India-US 2+2 Talks

This is a heated discussion that took place today in the ‘India Eye’ program hosted by Bharat Bhushan on Blueticknews on the net. It pitted two establishment types against me. Whose position is more protective of the national interest is for the viewers to judge, of course. But it is remarkable how the Establishment reps (including Yashwant Sinha — watch the video of the book launch panel discussion posted earlier) and Bhaskar, in particular, here who seem a little too overwhelmed by India’s limitations than are convinced by its inherent strengths. Strengths: Like, its unmatchable location and resources in the expanse of the Indo-Pacific region and, in the event, its indispensability to the US, and access to the world’s 2nd largest market. It is therefore, the sort of hard leverage that should have been wielded by Delhi to demand, at a minimum, of the US that India be given absolute waiver on CAATSA sanctions for anything India will do in the external realm as the basic condition for signing the COMCASA and partnering to the extent GOI deems, at any moment in time, to be beneficial to the countryh’s national interest. (This is one of the many themes developed, incidentally, in my book.) It is such thinking that’s being contested by Bhaskar and his ilk.

These types instill fear in the Indian population about the horrible things that would befall India if it doesn’t toe the American line, or fall in line with Washington. Anything more defeatist is hard to imagine. They end up doing most of the hard work work for the US of pulling India — the government and the people — into the US orbit. God save India from the Indian policy establishment (compromised by the US — which subject is tackled in a section of my new book ‘Staggering Forward’).

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.
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25 Responses to India-US 2+2 Talks

  1. Commodore Bhaskar indeed made a defeatist argument. “We don’t make a rifle”. We make spacecraft and nuclear weapons and much more but here it seems that fear of China has muddled our thinking. Should we openly start acknowledging that India is now a client state of USA?

  2. confusedindian says:

    I am utterly confused by India’s conduct. If you have read the “Art of the Deal” by Trump. Making deals is what he does for a living. This is one of the weakest deals made by India. Trump must be like really, they agreed to this? All they had to do was wait and procure the S-400, not back down on importing Iran oil as Brahma Chellaney suggested. Just to test their intent. Its like sheep trusting a wolf. I am hoping against hope that PMO and Modi know what they are doing. My prediction is Russians won’t give us the S-400 and recall the Akula. We are truly on our own. Comm. Bhaskar made weak arguments. We had a weak negotiating team and we lost big. The worst thing is either they don’t realize it or they know it way too well.

    • Sandeep says:

      I don’t think that the Russians would back out on S-400 given that Putin and Modi had unstructured talks and this must’ve been discussed. My logic is that the S-400 is Russian “bread and butter” and the Akula’s are their “lifelines”. India buying S-400 potentially opens the door to lucrative deals with others who look to India to do the due diligence and then just buy what India is buying. They would certainly recall the Akula or not if 24×7 russian presence is kept on the sub which India won’t agree to.

  3. Omankar says:

    Your logic and arguments are mainly correct.
    You have been warning India of what not to do. It will be good if you start asking questions of the USA and China and what India’s expectation from them are.
    e.g. why
    USA continues to trade and does not impose sanctions on China
    USA decides to act without consulting India and hurts its interests
    USA refuses to sell oil at price to compete with Iran
    China does not allow entry of India products…
    China needs other nations
    China creates ‘China Towns’ loyal to china and not mix/interact with the host people
    Chinese claim everything is Chinese and has Chinese ancestry
    China is aethiest and wants to decide the future of Buddhists and Muslims in that country

  4. Shankara says:

    Only p8-i India gained is regarded as huge achievement. Really??
    As Bharat said
    Russians were ready to give us submarines, latest top notch 5th gen fighters.
    Now we cannot make our own equipment. And we we are going to loose our freedom.
    Russia will not ever care about giving any thing to India….

    Bureaucrats with self-interest have buried India’s strategic autonomy alive. The naval commodore couldn’t even properly respond the issues raised by Karnad. Unfortunately this country lacks expert Patriots with brains like Karnad in top fields.

  5. Sandeep says:

    I’ve to put my biases upfront:
    a) I don’t always agree with Bharat Karnad’s view on strategic matters and do believe his views to be overtly nationalistic.
    b) I’m in agreement with Modi government’s action on most things related to defence on a faith based principle.

    Having put forth my biases above I’m very much dismayed and angered by the lack of spine and forethought shown by the Indian government in acquiescing to US demands. It’s equally disheartening to see two of our foremost (yesteryear) minds which would’ve been involved in minor ways in steering India’s grand strategy in their haydays flanking Bharat and unable to come up with solid fact based rebuttals to Bharat’s accurate and plausible (god forbid) observations.

