Modi’s India: A View from Washington

(This article is adapted from remarks by Teresita Schaffer to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, Oslo, September 20, 2014.)

Photo from flickr,

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington gives us an opportunity to look at the reasons the U.S. considers its relations with India strategic, and to reflect on how India-U.S. ties fit into India’s – and Modi’s – vision of India’s role in the world. The two visions still fit together a bit awkwardly, but this is a critical opportunity to continue the quest for better ways to work together. Continue reading “Modi’s India: A View from Washington”

India, Pakistan and the United States

Modi greets Nawaz Sharif,

By inviting the leaders of the other South Asian countries to attend his inauguration, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a message of continuity and change. The continuity lies in India’s strategic commitment to maintaining primacy in the region. Every government of independent India has shared this determination; so did India’s imperial rulers. The change is primarily one of tone, but tone has a way of becoming substance. It adds up to a moment of opportunity for India, which the United States can encourage.

Read the rest of Teresita Schaffer’s essay, released by Brookings Institution as part of a collection on the challenges facing India’s Prime Minister Modi as he heads for the United States.

India: Modi’s International Profile

Photo from Al Jazeera English,

December 9, 2013: In the tremendous buzz that has attended Narendra Modi’s emergence as the BJP’s candidate for prime minister in India’s 2014 elections, foreign policy has been almost entirely absent. Modi’s rare foreign policy statements suggest that his approach will center on economics, India’s cultural heritage, and a tough regional policy. It’s too early to tell what this is likely to mean in practice.

For the United States, a Modi victory would bring pluses and minuses in terms of his policies. But regardless of the outcome of the national election, the U.S. cannot afford to continue restricting its contacts with a politician of Modi’s importance to a relatively low level.

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Manhattan Breakfast: Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif Meet

Photo from flickr,

October 2, 2013: Few were surprised when Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif made little headway in reversing the recent deterioration of India-Pakistan relations when they met in New York on September 29.  Nawaz’s election in May on a platform that included improving ties with India, especially in the economic sphere, generated rosy hopes. These were dimmed by an outbreak of serious violence in Kashmir and by the preoccupation of both governments with other pressing problems.  The weakening of Manmohan Singh’s Congress government by an economic slump and a series of high-level political scandals has also taken its toll.

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B. Raman: Realpolitik in the Service of India

Indian post near Chinese border,

June 16, 2013: The news that Indian political and security analyst B. Raman had succumbed to his years-long battle with cancer came as a jolt on a quiet Sunday afternoon. We were among his many avid readers, and had last seen him early in 2012, over a cup of tea and his usual acerbic conversation, in Chennai. He was characteristically harsh in his judgments of both the U.S. and Indian governments over the Maldives, the topic of the hour. And, equally characteristically, he was unwavering in his conviction that India needed to define and pursue its interests – realistically and, if necessary, cold-bloodedly. His firm views, which he set out in briskly drafted, numbered paragraphs that reflected his long career in government, were always insightful and often unorthodox. We often disagreed, but he was always worth reading.

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