All posts by Aanand Kharde

Lights, Camera, Action

Bollywood & Hollywood
Among the latest tranche of WikiLeaks cables released by The Hindunewspaper is one that throws light on an under-noticed dimension of U.S.-India relations: Their compatible strengths and convergent interests in the area of global entertainment and media. For all the glamour attached to Hollywood and Bollywood* in their home countries, their potential in fostering bilateral ties has been scarcely appreciated.With the United States and India possessing the world’s largest entertainment and media sectors, both in terms of sheer output and global popularity, the opportunities for collaboration are large for jointly producing new content, forging new creative collaborations and accessing new markets. With a growing middle class, a large English-speaking populace, a booming number of multiplexes and television channels, and a cinema-obsessed popular culture, India is a natural destination and partner for Hollywood studios.

Besides a burgeoning market, India possesses another alluring if sometimes overlooked quality: It is Asia’s most liberal market for foreign media companies, both in terms of investment regime and political climate. On both counts, Star Network relocated its Asia hub from Hong Kong to Mumbai last year (see here and here ), and India has become the most important country for News Corporation’s Asian regional business. As a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report suggests, India – not China – is emerging as Asia’s media hub.Bollywood firms are similarly expanding their global reach, including in the United States. Reliance ADA Group, one of India’s headline industrial houses, is aiming to create a world-wide entertainment conglomerate. It has entered into a high-profile joint venture with Steven Spielberg to form a new movie studio and has cut deals with a number of Hollywood heavyweights to fund the development of scripts and jointly present proposals to studios. Last year, the company also entered into talks with Universal Studios about creating India’s first film-themed amusement park, as well as purchased a majority stake in IM Global, a Los Angeles-based company specializing in foreign-rights sales.Yet, as a February 2010 dispatch from the U.S. consulate in Mumbai makes clear, greater effort is required in order to exploit synergistic possibilities. Despite Hollywood’s growing interest in the Indian market as a way of offsetting its own sluggish box office sales, the cable notes that the U.S. movie industry has still not found a good working model for partnering with Bollywood. Hollywood films face constrained revenue potential in India, due to much lower box office prices compared to the U.S. but also because cinema-goers prefer big-budget action movies over Hollywood’s other fare.

U.S. and Indian studios have entered into a number of high-profile co-production deals, though to date none of them have enjoyed much commercial success. Given its vital market, U.S. studios will continue searching for the right formula for success. But the cable casts doubt that co-productions will pay off anytime soon given that Bollywood fears opening the door too widely to Hollywood’s presence.

Still, the cable points to useful synergies in a number of behind-the-scenes areas. The Indian film industry, which has rarely enjoyed global success beyond diasporic communities , would profit from Hollywood’s expertise in international marketing and distribution, as well as from sourcing U.S. production and technical talent. In turn, Hollywood would benefit from shipping animation and post-production work to India, taking advantage of its modern facilities and affordable workforce. One might add that Indian studios, which are leaders in experimenting with innovative ways of film distribution, like the Internet and mobile applications, could also be a valuable source of new business models for their Hollywood partners.

Yet even if bi-national movie collaborations have yet to live up to expectations, other interactions in the entertainment and media space are bearing fruit. India is one of the world’s fastest growing entertainment and media markets; a new forecast by the KMPG consulting firm puts its size at $28 billion by 2015 . The number of television-viewing households has exploded in recent years. The country also has the second largest pay-television market after China, with an estimated 105 million Indian households currently subscribing to terrestrial analogue cable, satellite and digital networks.

These headline numbers explain why so many U.S. media companies, including Walt Disney, News Corporation, Time Warner and Viacom have joined up with Indian partners to launch channels over the past several years. Last August, CBS Corporation likewise jumped into the game, hooking up with Reliance ADA Group to launch several English-language channels.

Although many of these venues simply offer a platform for U.S.-made fare, jointly-produced content is also beginning to emerge. Indeed, TV productions that combine U.S. and Indian strengths present a large opportunity, both in India and far beyond. According to the consultancy Media Partners Asia, there is a huge, largely untapped global market with a cultural affinity to television content from India, including Mauritians who watch Hindi-language TV and people in Saudi Arabia, which does not have a local media industry.

