Thursday, December 17, 2009

The U.S. Should Build a Stronger Alliance With India

I've often imagined Colin Powell on 9/11, going to Bush and saying "We have to call Pakistan now." As we all know by now, Pakistan has a long border with Afghanistan, and at the time they were China's forced ally in the soft tension against India. On top of it they're an extremely volatile Muslim country with nuclear weapons. Having them on our side during a war in Afghanistan, at least nominally, was top priority.

Does it seem strange that we continue to have trouble with militants emerging from Pakistan, either to go back to their strongholds in Afghanistan or to try to destabilize our few democratic allies in the region by having its out-of-control ex-military terrorize Mumbai? Has Pakistan's government even inched closer to a respectable open democracy in that time? Or is it still at best frustrating, at worst terrifying, that after years of support from the U.S., this Muslim nuclear junta still menaces its neighbors and tolerates Taliban fanatics crossing its borders?

We've been neglecting our alliance with India for far too long, and India has noticed. India is an absolute key not only to pressuring Pakistan, but to shore up Asia for markets and democracy against China. As a pluralistic democracy, they're a natural fit (as Fareed Zakaria is correct in frequently pointing out) and the links between the American technological establishment and India, particularly Silicon Valley, are another excellent connection which we don't seem to be cultivating. (Do you know China has an office for coordinating expats? Smart! Where is our own effort to encourage connections between individuals whose national interests align?) And the prediction by many economists that India's GDP will overtake China's in the twenty-first century adds further weight to this argument.

The Obama administration has so far ignored this opportunity to be part of the Asian century, as opposed to tied down in parts of the world that will not be players on the world stage for a long, long time. Encouraging and accomplishing this could be a real win for those Republicans who understand that in the twenty-first century no one can afford to ignore what goes on outside our borders (I hoped 9/11 would have cured us of that). Another win for Republicans that Democrats couldn't afford to be seen opposing would be a VAT in addition for dialing back and simplifying income tax, something which Bruce Bartlett has been promoting.

To put a point on it, the loudest voices on the right currently seem a lot more concerned with complaining than fixing, at the expense of ever winning an election. If I have to choose whether to associate with do-nothing, spoil-the-majority-party-for-the-point-of-spoiling them whiners, or winners with solutions trying to get something done, I will go with the winners. Always. And winners have solutions. Outrage never fixed anything.

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