June 25, 2013: On his maiden voyage to India as secretary of state, John Kerry put his own stamp on an ambitious agenda for reinvigorating U.S. – India ties and strengthening the staying power that this high-maintenance relationship requires. The next few months will feature further high-level contacts: in July, the Indian ministers of commerce and finance will visit Washington and Vice President Joe Biden will go to New Delhi; Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travels to Washington in September. The challenge for the United States will be to build on the issues that Kerry stressed – the economic relationship, but also Afghanistan and Pakistan, and furthering our engagement in East Asia. This series of action-forcing events should reinfuse the India-U.S. partnership with more of the “can do” spirit that brought about the 2008 nuclear deal.
On a table in the office of a senior Indian diplomat sits an unusual piece of memorabilia: a baseball bat. It is signed not by members of the official’s favorite baseball team, but by the U.S. officials who participated in the inaugural session of the now well-established consultations between India and the United States on East Asia, in 2010. This bat and the similarly adorned cricket bat kept by the Indian diplomat’s American counterpart are an apt symbol of how the United States and India have deepened their common understanding of the strategic stakes in this critical region. Now they need to deepen their economic ties across the Pacific. It’s time for the U.S. to facilitate India’s joining APEC.
No, this picture is not the Indian official, nor his American counterpart – it’s U.S. baseball great Hank Greenberg. See our article in The Hindu March 27, 2013.
John Paton Davies’s China Hand: An Autobiography, the posthumously-published 2012 winner of the American Academy of Diplomacy’s annual Douglas Dillon Award for distinguished writing on the conduct of U.S. diplomacy, is one of the best diplomatic memoirs we’ve read in years.
Davies, who died in 1999 at the age of ninety-one, is best known as one of the most prominent of the State Department China-specialists who were hounded out of the Foreign Service during the McCarthy era because of their alleged sympathy for the Communists in the Chinese civil war. But his memoir includes more than recollections of his experiences in China. A fascinating surprise, for readers interested in South Asia, lay in its accounts of his meetings in India in 1942-43 with top leaders of the independence movement at a crucial period in their struggle against the British Raj. His spirited, well-written reports of his talks with these prominent figures, his incisive observations of their personalities, and his analyses of other salient features of the contemporary Indian political scene add an important dimension to his book. They provide fresh insights into the way Indian leaders viewed their struggle as well as their – and Davies’s – assessments of what the United States was doing and should do in the Indian subcontinent in those years. Continue reading “American China Hand in World War II India”
Trade and more generally economic relations have been a major driver of U.S.-India relations in the past decade. U.S. exports to India have grown nearly sevenfold. This makes the relationship important to both sides, and provides a degree of stability that was unknown in earlier times. This expansion is not unique to the United States: the two biggest growth stories in Indian trade are China and the oil producing countries of the Persian Gulf.
Growing trade has not eliminated trade problems, nor does it translate into easier dealings in multilateral settings. One way to address periodic frustration about stubborn trade problems would be to open the lens a bit, and work toward a more ambitious long term goal, such as a free trade agreement. It’s a difficult challenge, but steps along that path could be hugely beneficial to both countries.
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Obituaries memorializing the diplomatic achievements of Ambassador Harry G. Barnes, Jr., who died in Vermont on August 9 at the age of eighty-six, have focused on his role in Chile, where his promotion of democratic institutions famously incurred the wrath of General Augusto Pinochet, the country’s military dictator. They ought to have paid more attention than they did to Barnes’s outstanding record as U.S. envoy to India. As the first career ambassador to hold that position in a generation, he played a major role during his 1981-1985 assignment in New Delhi in substantially improving ties between the two countries.