By Richard Fontaine
Best Defense directorate of long-term grand strategy
Secretary of State Clinton's swing through India points again to the tremendous potential of an Indo-American strategic partnership over the long term. But it also demonstrates how tough some of the challenges will remain over the next couple of years.
Secretary Clinton is in India at the helm of a large, high-level government delegation for the second annual Strategic Dialogue. The first round, held in Washington last year, started to pull the bilateral relationship out of its previous doldrums and set the stage for President Obama's successful visit to India last fall. This round is aimed at sustaining last year's progress and implementing the many commitments both sides took on.
That's tough to do. Many of the big policy changes on the American side have already been made -- the United States has supported Indian access to civilian nuclear technology, a change that required amending domestic law and international agreements; it modified its export controls so that India has greater access to American technology; it now supports India's membership in the four international nonproliferation regimes; and the president endorsed Indian permanent membership on the UN Security Council. There is always more to do, to be sure, but these are serious moves.
On the Indian side, most of the expected policy changes are stuck, largely due to domestic politics. The civil nuclear deal is not operational because of a flawed liability law. Key defense agreements remain incomplete. India has granted little in the way of market access, despite repeated American hectoring. And the United States bemoaned the fact that the two American companies bidding on a major fighter jet program were knocked out of the competition.
We have a winner. Agree with it or not, this entry captures the historical moment, I think. Whatever the Secretary of State says, I think this is what Israel will hear.
We like you, we really do. We're just not into you so much anymore. I mean, you have a warm place in our hearts, but let's face it, so does Canada. Those of us who were around when you were born have mostly died off; the rest of us really don't know what the big attraction is.
Oh, it's not anything you've done lately that's alienated us. You and the Palestinians have been antagonizing each other for as long as anyone can remember. Neither of you can get past your various historical grievances with each other. And no matter how much we try to help you patch things up, something always goes awry and we're right back to where we started. Meanwhile, our other friends (yes, we have other friends) continue to get annoyed, anxious, indignant -- take your pick -- just because we're getting involved in your conflicts in the first place.
Don't get me wrong, it's not all your fault. We've created enough of our own bad blood with some of your neighbors. But, it's weird, your intransigence seems to reflect on us. Yes, the Palestinians are crazy and inept but their insanity and incompetence don't reflect on any of their friends. It's not fair, but there it is.
Listen, I know this may be difficult to hear, but I think we should see other countries for a while. Hey, consider how much freer you will be. Want to build settlements in East Jerusalem? Go for it! Invade Gaza? Be our guest! Evict Palestinians from the West Bank? Knock yourselves out!
We'll stay on the sidelines -- no -- in the bleachers, and sit quietly. Occasionally we'll tsk tsk about the continuing violence and wish that the affected parties can someday get along. Oh, and the three billion we give you every year? Uh, we could really use that right now. We hope you understand.
Also understand, we're still your friend, OK? We're just not going steady anymore.
"JP1954," send me an e-mail (click on the "e mail" box above my little ‘Meet the Press' photo on the right) and tell me whether you want a signed copy of one of my books, or Clay Blair's Forgotten War. And tell me where to send it.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
OK, all you smart commenters, What should the secretary of State say when she addresses next week's AIPAC conference? Secondly: What will the former senator from New York say? Feel free to tackle either question. Post away. (Don't get cute and try to backdoor this via e-mail, Mr. "GrumpyFSO.")
Best answer gets a signed copy of any of my books, or if you don't want that, one of my extra copies of Clay Blair's The Forgotten War.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.