Saturday, April 05, 2014

The 2014 elections could mark the start of 21st century politics in India

Almost everyone is agreed that the general elections of 2014 could well be the most interesting election they will witness in their lifetime. Several developments suggest that the elections could mark a big shift of the political paradigm and, in that sense, they could well mark the true beginning of 21st century politics in the country.
The elections seem to signal the end of the trend that began in 1990s - the Mandal and Kamandal politics that gave rise to the Bharatiya Janata Party and the caste-based formations that took power in the Ganga belt. 

Narendra Modi is fighting the election based on what he says is his sterling record in providing economic and social development
Narendra Modi is fighting the election based on what he says is his sterling record in providing economic and social development

Today's BJP is very different from the old party, which sought to use the emotive issue of constructing a Ram Mandir to come to power.


The BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi may be a former RSS pracharak, but he is fighting the election based on what he says is his sterling record in providing economic and social development in his home state of Gujarat, as well as - he asserted on Sunday - communal peace in the 10 years since 2002.
There may be some talk of the Mandir by the Sangh Parivar outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, but BJP leaders, especially their chief ministers like Raman Singh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan or Vasundhra Raje Scindia, are with Modi in insisting that development and "good governance" are the issues that motivate them.
The Mandal parties clearly have their backs to the wall. This holds true as much for Nitish Kumar as his rival Lalu Yadav.
In Uttar Pradesh, too, it is difficult to escape the impression that Mulayam Singh Yadav represents yesterday's flavour in politics.
And so in a much bigger scale it is the Congress which is seeking to discover the idiom of the current age and making a hash of it. Even its great innovation - primaries to select candidates - is taking on a farcical air.
The Aam Admi Party and the various elements that have rallied to Arvind Kejriwal's banner mark, another trend in Indian politics where the people are articulating their distrust of older political parties and outdated political ways.
Gaining power by displaying power, whether through hangers on, lal battis or mega rallies is on its way out. Everyone is scrambling to be the aam admi.
The people have become distrustful of ideological certitudes, be they of the Hindutva variety, or the socialistic bilge that Congressmen spout. 

Dawn of a new era?
Dawn of a new era?

They want a direct say in their governance and want to monitor their leaders' performance.
All democracies have the problem of convincing people that their representatives are really hard at work representing them. But now there are insistent demands that the public be involved directly in taking decisions that affect them.
This is the kind of movement that AAP represents, and it is hardly surprising that one of its leaders wanted a referendum on whether or not the Indian Army needed to be deployed in the Valley of Kashmir.


Actually Switzerland is the only instance of a place where referendum-run democracy works. This has much to do with history, and with the cultural traits of the Swiss people who avoid radicalism in their political and social life.
An effort to copy the Swiss system in California has failed miserably. Influenced by the Swiss, California adopted the ballot proposition system whereby a proposed law or even constitution amendment is put up directly to the voters for a referendum.
The proposal can be made by the state legislature, or even through a public initiative by collecting signatures of a certain percentage of voters. The people can, through a referendum adopt a proposition which can veto a law passed by the legislature and even the constitution.
The propositions are usually linked to ballot during state or national elections which take place every two years.
The most infamous has been Proposition 13, passed in 1978, which set limits on property taxes and required a 2/3rd majority in the legislature for any tax increase.
The result is that California skirts bankruptcy every now and then and its school system, which had been the envy of the country, is now ranked amongst the lowest in the US.