    To Ambassdor Sibal’s points:
    1) “One shouldn’t think of the worst case scenario” is the worst statement anyone involved in any capacity in matters pertaining to a nation’s strategic autonomy should ever utter. In fact, if you’re not thinking of the worst case scenarios, you’re not doing your job in all earnest.
    2) If the Americans refuse to share information, it’ll be a huge handicap for whom? them or us? What COMCASA basically does is allow us to purchase America’s communication equipment (for top dollars) and allied services (possibly on per instance basis) in lieu of compromising our own communication networks.
    3) How does expensive defence procurement work? and how does instantiation of these platforms capabilities happen? Is Mr Sibal aware of it? Based on COMCASA, a promise of capabilities which would be made available to us in the future and which would continue to be made available in the future, we purchase the US 80’s dated defence equipment at exorbitant cost and then when in that distant plausible future where India is at war with Pakistan and the US deems it to be not in it’s best interest and switches off the availability of real-time communication (as it happened during Kargil with GPS) then who’s left holding the bill of those expensive defence procurement’s – them or us? If you can’t answer the questions, please ask Pakistan which has fallen out of favour with US and is left holding a contingent of several US made F-16’s gathering dust in it’s hangars.

    To Commodore Bhaskar’s points, I think we should believe him because:
    1) There has never been infiltration of secure networks by Trojan equipment introduced to networks anywhere in this world, ever before.
    2) Having separations of networks and establishing firewalls within our indigenous communications networks is exactly the kind of challenge that we should be looking forward to when we’re looking to fight a war on dimes.
    3) The Americans would never be able to gain intelligence on our US procured equipment’s, the payloads therein, the deployments and the patters therein once they’ve been inspected at those secure locations.

    Congratulations Mr Bhaskar and Mr Sibal, your ilk have won the day and we’ll end up losing our trusted long-term ally, our money, strategic autonomy and our ability to win wars on our own terms in the days to come and not necessarily in that order.

  6. AD says:


    How can the foreign policy establishment in India keep on parroting such hilarious BS? Do they really think that China gives a rat’s behind about India signing an agreement which all but confirms that it is a vassal of USA? The present Indian establishment is so impotent that they lack the ability to talk tough with a country as small as Maldives- a country with a population of less than half a million (5 lakh) ! Forget Pakistan, even a country as small and pathetic as Maldives is openly telling the present Indian government to stick it where the sun does not shine.

    Also, why do so many Indian “experts” think that China wants to invade mainland India? I mean.. other than some territory grab in border regions, they know that invading a country of over a billion people which is poorer than them is a huge waste of money and lives- not to mention the nukes on both sides. Their policy has always been, and will be, to contain India by forging economic and military alliances with its neighbors. Haven’t these “experts” noticed that China has been doing that very successfully and unopposed since 1964-65?

    How can people like these, say with a straight face, that signing such agreements will somehow negatively affect USA-Pakistan relationship? USA did not care when Pakistan developed nuclear weapons and missiles. It does not care that Pakistan is building multiple reactors for producing Plutonium. It does not care that Pakistan is probably the second most prominent supporters of Islamic fundamentalism after the Saudis. If doing all of this has not stopped the US-Pak relationship, why do they think that becoming an american vassal would change it?

    • Shankara says:

      Chinese threat is there but it doesn’t mean aligning with USA will make India better off..

      China holds 1.3 trillion dollars in US Treasury Bonds. Chinese keep recirculating it so that US and Chinese economies keep working properly and yuan value rises.

      Chinese and USA business interests are more entangled than Indian and US interests, so US will not risk her position for India .

      We have finally surrendered to USA all our interests

      Thrown Nehru’s beautiful non alignment policy that allowed us to stay independent into the garbage bin

  7. vivek says:

    i could’t believe that person like Uday Bhaskar speaking non-sense. What kind of person underestimates his own country’s capabilities.

  8. Aban says:

    Well entire India’s establishment – its Political parties (Cong , bjp doesnt matter) , Babudom , Diplomats & ofcourse parasitic billionaire oligarchs — have been coopted by the Americans & the Chinese. They are on their way to turn India into an American Client state & at the same time subservient to China . The level of American influence/intervention in India’s internal affairs /policy making thanks to FCRA NGOs & Think tanks /American corporations is scary.

    High time India needs Defence /Economic/Industrial policy to suit India’s interests rather than the interests of US/EU or some other lobbies !

  9. There is lot more to what meets the eye here and I would trust my government’s decision who are in the know of what is below the surface.

    The US is technologically far more advanced then it ever would admit. The Russians and the Chinese and the rest of the world merely try to catch up with what the US admits it has in its tech inventory.

    The other thing is who are the good guys and the bad guys. Population and tradition wise western society of which the US is part of are better then the Russians or the Chinese.

    So it is the time to make our choices here. To be with the good guys or the rotten eggs.

    And I am glad our government made the right choice.

    As far as secrets are concerned that Chinese and Russians do not need agreements. They simply hack and steal without admiting it either directly or through proxies.

    So time to build our fences properly in the 21st century rather than depend on others to come to our help.

    • Just as often there’s less below than that available on the surface.

      • Yeah. But what that little being offered may be more than what others have on the table. The Russians have lost the tech race and are now focusing on cyber tech. Most of the Chinese stuff is hot air. Take the classic example of stealth aircraft tech. Also offering all doesn’t mean we can absorb it all.