All of these developments signal a new era in global entertainment. Although U.S. and Indian government officials would not naturally think of it, enhanced partnership in the entertainment and media sector has important policy implications. Since Hollywood and Bollywood are successful exporters of cultural content, the two countries have a major shared interest in keeping global markets open for their products. Washington and New Delhi should thus craft a common approach on cultural market access and use their combined weight to advance it in international trade negotiations. True, the two governments have been at loggerheads in the Doha Round of multilateral trade talks. But a joint proposal on cultural access would focus U.S. and Indian energies on discrete, easily-managed trade issues in which the mutuality of economic benefit is self evident. Beyond its commercial ramifications, the initiative would have political value, further solidifying the U.S.-India partnership and providing an important example of joint leadership in the global economy.

With broadband penetration continuing to accelerate worldwide, the private sectors and governments in both countries similarly have a common interest in advancing the digital transformation of the global media industry. Washington and New Delhi should thus convene a summit of all relevant parties in both countries to consider implementing this objective on a joint basis. Real-time creative and production partnerships could also be enhanced by the development of advanced fiber-optic networks capable of transmitting data at a rate of one gigabyte per second between the two countries. Efforts now underway by U.S. and Indian universities to create collaborative network tools need to be encouraged by adequate government funding on both sides. Such networks would not only spur interactions in the entertainment and media field but in other innovation economy sectors as well.

Policymakers gathered at next month’s U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi will no doubt concentrate on matters like defense cooperation, the endgame in Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s volatility. But a focus on things like global entertainment collaborations is also worth their while, given the importance of private-sector and societal linkages in helping bind the bilateral relationship together .

* With apologies to the vibrant local-language film industries in southern India, Bollywood is used here as a shorthand signifying the Indian entertainment sector writ large, though strictly speaking it refers only to the Hindi-language movie industry centered in Mumbai.

Winning the Future Together

The global ascendance of India as an economic power, technology hub and a source of professional talent will create major opportunities for Indian and multinational businesses alike. But this development has also injected a not-insignificant measure of zero-sum thinking into US-India economic affairs, especially in the area of human capital. These contradictory themes are a growing source of irritation, but if managed smartly could also be a good opportunity for advancing the bilateral relationship.

These contradictions have been in full view in recent months. Last year saw the rise of a populist anti-India backlash as Americans increasingly blamed the country for their economic hardships. Election campaigns trafficked in the outsourcing issue, Congress enacted heavy India-specific fee hikes on the H-1B temporary visa program for skilled foreign workers, and President Obama called for tightening tax penalties on corporate outsourcing in language that pitted U.S. prosperity against that of India’s.

Yet when Mr. Obama arrived in India for a state visit last November, his rhetoric markedly shifted. The country was now portrayed as an economic opportunity too golden to pass up; indeed, the main purpose of his visit seemed to be securing as many commercial deals for American companies as possible. In an address to Indian corporate leaders in Mumbai, he emphasized that “in our interconnected world, increased commerce between the United States and India can be and will be a win-win proposition for both nations. I realize that for some, this truth may not be readily apparent.” For good measure, he added that “there still exists a caricature of India as a land of call centers and back offices that cost American jobs. But these old stereotypes, these old concerns ignore today’s reality.”

The antinomies of the bilateral economic relationship similarly were on display in Obama’s State of the Union address in January. He cited the growth of science and technology capacity in China and India as a threat to America’s competitive edge, while also acknowledging that continued U.S. prosperity requires greater access to the human capital originating from both countries. The success of U.S. enterprises engaged in the advanced technology sectors Mr. Obama identified in his address as key to “winning the future” will increasingly depend on access to the global reservoir of skilled professionals, of which India is a major contributor. The president admitted as much when he criticized the self-defeating nature of U.S. immigration policy: “[Students] come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities.  But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us.  It makes no sense.”

The President has regularly sounded off on this latter theme, most recently in a series of events over the last month aimed at reviving the issue of immigration reform.  In a speech in El Paso earlier this month, for example, he noted that:

[W]e provide students from around the world with visas to get engineering and computer science degrees at our top universities. But our laws discourage them from using those skills to start a business or power a new industry right here in the United States. So instead of training entrepreneurs to create jobs in America, we train them to create jobs for our competition. That makes no sense. In a global marketplace, we need all the talent we can get – not just to benefit those individuals, but because their contributions will benefit all Americans.

The President added that “We don’t want the next Intel or Google to be created in China or India. We want those companies and jobs to take root in America.”*

Obama’s remarks picks up a proposal he made during the last presidential campaign to create a “fast track” mechanism allowing foreign students with advanced technical degrees from U.S. institutions to receive an employment-based visa. At present, 20,000 H-1B visas are reserved for such graduates – many of whom are Indian – though demand greatly eclipses this number.

