Building a Special Relationship

“As our peoples and our cultures grow together, we can aspire to collaborate everywhere with Delhi, just as we do with the British,” writes Donald Camp of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

January 22, 2015

Donald Camp is Senior Associate at the Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Follow him on Twitter: @donacamp.

Donald Camp

One good sign that the U.S.-India relationship is maturing into a real partnership is how little we are hearing this year about “deliverables.” Partnerships are marked more by mutual understanding and by dialogue — frequent and honest dialogue — than by ritual exchanges of gifts.

The U.S. and India are well along the path of building that partnership. Between 1978 and 2000, there were no presidential visits to India — and often not much dialogue of any sort. Now President Obama will have gone to India twice, and Secretaries Kerry and Pritzker are becoming frequent visitors to Delhi. We have much to talk about; from trade to counter-terrorism, all the hot topics are on the table.

In dealing with these issues, Obama and Prime Minister Modi have fostered a sense of collaboration. The prime minister’s tweeted invitation to Republic Day set the right informal tone for this summit. It is a meeting of friends. We have our differences but they are differences among friends.

Building on that friendship is the responsibility of the two bureaucracies. This month’s summit will build on the extensive series of official dialogues established over recent years. Such structured discussions in capitals are good, but we should expand to regular contacts in New York and Geneva, and in all world capitals. Our missions in Beijing, London, and Abuja should be sharing views and developing a habit of collaboration.

Here’s one practical suggestion for enhanced consultation. India is one of the largest contributors of troops to UN peacekeeping and has long sought greater consultations before the Security Council establishes or revises the mandates under which they operate. India will not achieve its goal of permanent Security Council membership in the near future, but let’s bring them fully into the fold on one issue where the global community depends on their generosity.

As our peoples and our cultures grow together, we can aspire to collaborate everywhere with Delhi, just as we do with the British. We’re not treaty allies, but we can have our own “special relationship.” When Modi is a “bro,” perhaps we will have arrived.

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