      • A good example would be space technology. Though the Russians have some good old workhorse engines to power big rockets, they have nothing to show as far as space exploration is concerned. The US is far ahead of everyone else on what we see and hear on the surface and ages ahead on what is classified technology. We are still struggling to perfect 1950s (US) technology with the Chinese a notch higher than us. While we Tom Tom our Mars project most of us do not know that since we camped on the western side we have been able to access test centres for our rockets and missiles be it the US, French or Israel considering the Russians have not succeeded in any of their recent Mars or any similar long distance space missions. Look at the European powers. Except for the French I doubt any other country can match up to the US in space and weapons technology on their own. Even the French are struggling with stealth technology. The reason for this is the US has always has been spending a lot on R&D for decades and have a bag full of goodies to come out with when someone comes close to match them. India has good intelligence in its genes but Not the environment to support innovation or R&D. Forget about absorbing something thrown at us. We are probably unable to even copy like the Chinese. We tend to hire people from outside as consultants for any major project and then have our people maintain it. So does not matter which government is in power as long as cultural mindset does not change I do not see much action in our lifetime.

    • gerald says:

      The US is technologically far more advanced then it ever would admit. The Russians and the Chinese and the rest of the world merely try to catch up with what the US admits it has in its tech inventory.

      with all respect,I would like to have some data to back up that claim.Indeed, Russia seems to be technologically more advanced in certain areas(tanks, indirect artillery systems, anti-aircraft systems).
      The other thing is who are the good guys and the bad guys. Population and tradition wise western society of which the US is part of are better then the Russians or the Chinese.
      So it is the time to make our choices here. To be with the good guys or the rotten eggs.

      Irrelevant in geopolitics, what matters is the advancement of the nations interest not playing good guy versus bad guy, and even then who choses who’s good or bad anyway?)

      • Yes you are right there are no good guys or bad guys in realpolitik but the US and Europe generally follow the rule of law unlike Russians under Putin and the Chinese who have forsaken liberty and freedom for economics.

        India on the other hand is more like American society a pluralist society which is held together due to tolerance of religious and regional aspirations.

        So it would suit India better to look up to the US as the good guys.

        Regarding US tech superiority you just need to dig a little deeper into their tech history and it is quite apparent about their tech. Russia converts a ballistic missile to be launched from a fighter and calls it hypersonic missile while the US had thus tech long back in the 1960s. I cannot share links here so just Google and you will get it.

      • Aban says:

        Yes India should look up to the US ! And be its client state or Chamcha whatever u prefer. I guess u r one of those wannabe NRIs lining up for an American Visa !

      • @Aban, Your sarcastic answer means you are going by emotions rather than logic.

        I have been to the US multiple times but a US visa would be the last one on my mind as the atmosphere or environment in the US has changed 360 degrees since 911 for everyone who opposes or speaks out against the government there.

        People have been digitally deleted, their academic record expunged, bank accounts vaporized for revealing the truth.

        What we see in Hollywood movies of editorials of the New York times are mostly fiction account of America greatness.

        Yet the people there dare to speak out as they are protected by law and their constitution but the Chinese and the Russians do not have a fair deal from the law itself.

        Look what’s happening to Trump. Can you imagine such a blasting happening against Putin or any other leader.

        So the truth can still be revealed if the law is good by they good guys in a society.

        Here in India any critique of the government can bracket the person as an Urban Maoist with a suppliant law and law enforcement at the mercy of their masters.

        Now do we want to go down the path of Russia and China or the US is a decision that will change our history.

        Under the hood we have become chamchas long back be it the Soviet Union earlier and the US more recently.

        And this started when we ignored what the US did to Iraq after 911 and in Yugoslavia and Libya. And our Prime Minister shook hands with Mr. Bush saying India loves him. And signed the nuclear agreement.

  10. Sir, why don’t you write for newspapers?

  11. A says:

    Since atal bihari and nardingw ram / mm singh the Indian PM have reduced themselves yo be no more than a viceroy of India taking order from their british and american masters.

  12. A says:

    Since atal bihari and narsingh rawo / mm singh the Indian PM have reduced themselves yo be no more than a viceroy of India taking order from their british and american masters.

  13. A says:

    couple of Reminders of western assertions:

    The US has half the world’s wealth with only 6% of the world’s population and the primary goal of US foreign policy should be to maintain this disparity and to do so we must put aside all vague and idealistic slogans about democracy and human rights, which are for colleges and public propaganda and keep to pure power concepts. (George Tenant, state dept. 1948 PPS 23)

    Since trade ignores natural boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as it’s market, the flag of his nation must follow him and doors of the nations that are closed to him must be battered down, even if the sovereignty of the unwilling nations be outraged in the process. No useful corner of the world may be over looked or left unused. (Woodrow Wilson 1907)

    • Shankara says:

      You should write a blog and share the links with proofs here that we all can go through it and supply it to other of its legitimate

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