Although immigration policy remains a hotly-contested issue, the adverse consequences of limiting U.S. access to foreign-born skilled labor are widely acknowledged. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, is at the head of a broad group of civic and business leaders calling for a job-creation strategy based on visa reform.

The United States has been able to maintain its global preeminence in no small part due to the influx of foreign science and engineering professionals and graduate students. Immigrants comprise nearly half of the science and engineering workforce holding PhD degrees. High-skilled immigrants are a significant driving force of American prosperity and innovation, most famously in building the information technology industry.  Research indicates, for instance, that Indian immigrant entrepreneurs play a leading role in founding some of the most dynamic high-tech companies. Studies also point to the valuable entrepreneurial streak immigrants possess: They are 30 percent more likely to form new businesses than native-born Americans, and foreign-born university graduates are some three-times more likely to file patent applications than US-born citizens.

Foreign-born scientific and engineering talent – particularly Indian – is an important pillar of the faculties in America’s top universities. And foreign students earn the majority of engineering doctoral degrees awarded by U.S. universities, and of this number a large percentage opt to remain in the country for some period of time. Their presence, along with other high-skilled immigrants, has helped the U.S. technology workforce expand at a faster rate than the United States is graduating native-born scientists and engineers.

America’s dependence on foreign-born technology professionals will shortly become all the greater. Since younger native-born workers tend to lack the skill levels of their baby boomer parents now nearing retirement age, the United States could face broad and substantial skill shortages in the coming decade. Thus, the United States should be promoting greater access to the global talent pool, and India is a good place to start.

With India a major source of high-skill professionals and the U.S. needing to draw on foreign talent to fortify its own science and engineering workforce, both countries have a keen mutual interest in cooperating in the area of human capital, the most critical resource in the dawning global innovation economy. To this end, Washington and New Delhi should conclude a bilateral agreement guaranteeing a set number of temporary work visas for high-skill Indian professionals. The United States has crafted bilateral agreements with a select number of other countries that could serve as a template, including the TN temporary visa program (created via the North American Free Trade Agreement) that exempts qualified Canadian and Mexican professionals from the annual quota on H-1B work permits.

Admittedly, important constituencies in both countries regard the global talent pool as a zero-sum equation.  In the United States, some argue that increased mobility of foreign high-skill workers will displace or depress wages of native professionals. The empirical evidence, however, suggests that greater numbers of talented immigrants actually supports job creation in the United States and that immigrant entrepreneurs complement rather than crowd out native-born counterparts.

India likewise would stand to benefit from the increased mobility of its technology professionals. Instead of causing “brain drain,” the global innovation economy is actually generating “brain circulation” or a “brain chain,” in which expatriate talent returns home with acquired capital, skills and knowledge, as well as personal links to transnational entrepreneurial and technological networks. Obviously, some of the high-skill Indians who benefit from the bilateral immigration accord will choose to remain permanently in the United States, though they would in time contribute a significant stream of remittance income and serve an important bridging function between Indian innovators and entrepreneurs and those in other countries.  But others, empowered by new ideas and experiences, will return in time and play a direct role in the nation’s development; indeed, this process is already underway (see here and here).

The United States and India are prime constituents in the brain circulation process. Far from seeing access to the global talent pool as a competitive proposition, the interdependency of their skills base requires them to act in a cooperative, synergistic way. Doing so not only makes sound economic sense for both countries, but would also strengthen the foundation of US-India relations.

* Ironically, as Mr. Obama was uttering these words, the Indian science minister was lamenting that the country’s lack of innovation infrastructure keeps India from producing companies like Google and Blackberry.

Could India Do An Abbottabad?

Just like the United States, India too has a host of enemies who have taken shelter or been given sanctuary deep inside Pakistan. So how likely is it that New Delhi could pull off a daring commando assault against them? A chorus of Indian voices (here and here) is asking precisely this question. The chief of the Indian air force, responds, somewhat cryptically, in the affirmative. One might note that the country recently took receipt of six C-130 HERCULES transport aircraft outfitted for special-forces operations, and that there is no doubt that the air force has the wherewithal to strike terrorist camps located in the Pakistani portion of Kashmir. India also maintains a well-regarded naval commando unit.

