Alternative Scenarios - Positive Scenario for Modi’s India “Acts East” Take Two: A Response to Manish Tewari
American officials worked closely with the previous Indian government, led by the Congress Party and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to build a wide-ranging strategic partnership after decades of geopolitical alienation between the world’s largest democracies. Since India’s May 2014 elections, they have worked closely with the current Indian government, led by Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party, to elevate that strategic partnership. The United States takes no position on India’s domestic politics, but it notes that the Indian electorate delivered an overwhelming mandate to Modi in last year’s elections. It welcomes his activism in foreign policy, not only through closer cooperation with the United States but through a series of creative measures to expand India’s strategic space in East and South Asia as well as to enhance its soft power globally.
Modi has made several welcome changes in foreign affairs that benefit Indian national interests. First, he has abandoned the non-aligned mentality that viewed partnership with the United States as some sort of infringement on Indian sovereignty (although this dated mindset still holds sway in the bureaucratic back-alleys of the Ministry of External Affairs). In fact, India’s strategic autonomy is enhanced by cooperation with America, which has invested concertedly in helping to strengthen India’s capacities to defend itself, to develop its economy, and to improve the welfare of its people.
A strong, prosperous India that works with the United States when and where their interests converge is a much better steward of its own sovereignty than a weak, poor India acting alone to manage Chinese power, to secure the Indian Ocean sea lanes, and to relieve its economic and energy bottlenecks. Modi is confident enough to discard the old shibboleths about India “virtually becoming a junior partner, if not a client state, of the United States,” in the words of Manish Tewari. A nuclear-weapons power of 1.3 billion people with one of the world’s largest standing armies and an economy expanding by 7.5 percent a year will be a junior partner, much less a client state, of no one.