What the propositions often end up doing is to dividing the electorate and passing laws which contradict or trump laws passed earlier. And it is not as though they keep big money out of elections.
It is well known that "dark money" has been involved in campaigns against gay marriage or the legalization of marijuana.
Another recent Proposition, 28, has reduced to 12 years the total time a California politician can spend as an elected official. This is the kind of democracy the AAP seems to be looking for, but it is more likely to confuse Indian politics than make it more accountable.
At least a legislator can be held to account for his conduct or vote - but who is responsible when a crowdsourced law makes things go haywire?
As of now, many of these ideas and developments are straws in the electoral winds. But the outcome of the General Elections 2014 will only be a manifestation of the change that is taking place across India, not the change itself.
A great deal of this is the impact of new technologies like the telephone and TV which make us feel more connected. But it is also about economic growth which has brought with it great migration, as well as a steady growth of urbanisation.
The clear message to all parties seems to be that ideologies and caste loyalties are mattering less, what the people want is better governance, greater governmental accountability and better prospects for themselves and their children in this lifetime, not the next. 
Mail Today March 4, 2014

Focus on the Navy's structural reforms

There is some strange logic doing the rounds these days. It is that Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, being the Flag officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Naval Command, is somehow “responsible” for the alleged spate of accidents that have afflicted the western naval fleet. By this reasoning, accepting the resignation of Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi was the right step, even though Defence Minister A K Antony has been roundly criticised for accepting his resignation with the alacrity that he did, without waiting for any inquiry, or a formal consultation with the Cabinet Committee on Security.
 A news report has suggested that a cable that caught fire may have caused the INS Sindhuratna accident that killed two officers. The responsibility for this does not rest with either Admiral Joshi or Sinha.

Because, if the former Navy chief D K Joshi and Shekhar Sinha are somehow culpable, so is the entire chain of command downward and upward — the Flag Officer who actually commands the western fleet, the Flag Officer Maharashtra Gujarat area, Commodore commanding submarines (west) and the Sindhuratna’s captain. Upwards, it leads to the now departed Chief of Naval Staff, and in parallel to the the Joint Secretary (Navy), the Additional Secretary, Defence Secretary, and then, to the Defence Minister, Prime Minister and, of course, the Supreme Commander of the armed force, the President of India.
Clearly, this would be an absurd construction. The reason why it is being played out is because people fail to differentiate between assuming “moral responsibility” for an accident, and “culpability” or even “constructive responsibility” for it. Neither Admiral Joshi nor Sinha, or for that matter the PM, RM and the President are culpable for the accident, whose causes are yet to be determined. They may share constructive responsibility, though, whether it requires their resignation is another matter. In the past ten years, some 110 Indian Air Force aircrafts have crashed, some due to human error, others due to manufacturing or maintenance defects. During Operation Parakram, hundreds of soldiers died, even though we didn’t have a war. Many were killed by defective mines and fuses. But no one took responsibility, either constructive or moral.
Admiral Joshi has insisted on taking moral responsibility and that is to his credit, but it is a deeply personal decision.
He was the one who insisted on the removal of the captain of the INS Talwar after it hit an unlit fishing boat off Mumbai a month or so ago. He has always set high standards, and he probably feels that he needs to live up to it.
There was probably another reason. There has been a subtle campaign of trying to show some recent naval incidents as institutional failures, rather than the accidents that they mostly were. Take just one example: earlier in February, a news agency report noted that the defence minister had hauled up the Navy chief over the malfunctioning of a boiler on the INS Vikramaditya that had joined the fleet in January after being refurbished in Russia. First, this ship has a history of boiler problems — the Ministry of Defence’s poor handling of the deal is the subject of a CAG report no 18, of 2008-09. Second, it had come after an arduous journey of nearly a month, covering 18,000 km. The malfunctioning of one of its eight boilers was hardly unusual, that is why it had a crew of 187 Russians to fix such problems. It could certainly not have been attributed to some fault of the Navy. Yet, read the tone of the report and you will see that it was.
What gave the game away was an associated complaint — that the ship’s crew were celebrating its journey through social media. This sounds very much like the ignorant babus of the MoD, because it betrayed the lack of understanding of what navies do and how they do it. While operations of war are at the heart of maritime strategy, one of its key aspects is to show the flag — awe and impress friends and adversaries through presence. It is for this reason that flotillas visit foreign ports, invite citizens of these countries on board for social functions and participate in activities on-shore.
In the last couple of years, the tasks of the Navy have been expanded without a corresponding expansion of personnel or equipment. First came the anti-piracy duties, which India was committed to along with other navies.
Recall that some pirates were even found close to Indian waters during the height of the piracy crisis. Second, after the Mumbai terrorist attack of 2008, in a knee-jerk reaction the government ordered the Navy to take charge of coastal security.
There is little doubt that the developments are yet another manifestation of the poor state of the relationship between the civil and military sides of the Ministry of Defence. This is something only the political leadership can resolve through structural reform, as well as knocking a few heads.
Unfortunately, the perception is that the only heads being knocked are the uniformed ones.
Mid Day March 4, 2014