But does the Indian military possess the capacity for audacious direct raids on high-profile terrorist targets located further away from its home turf? The short answer is no.

A series of technical, operational and political constraints all but rule out such an operation. First, the Indian capacity for sophisticated, multi-dimensional (combining on-the-ground operatives, satellite reconnaissance and communications intercepts) tracking of terrorism suspects is virtually non-existent. As Stephen P. Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta note in their new book, India’s external intelligence service, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), possesses a good reputation for covert action but performs poorly with actual intelligence gathering and analysis. Former army chief General V.P. Malik also points to the pervasive lack of coordination among the various parts of India’s national security machinery as a major obstacle to launching cross-border commando raids.

The embarrassing inability to mount a speedy airlift of National Security Guard commandos the 850 miles from New Delhi to Mumbai during the November 2008 terrorist strike calls into severe question India’s operational capacity to launch complex, lightning-fast airborne assaults far inside hostile territory. And one important reason that U.S. helicopters flying out of Afghanistan were able to arrive at the Bin Laden compound undetected is that the bulk of Pakistani air defense systems are oriented toward India.

Even if Indian military forces did possess the means for rapier-like, long-distance assaults, they would have to be prepared to engage in a continuous fight on their way home once Pakistani authorities discovered the intrusion. Washington insists that Pakistani officials were not informed in advance of the operation and Pakistani aircraft were reportedly scrambled as U.S. helicopters made their way back to Afghanistan. Yet one of the most intriguing questions surrounding the episode is how American forces, for the 40 minutes they were on the ground, managed to avoid contact with either local police units or the large military presence resident in Abbottabad. Needless to say, an Indian assault team could not count on having such an operationally permissive environment.

Finally it is very difficult to believe that highly risk-averse political leaders in New Delhi would even countenance a raid that has the all but certain probability of sparking a large-scale clash with Pakistani forces, which in turn could escalate more broadly. Hawkish commentators have long condemned the political class for perpetuating India’s image as a “soft state” and for lacking the will for bold, decisive action to defend the country’s security interests. A former vice chief of army staff complains, for example, that “policymakers cannot take hard decisions, and are responsible for the perception that we are a soft state and so can succumb to pressure.” Brajesh Mishra, a former national security adviser to the prime minister, similarly laments that “India is now regarded as a soft state.”

Yet the sense of fundamental caution, most recently on display in New Delhi’s remarkable quiescence following the Mumbai terrorist attack, is deeply rooted among politicians.The argument is making the rounds these days that the Mumbai strike, often regarded as “India’s 9/11” was a game-changer – that India’s leaders have now reached the end of their patience with Pakistan and thus will respond forcefully to the next terrorist assault emanating from that country. Of course, the same thing was said following the brazen December 2001 attack upon the Indian Parliament.

My own guess is that novelist Aravind Adiga may have a more accurate prediction regarding New Delhi’s response to the next major terrorist strike: “The government will immediately threaten to attack Pakistan, then realize that it cannot do so without risking nuclear war, and finally beg the U.S. to do something. Once it is clear that the government has failed on every front – military, tactical and diplomatic – against the terrorists, senior ministers will appear on television and promise that, next time, they will be prepared.”

Such forbearance may very well be the better part of strategic virtue, given Pakistani frailties. But if this is how India’s leaders are likely react to an attack on their own soil, one should not expect heroic actions further afield.

(This post originally appeared in the FPA India blog.)

Fighter Shoot-Down

India’s elimination of Boeing’s and Lockheed Martin’s bids in its $11 billion fighter aircraft competition – one of the country’s largest-ever defense deals – is bound to have negative repercussions for the U.S.-India relationship. Analysts had expected at least one of these bids to advance to the final selection round; that neither did is being perceived as a deliberate snub of Washington. John Elliott, a long-time observer in New Delhi, interprets the move as an effort aimed at “keeping the U.S. firmly in its place.” Indian decision will add to Washington’s growing list of bilateral frustrations and is yet another sign that ties between the two nations continue to fall far short of the promise that glistened just three short years ago when the landmark nuclear cooperation accord was concluded.  That news of India’s action coincided with the (unrelated) announcement of Timothy J. Roemer’s resignation as U.S. ambassador in New Delhi only heightened the sense of disillusionment and fatigue.

