India’s strategic planners aren’t thinking
The Indian Defense Ministry did not select Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet for procurement.
May 12th, 2011
04:04 PM ET

India’s strategic planners aren’t thinking

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

A number of you have asked me on Facebook and Twitter what I think of India’s recent decision not to buy $10 billion worth of American warplanes.

I think it was a big mistake on India’s part. Despite what India says, defense purchases like this are about more than just planes. The Indian press has portrayed the country’s decision to buy European jets instead as a very clever strategy of hedging its bets. That’s nonsense.

First of all, the idea that India’s foreign policy elite are able to think in a strategic and wise way on behalf of the country is highly questionable. These are the people who allied India steadfastly with the Soviet Union and Communist China up until the point that Chairman Mao decided to invade India.

Then, they doubled down on the bet and backed the Soviet Union, including endorsing the invasions of Cambodia and then Afghanistan. They stood with the Soviet Union right up to the point that the Soviet Union collapsed and it became clear that New Delhi had gotten behind the wrong side in the Cold War.

This same establishment is now telling us how clever they are being.

The fundamental fact is India needs the United States more than the United States needs India. The U.S. economy is $15 trillion; I think it will survive the loss of this $10 billion deal!

For the Indians, they lost a lot of goodwill at a crucial time. The Americans felt they had bent over backwards to do favors for India. The U.S. was the indispensable force in ending India’s nuclear apartheid, for example. Then India blew an opportunity to cement that positive relationship.

India needs America. First of all, this is because India’s immediate security is entirely dependent on maintaining a stable relationship with Pakistan. India is unable to forge a stable relationship itself for all kinds of historical reasons. The Pakistan-Indian relationship is just so fraught.

America is a very useful interlocutor because India’s and America’s interests in a place like Afghanistan are identical: stability and the absence of terror groups. India could gain a very powerful ally in America who also has enormous influence over Pakistan.

Secondly, the rise of China is the big strategic problem for India over the next 25 years and once again the single most important outside power in the context of the rise of China is the United States. This is true from an economic, political and military point of view.

So looking at that strategic landscape, you have to ask yourself, “What are Indian strategic planners thinking?” My guess is they’re not thinking. This is the scratching of old, non-aligned itches. Left wing ideology, which has been beaten back and exposed as bankrupt in the economic realm, has found some place in the political realm.

Maybe it will take 20 years, but just as surely as India’s very clever strategy during the Cold War proved to be a profound mistake, people will look back on what India is doing right now and say that it had a chance to build an extraordinary and close relationship with the United States and it blew it.

I hope that’s not what happens but the Indians certainly seem on course to do just that.

Those are my thoughts. I invite you to share yours below, and to follow me on  Facebook and Twitter.

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Topics: Diplomacy • India • Military • Pakistan • Security • Strategy • United States

soundoff (446 Responses)
  1. Edvan

    The facts are straight and simple:

    1. India was colonized and ruled by Mughals and Europeans for 750 years in total in their Indian history.
    2. So, Indians are colonized residue today after such prolonged colonization (another way, India is a base-less confused islamised-westernized hybrid nation).
    3. India will become an economic (and possibly political virtual colony) of USA in near future. The process is started.
    4. Re-colonization of India by USA will be supported by Indians because they have long shameful colonial-history.
    5. getting colonized is not a shame for Indians because, they do not have that concept of self-respect (because of their history).
    6. The benefit for USA will be to capture natural resources of India, its vast market and also the cheap-labour for the benefit of USA.
    7. China will object to it and will ask its share of India.
    8. Hence, USA and China will be required to come to a mutual agreement to share and colonize India for mutual benefits in future.

    June 7, 2011 at 5:06 am | Reply
  2. jojojo

    Joining hands with USA is like committing suicide for India. After living in the us for sometime, these are my observations.
    1) us economy is going to the dogs. Their economy is built mainly on debt and borrowed money. Now US is facing massive unemployment because they cannot borrow any more money.
    2) They need countries like India to buy american products to support job creation in the us. If you read about Obama´s visit, you will see about 50,000 jobs created in usa because of India, but nothing of similar benefit exists for India.
    3) F16-F18 planes are old and obsolete. India and Russia are jointly developing 5th generation planes. Russia needs India as much as India needs Russia. Both have helped each other in times of their need. Calling Russian technology not as good as the americans is nonsense. Russian airplanes are far more superior compared to american planes. A simple example is the ¨cheap¨ Ak 47 which is all it took for the taliban to fight against us invasion.
    4) usa does everything for two reasons only. Create more jobs back home and oil. If you are living in the usa, you can see how americans waste natural resources. Oil prices go above 4$ a gallon and people start shouting. That is why usa needs oil from iraq, destabilize gaddafi government who was the main person credited with removing usa/uk monopoly on oil.
    5) I honestly think the world would be a far better place if all countries followed policies that was beneficial to its own population than just support usa blindly.

    July 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Reply
  3. Manjunatha L S

    The fundamental fact is India needs the United States more than the United States needs India. The U.S. economy is $15 trillion; I think it will survive the loss of this $10 billion deal!
    Above perception is wrong. Economy of US, EU is overdependent on China and US is feeling the heat. Whether US helps or not India will compete-fight with China. It is question of India survival. US is not in a position to contain China without help from India . So USA needs India as much India needs USA. India will be a guarantor of peace in India Ocean. Its might is growing.

    October 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Reply
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  5. Maryam Cesena

    Thought-provoking articles are few and far between from what I've been reading as of late. You have a real gem here. It has really created a lot of thought in me and I thank you.

    December 14, 2011 at 5:32 am | Reply
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