India is just another stop on China's Silk Route

There is a certain panache with which China does things these days. Two weeks after a PLA Navy flotilla carried out the first series of exercises to enter the Indian Ocean via the Lombok Straits in Indonesia, Beijing invited New Delhi to be part of the maritime silk route aimed at improving connectivity and trade among Asian nations.
This invitation came during the 17th round of the talks between the Special Representatives of the two countries that took place in New Delhi last week.

Chinese Premier Xi Jinping has invited New Delhi to join the maritime silk route aimed at improving trade among Asian nations
Chinese Premier Xi Jinping has invited New Delhi to join the maritime silk route aimed at improving trade among Asian nations


At the talks, the Chinese SR, State Councillor Yang Jichei also invited India to undertake a maritime dialogue with China.
Indian officials have generally welcomed the two suggestions, though they say that the shape, nature and agenda of the dialogue remains to be determined.
But it is the naval drill that has gained a great deal of attention. Three ships, including the Changbaishan - China's largest landing craft which can carry a marine battalion and 15-20 armoured vehicles - crossed the Makassar Straits between Sulawesi and Kalimantan, and then went through the Lombok which is between Bali and Lombok island and entered the Indian Ocean.
According to Chinese sources, the exercise, which used a giant hovercraft made in Ukraine, was to force a passage through the straits by using amphibious forces. Teng Jianxin, a Fellow at China Institute of International Studies, was cited in the Chinese media as saying that the aim of the exercise was to display the ability to break through a strait which may be under the control of an adversary.
Incidentally, the Changbaishan is much bigger than the similar INS Jalashwa that India acquired second-hand from the United States in 2007, and China has three such ships and is making more.
In December, New Delhi floated a tender open to domestic companies for building four ships of the Changbaishan size. But, given the way we do things, it will be a while before we can expect the vessels to actually take to water.
Traditionally, the PLA Navy was configured for coastal defence and the invasion of Taiwan. But it now has oceanic ambitions. According to a report in a Russian military magazine, China is building four aircraft carriers, and may take the number up to six.
Not only are the Chinese experimenting with various advanced technologies like electric propulsion, they have also reportedly mastered the technology of the electro-magnetic catapult which only the US has, and which it has reportedly offered India.
With six carrier battle groups, China will be within hailing distance of US capabilities which are built around 10 carrier groups, with two under construction.

Sea lanes

The maritime silk route idea was first mooted last year when President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang stormed South-east Asia in a major diplomatic foray aimed at winning friends and isolating Japan.
A parallel land silk route is already functioning with Chinese railways, pipelines and roads snaking westwards into Central Asia, towards Europe.
Simultaneously, China has mooted an off-shoot of the silk route to link Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM).
Like many industrialised nations, China depends on the sea lanes for imports, with 80 per cent of its oil transiting through the Malacca straits. But China cannot be unaware that India sits at the head of the straits and a US ally, Singapore, is at its other end.
So, as a matter of abundant caution, Beijing is laying down the alternate routes which include the Lombok straits, and could in future include the Sunda straits as well.
Of course, it must be pointed out that under UNCLOS, all major straits must remain free from blockades even if they are under the jurisdiction of a particular country. Further, going through straits with a flotilla in peacetime is quite different from a wartime scenario.
China is also hedging its oceanic routes by developing land connectivity through Central Asia, Russia and Myanmar.
There is a certain sophistication to the Chinese message. On one hand, Beijing is signaling that its sole interest is in protecting its considerable commercial interests, which includes important energy supplies from the Persian Gulf and Africa.
On the other, it is ensuring that everyone knows that its diplomacy is anchored on strong and rapidly growing PLA capabilities. It will engage with other nations to protect the sea lanes of communications. But if needs be, it will enforce it through the might of its rapidly expanding naval capabilities.