The decision makes some sense on the basis of technical merits. The F-16 aircraft proffered by Lockheed Martin is a widely-used workhorse but also a 30 year-old platform; that Pakistan is one of the 26 air forces flying the plane also could not have endeared the Indian defense ministry. Boeing’s F/A-18 is a much newer system but it reportedly did not perform well in flight tests over the Himalayan ridges in Ladakh.  Eurofighter’s Typhoon aircraft – which New Delhi has shortlisted for possible selection – has much to recommend it technically. Additionally, the four-nation Eurofighter consortium (composed of British, German, Italian and Spanish defense companies) – along with France’s Dassault Aviation SA (whose Rafale fighter also was advanced to the final round) – also was more generous than the U.S. companies in terms of technology transfer.

American companies (including Boeing and Lockheed Martin) have snapped up a number of recent contracts from the Indian military, and one can expect New Delhi to award additional deals in the coming months as palliatives for U.S. disappointment at losing out of this highly lucrative transaction.

Some Indian commentators are of the view that, with bilateral ties now so multi-dimensional and mature, Washington’s sense of letdown will be fleeting. But this is likely to prove wishful thinking.  The Indian decision will certainly not derail bilateral affairs. But given the Obama administration’s aggressive lobbying on behalf of the American bids, it will only deepen the perception in Washington that New Delhi has not lived up to its side of the bargain by reciprocating the huge commitment the United States has made over the past decade to bolster India’s great power prospects.

As Siddharth Vadarajan, the strategic affairs editor of The Hindu, notes, Washington came at the fighter deal with “all guns blazing.” The U.S. campaign included President Obama, who made a personal intervention with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his state visit to India last November and then followed up in February with a letter underscoring “the strategic importance the United States attaches to the selection of a U.S. proposal in India’s Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft competition.”  Ambassador Roemer was tireless in pressing the same message.  And to sweeten the pot, the United States granted India the opportunity to participate in Lockheed Martin’s program to develop the advanced technology F-35 fighter aircraft – an offer that New Delhi effectively rebuffed last December when it opted for a joint arrangement with Russia to develop a separate fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

As an earlier post argued, Washington is becoming increasingly weary of New Delhi’s capacity for strategic engagement. The political soap opera accompanying the Indian parliament’s debate about the nuclear cooperation agreement in the summer of 2008 was disheartening from the U.S. perspective and could hardly inspire confidence that India was ready to move ahead with full-throttle cooperation. Adding to the list of sorrows is that the nuclear liability law adopted by India last year has the effect of all but blocking the involvement of U.S. companies in India’s nuclear energy sector – one of the things that the nuclear deal was supposed to bring about. (And following Japan’s nuclear disaster, U.S. hopes that New Delhi would revisit the law anytime soon are stillborn.) And despite numerous suggestions for bi-national endeavors at producing clean energy technology, Washington is miffed that Indian restrictions on imports of solar-power technology are thwarting the entry of U.S. firms into one of the world’s fastest-growing solar-energy markets.

Boeing's F/A-18 at the Aero India 2011 air showTroubling as well are reports that a major factor in India’s elimination of the Boeing and Lockheed Martin bids was the military’s continued wariness of the United States as a full-fledged strategic partner. In contrast to institutional memories of past U.S. technology embargoes that still linger throughout the security establishment, the military supply relationship New Delhi has forged with Paris – Dassault’s Mirage 2000 fighter has long been in service with the Indian air force – seemed to play an important role in the decision to shortlist the Rafale. The Obama administration had worked hard to ease these memories, including advancing the F-35 offer and the further easing of U.S. export controls on India that were announced in February.  Mr. Obama’s letter to Prime Minister Singh also made promises on this score.

While India’s decision will certainly not produce a bilateral rupture, its consequences may be more pronounced than the rosy scenario sketched by the optimists. At a moment when the Obama administration has begun to turn its attention back to New Delhi, it will reinforce nagging doubts in Washington about India’s willingness to make the big decisions necessary to dramatically advance the relationship.  Such doubts could even break into the open given the bilateral frictions likely to ensue as the United States approached the endgame in the Afghan conflict. There may be solid technical reasons behind the fighter decision. But the soundness of its strategic logic is about to be put to the test.

The Ties that Bind

Three years after the conclusion of the path-breaking civilian nuclear agreement, the U.S.-India relationship suffers from the lack of a new energizing project. In its first year or so, the Obama administration did not display much interest in continuing its predecessor’s high-profile engagement with New Delhi, turning its attention instead to expanding ties with Beijing. To be sure, the United States more recently has moved to re-engage India, as evidenced by the warm sentiment flowing from President Obama’s state visit last November. The problem is that Mr. Obama’s rhetoric during the trip made it sound like the visit was more connected to his export-promotion initiative than to any grand foreign policy objective.

