and plentifully produced here, whatever the transgressions of US patent laws and intellectual property rights is a more problematic issue. But if the US
pharma Cos. are mainly interested in profit — not production in bulk at an affordable unit price then isn’t the humane premise of medicine and affordable medical treatment undercut?

Re: foreign policy issues — Af-Pak, curiously, is where there seems to be a convergence of policies. New Delhi, in fact, risked Kabul’s alienation by rejecting President Hamid Karzai’s request for military support in terms of exports of artillery and Mi-17 helicopter spares and servicing support guns in order not to derail the rapprochement the new Nawaz Sharif govt in Pakistan has promised at the very outset. India, moreover, has been proactive in sending an Indian team to negotiate not just export of LNG but also some 500 MW of electricity for which purpose Islamabad appears ready to erect the wherewithal for coupling the grids. But India will also agree to increase its development aid to Afghanistan to ensure the Karzai regime is not completely bereft of assistance and support once the US/NATO forces begin leaving in 2014. The problem is India cannot afford to lose goodwill in Afghanistan, which’s central both from the natural resources point of view and from the perspective of sustaining an active Central Asia policy.

The more strategic aspects of the agenda are elsewhere, however. One is the 2010 Indian civilian nuclear liability Act passed by Parliament exposing the reactor and associated technologies supplier(s) to unlimited liability. It has pretty much shuttered the US from the high-value reactor sales to India, which was the basic motivation for the George W Bush Administration to make the almighty push to realize the India-US nuclear deal that was heatedly opposed by a few of us here for gutting especially the weapons-related aspects of this country’s nuclear energy programme. Not sure what the Manmohan Singh regime that nearly fell in the no confidence vote in July 2008 can do about the N-liability law on the books other than ignore it with an executive order but do so at its own electoral peril. This won’t happen.

The other matter is increasing defence sales. The trouble is Washington will not be happy and satisfied unless India meets 100% of its military needs from American sources. And this when lack of trust remains an issue. And every major piece of military hardware imported from any country puts off the aim of self-reliance by years. And when there’s no US give whatsoever in terms of transfer of technology. And India is inexorably turned into a client state.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Asian geopolitics, Central Asia, Defence Industry, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Politics, Military Acquisitions, South Asia, Technology transfer, United States, US., Western militaries. Bookmark the permalink.

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