At the same time, it is not backing off on any of its claims, outlandish as they are, when it comes to the South China Sea. In December, Hainan province announced new rules for fishing in the South China Sea which covered not only Chinese territorial waters and exclusive economic zone, but international waters as well.
This action seems to fly in the face of Chinese efforts to improve ties with ASEAN, especially Vietnam. 
In the SR talks last week, China was at pains to reassure India that at no point would it interfere with the freedom of navigation in the high seas.
This was an oblique riposte at the Indo-Japan joint statement of last month where, the two sides reiterated "the commitment of Japan and India to the freedom of navigation [and] unimpeded commerce," and for good measure, added, "and peaceful settlement of disputes based on the principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)." 

On Saturday, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi reiterated China's peaceful intentions to US Foreign Secretary John Kerry. The US has recently, for the first time, made it clear that it does not accept China's exaggerated claims in the South China Sea.
But even as India engages China in a dialogue, or becomes a way station in the sea silk route, New Delhi needs to take some lessons from China and anchor its maritime policies on a strong navy.
As of now, we can more than hold our own in the Indian Ocean against all but the US Navy. But, tomorrow is another day.
Mail Today February 19, 2014

The shifting targets of Arvind Kejriwal

There are things about activists and polemicists, memory has little place in their argument. Arundhati Roy said she would secede from India after the nuclear tests and she is still around; Medha Patkar threatened ‘jal samadhi’ many times, but, of course, with the grace of God, she, too, is still very much with us. So it is with Kejriwal. He first denounced politics, and then decided to contest elections. Despite the fact that his party did exceedingly well, but not enough to form a government, he swore he would not take the support of the BJP or the Congress, but within a week, accepted the Congress support to form a government that is now history.

