After a historic win by Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in Indian elections, it is time, says Richard Fontaine in The National Interest, for America and India to forge closer ties. Fontaine writes (abridged):
History’s largest election has swept Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party back to power in India. More than six-hundred-million Indian voters cast ballots that decisively gave the ruling party a second consecutive lower-house majority for the first time in a half-century. Modi, who ran in part on a national-security platform, returns with a renewed mandate for international leadership, including closer strategic ties with the United States. That represents a major opportunity for Washington—if both sides can avoid the landmines.
America’s relationship with India has the greatest potential upside of any in the world today. Facing the reality of long-term competition with an assertive and illiberal China, strategic logic compels a closer bond with the Indo-Pacific’s largest democracy, one that is increasing its economic and military muscle. For all the partisan disagreements bedeviling Washington, successive presidents from Bill Clinton through Donald Trump have sustained progress in deepening India ties.
Indeed, the Trump administration’s approach to New Delhi represents something of a bright spot, and it enjoys the support of Capitol Hill. Washington now consistently describes America’s interests as residing in the Indo-Pacific region, and it renamed the former U.S. Pacific Command as Indo-Pacific Command. There is also a growing realization that closer ties with India can make America stronger in a contested Asia.
There seems to be all too few win-win possibilities in the world today—growing Indo-American relations are an exception. A closer bond, anchored by a long-term U.S. commitment to presence and influence in the Indo-Pacific region, is key to effectively competing with China. It’s also smart on its own terms. With Modi’s big win, it’s time to get moving.
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