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[PAPER] The United States and India 10 Years Out

November 3, 2010

Asia Foundation trustee and CSIS South Asia Program Director Teresita C. Schaffer recently authored a working paper commissioned in conjunction with the landmark report released by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) entitled “Natural Allies: A Blueprint for the Future of U.S.-India Relations.” Below is an excerpt from Schaffer’s paper.

India and the United States have transformed their relationship in the past 20 years. Looking ahead a decade or more, this trend is likely to continue. The two countries can expect strong economic ties and a lively security relationship, including increased defense trade and especially stronger cooperation in the Indian Ocean. Economic issues will remain important drivers of Indian foreign policy. Cooperation on the global scene will have ups and downs, but the two countries will gradually find more areas where they can work together. As India’s international trade encompasses more sophisticated and knowledge-based products, India will pursue economic interests that do not necessarily dovetail with those of the developing countries as a group. India-Pakistan relations are likely to remain brittle. India will continue to see China as its major strategic challenge.

Over the next decade, India will become more comfortable with a higher international profile – but slowly, and with considerable nervousness about the risks involved in departing from its comfort zone focused on the nonaligned movement. The “wild cards” most likely to produce real discontinuities in U.S.-India ties relate to the domestic coherence and international behavior of Pakistan and China, to international conflict involving Iran and to changes in the global distribution of power over the next decade. In addition, externally driven changes in climate or technology could limit India’s economic growth and in the process make India a much more inward-oriented country. Looking behind this broad-brush projection, it is instructive to take apart the elements of continuity and change, and to see what lessons these hold for policy-makers.

India’s economic growth after 1990 was one of the most important factors in transforming U.S.-India relations. This economic growth had two consequences, both of which are likely to continue through the next decade: It led to an increasingly large and vibrant U.S.-India economic relationship, and it put economic success – trade, investment and securing energy supplies – at the heart of India’s foreign policy and strategic calculus. Download the full paper on the CNAS website.

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