The collapse of the Aam Aadmi Party government on Friday has opened itself up to as many analyses, as the streams of opinion that constitute the party, and I suppose, this republic. Arun Jaitley of the BJP says it is the end of a nightmare. The Congress and Shiv Sena said that he ran away from responsibility. Others say it is deep strategy to get out of a losing game and jump onto a winning one — the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
You would have to have been an incredible optimist to believe that it was going to work in the first place. Here was a man who had built up a movement that tore the insides out of the United Progressive Alliance. He reluctantly entered formal politics, but shocked everyone by winning 28 out of 70 seats in the Delhi state assembly elections, just three behind the BJP, whose party it spoilt. After playing coy, he accepted Congress support and formed the government, which came apart last Friday.
From the outset, he declared war on two key pillars of any government — the administration and the police. For this, he got the grateful thanks, not so much of the middle-class which wanted better governance, but the poor who face the brunt of the thoroughly corruption riddled system daily.
All this while, Mukesh Ambani did not figure in Kejriwal’s demonology. But suddenly, he is there, now manipulating the Congress and the BJP to bring down the AAP government. At the heart of the Kejriwal system is the concept of constantly shifting targets. When one proves elusive, head for the other. So, first it was the Congress, then the Delhi administration and now Mukesh Ambani, BJP and Narendra Modi.
Kejriwal thrives on constant movement and all-pervasive enemies. In another time and place, they yielded fascism.
But thankfully, as of now at least, Mr Kejriwal does not believe in strong arm tactics, though his lieutenant Somnath Bharti is not quite above that either. In another era, Kejriwal, a saviour like Robespierre or Mao would have simply shot/guillotined his opponents, and replaced the government with his men. But in the era of democracy, he had to confront a system that works with thorough rules. And the rules said that he did not have a majority. It also said that the administrators and police could not be purged simply by fiat; there had to be due process.
Since taking on, these two key components of administration, who are admittedly overwhelmingly corrupt, was central to the Kejriwal mission. It was clear that he was not interested in making things work, but on making a point and having made that in 49 action-packed days, he has left Delhi still waiting for its saviour.
Well, it’s not just Delhi. It is the whole country and that is what lends power to the AAP. The system is rotten; both principal parties have run it at various times, but they have simply used it to their own benefit, leaving the masses to their fate.
As if to highlight the Kejriwal drama, the national Parliament was showing last week just how unconcerned it is about the issues that affect the people. And the message coming across from everywhere seems to be that there is no hope.
But, and this is the beauty of democracy, it leaves us options, unlike the poor Chinese, who had to suffer Mao’s Great Leap Forward, Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution in succession, losing tens of millions. There can be little doubt that the churning that we are witnessing is going to come up with a positive result for the nation. No, it may be Modi, and it may not. Changes of the kind the country is looking for do not come in election cycles. These relate to longer term social and behavioural shifts.
There can be no doubt that we need a paradigm change in governance, not just in the way our police and municipalities function, but how our corporates behave towards investors, banks and consumers. It is difficult not to see that one era — the one that came with Mandal and the crony capitalism of liberalisation — is coming to an end. There are some who would take us back up the road to the Mandir. But that, too, is not what the country is looking for.
Mid Day February 18, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

India must focus on events yielding results

Strategic opportunity does not keep knocking at your door for too long. China’s rise and its estrangement with Japan has provided New Delhi with an opening that we would be most foolish to ignore. Whatever may be the rhetoric about building multi-polar relations with nations across the board, India needs to realise that it needs to concentrate its effort on occasions that will yield results, rather than chasing the will-o’-the-wisp.
There are two reasons for this opening. First, the increasing bellicosity of China vis-à-vis Japan and second, the Indian entente with the United States. Tokyo and New Delhi are not about to create an anti-Chinese alliance; yet, there can be little doubt that the estrangement between Japan and China is to our advantage. We cannot replace China as a destination for Japanese investment and trade. Some 90,000 large and small Japanese companies operate in China, as compared to just about 1,000 in India. But, starting off as a hedge for Japanese companies, we can attract significant Japanese investment and technology, which can trigger our own manufacturing revolution.
There are two components to the relationship — economic and security. The economic relationship between the two countries has taken off with a sharp rise in Japanese investment into India since 2005, and Japanese companies have made a cumulative investment of $12.66 billion in this period. India has become the largest recipient of Japanese Overseas Development Assistance in the last decade, receiving as much as $36 billion in concessional loans and grants. Relations between the two countries are set to grow further with the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement signed in 2011. The Abe visit, brought more commitments on the part of Tokyo.
The Japanese perspective on security emerges from the rapidly changing global power balance in favour of China; to this can be added the factor of technological change. In addition, because of North Korea, Tokyo is also painfully aware of the threats arising from WMD proliferation, terrorism and cyber attacks. Japan says that China is rapidly advancing its military modernisation without much transparency, and in the case of the East China Sea and the South China Sea, it is attempting to change the status quo through coercion.
Close US-Japan ties have ensured that Tokyo has been able to maintain its pacifist attitude in the face of grave provocations, for example, from Pyongang. For their part, the Japanese believe that no nation can maintain its own peace and security alone and that they need the assistance of their allies and partners as well. If anything, given the developments with China, they would like to strengthen their alliance with the US, which has famously declared its neutrality on the Senkaku-Diayou island dispute, even while affirming the US-Japan security pact.
In recent months, the Abe government has taken other measures to signal its hardening stand on security issues. As of December 2013, it has created a National Security Council and adopted a new National Security Strategy. For the present, they continue to swear by their pacifist constitution, but with a bit of a nudge from the Chinese, things could change in the coming years.
Japan’s new approach towards national security is to: 1) Strengthen its diplomacy with a view of creating a stable international environment 2) Develop its defence forces steadily and maintain a posture that can deal with an array of situations 3) Protect its territorial integrity 4) ensure maritime security and insist on a regime based on the rule of law 5) Come up with a new set of principles for transfer of defence equipment overseas in view of the new security environment 6) Strengthen cyber security, take measures against terrorism and insist on peaceful uses of outer space.
The Japanese maritime self-defence forces (MSDF) have, at various times, exercised with the Indian Navy and during the Abe visit, a specific invite was given to them to rejoin the Malabar series of exercises that we have with the US.
The Indian and Japanese Coast Guards have been exercising together since 1999 and held their most recent exercise in January 2014.
The lengthy joint statement after the Abe visit underscores the belief that both India and Japan sense opportunity in the current geopolitical situation. The joint statement noted that the two countries have a common view on ‘freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce and peaceful settlement of disputes’ based on the principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They also agreed on the importance of the ‘freedom of overflight and civil aviation safety’ in accordance with the principles of international law and the rules of
the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The bit about ‘peaceful settlement of disputes’ and the issue of overflight and civil aviation safety was new language as compared to past joint statements, and they unambiguously pointed towards China.
India and Japan still need a great deal of patient dialogue and effort to transform the opportunity they have into reality. They need to clinch the Indo-Japan nuclear deal, if only to clear the decks for cooperation
in other high-technology areas. Likewise, they need to successfully conclude their negotiations for the US-2 amphibian aircraft, which Tokyo has offered India. The US-2 may be a minor issue, but behind it lies the promise of deeper ties with Japan in high quality technology, which can be used for defence purposes.
Mid-Day February 4, 2014

