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The Eagle's embrace

The odyssey that India has made from the Soviet bear hug of 70s to the US eagle's embrace is a major transformation in world politics, says S Chaulia, a commentator on international affairs.

india Updated: Feb 24, 2006 18:48 IST

According to a Global Attitudes Survey, Indians lead the world for the most favourable impression of the US -- 71 per cent of Indian respondents approved of Washington, followed by 62 per cent Polish, 59 per cent Canadians and 55 per cent Britons.

The overwhelming pro-US sentiment among the Indian populace is matched by a growing chorus within the country's strategic elites and opinion-turners to cross the Rubicon and ally unequivocally with the sole superpower.

Policy guru K Subrahmanyam's journey from scepticism and caution to a calculated pro-American standpoint is symptomatic of a shift in collective consciousness that should hardly be surprising.

As diplomat Pavan Varma observes, Indians are, by psyche, collaborators with powers that are stronger and undefeatable.

The odyssey that India as a nation and a state has made from the Soviet bear hug of the 1970s to the American eagle's embrace is a major transformation in world politics, a highway dotted with some crucial milestones since 1991.

President Bill Clinton's no-nonsense admonishment of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the subsequent Pakistani withdrawal from Kargil in 1999 was a major diplomatic event that signalled new equations in the subcontinent.

It melted Indian Cold War-era misgivings about mala fide American intentions and gave credence to the notion that Uncle Sam is no longer pro-Pakistan when it comes to Kashmir.

The rousing welcome Clinton got on his landmark visit to India in 2000 contained a sizeable positive hangover from the Kargil intercession.

No matter how repetitive the official take is on 'de-hyphenation' of US policy towards India and Pakistan, the fact remains that the Indian public and the security establishment are ultra-sensitive to how Washington approaches Islamabad.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's expression of "great disappointment" at the delivery of F-16s to Pakistan is one recent example.

The post-Sep 11 cozying up of the US to the Pakistani military regime and continued adherence of Washington to the idea of maintaining "strategic balance" in the subcontinent are irritants unlikely to vanish any time soon, irrespective of the euphoria surrounding India-US strategic cooperation, military exercises and economic interaction.

Another unexpected hurdle that India hoped would be passé as soon as a Republican administration came in 2001 is the nuclear technology and fuel transfer rigmarole.

With 'non-proliferation Ayatollahs' setting up a battle royale in the US Congress over special and differential treatment for India, separation of powers between executive and legislature in American politics has suddenly become an onerous challenge for New Delhi's lobbying capacity.

Killing of administration bills by the US Congress has a long history, the most infamous one being rejection of Woodrow Wilson's proposal to join the League of Nations.

Conditionalities such as India voting against Iran at the IAEA are being brought up as quid pro quos that might appease the non-proliferation backers, but this moots a classic clash of New Delhi's domestic politics with America's.

The ruling Indian coalition cannot afford to displease the Left by voting against Iran for a second time at Vienna.

First Published: Feb 24, 2006 18:48 IST