For its part, New Delhi is a constrained strategic partner, one that is not well-equipped – ideologically or institutionally – to take on bold bilateral projects. While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally did manage to push the nuclear agreement through a balky Parliament, his victory was in important measure pyrrhic, in the end revealing just how small the consensus (see the analysis here and here) is among Indian political elites for undertaking ambitious bilateral initiatives.

Credit: thesouthasian.comThe paucity of visible leadership in both capitals is problematic. It is true that both governments are collaborating as never before at the bureaucratic level. But the U.S.-India partnership has yet to find sure footing and still lacks sufficient institutionalization to advance the new era in bilateral relations. Robert Blackwill has warned that “neither the U.S. nor the Indian bureaucracies at present are yet prepared instinctively to facilitate a deeper and more intimate degree of cooperation between the two countries….It is going to take leadership and direction from the top to change old habits and attitudes.” Ronen Sen has made a similar point: “We have not reached the point where the relationship can be placed on auto-pilot. It still needs to be nurtured.”  And the Hindustan Times noted last year that the Washington-New Delhi connection is still not yet “a machine that will move on its own steam.”

The burden of advancing bilateral affairs, at least in the next few years, will have to be borne by the key societal bonds that helped build the relationship in the first place.  Headlines about the nuclear cooperation accord and expanding military ties notwithstanding, it is important to bear in mind that the foundation for the partnership was actually forged outside the realm of government policy and far beyond the confines of Washington and New Delhi. Unlike most of the relationships maintained by the United States with other leading countries, the one with India is distinguished by the signal role played by societal ties and privatesector initiatives. As Shivshankar Menon, now Prime Minister Singh’s national security advisor, remarked last year, “[I]f anything, the creativity of [American and Indian] entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists has sometimes exceeded that of our political structures.” And Nicholas Burns, who did yeoman’s work in hammering out the details of the nuclear accord, emphasizes that societal bonds are “the greatest strength in the relationship” and that “the big breakthrough in U.S.-India relations was achieved originally by the private sector.”

Consider, for example, the dynamics at work a little more than a decade ago. In response to the 1998 nuclear tests, Washington imposed an array of economic sanctions on India and expelled visiting Indian scientists from U.S. government laboratories. Yet at the same time, concerns about the “Y2K” programming problem led companies in Silicon Valley and in India to set the foundation for today’s strong technology partnership. And as I wrote earlier, the Indian-American community, relatively small but highly influential, has lead the way in building new ties between its native and adoptive countries.

credit: charlierose.comThe significant role played by these societal bonds has caused Fareed Zakaria to compare U.S.-India ties to the special relationships the United States has with Great Britain and Israel. Shashi Tharoor has likewise remarked that “in 20 years I expect the Indo-U.S. relationship to resemble the Israel-U.S. relationship, and for many of the same reasons.”

Although they are often overlooked by national policymakers, societal bonds give fuller texture and equipoise to the bilateral partnership than could be hoped to be achieved at the intergovernmental level alone.  And at a time when bureaucratic mechanisms are not firing on all cylinders, strengthening these ties will be one key in securing the growth of broad-based, resilient relations over the long term since they work to limit the risk that political and diplomatic frictions could escalate and disrupt the overall U.S.-India partnership.

This is particularly important as the structural dynamics of the bilateral relationship will prove challenging to manage in the future.  The basic framework of U.S. security and economic relations with a number of key countries in Europe and Asia was laid down in another era of world politics, when the national power of these states was in decline.  The resulting alliances were, and in many ways still remain, unequal partnerships.  In contrast, India’s power trajectory is upward.

Moreover, foreign policy elites in New Delhi continue to insist on the prerogative of strategic autonomy and, hence, are unlikely to accommodate Washington’s priorities as readily as other U.S. allies.  With continuing divergences over foreign policy objectives, frictions will inevitably develop on a range of issues – from global trade negotiations, climate change and nonproliferation policy, to differential approaches on Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as India’s bid for a higher profile in world affairs. As Nick Burns cautions “the United States must adjust to a friendship with India that will feature a wider margin of disagreement than [Washington is] accustomed to.”