India has failed to cash in on its relationship with America

Why has no leader of the United States of America ever been the chief guest at India's Republic Day parade?
After all, we have had presidents, prime ministers and kings from all over the world, and, horror of horrors, even leaders from China and Pakistan. But the US seems to be a strange absence in our guest list.
The choice for a chief guest for the Republic Day is fraught with many meanings. It can be a signal for the strategic direction the country intends to take, such as the one sent by having Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan as the chief guest for the 2014 celebration.
Likewise, we have had Iran in 2003, Brazil in 2004, Saudi Arabia in 2006, or Indonesia in 2011.
Another perennial has been the Russian/Soviet president who has come thrice, with President Putin attending most recently in 2007.
In other cases we celebrated our closeness to another country such as Bhutan, whose king was the chief guest in 2013 for the fourth time.
Some choices, though, are simply baffling - for example Peru (1987), Argentina (1985) or Bulgaria (1969).
In 1958, we had a People's Liberation Marshal, Ye Jianying.
Even Pakistani leaders have been welcome, notably Governor General Ghulam Mohammed in 1955 and agriculture minister Rana Abdul Hamid in 1965.
Other leaders of the Western world, the prime ministers and presidents of Britain, Australia, Germany and France have come, but not the Americans.
Some would say that these are mere symbols and do not mean much. But symbols, too, have their own purpose.
They are a code that reveals the texture of a relationship. And as symbols go, notice that no American president, even the sainted Lincoln has been graced with a road, leave alone a statue in New Delhi.
We have an Archbishop Makarios Marg, named after the first president of Cyprus, an Olof Palme road, and roads named after Kwame Nkrumah, Nasser and Mandela, Ataturk, Alexander Dubcek, but none for, say, John Kennedy who came to India's assistance in our dark hour of defeat in 1962.
In many ways, our relationship with the United States is the most important external relationship we have.
As the global hegemon since the end of World War II, a friendly US has much to offer - aid, investment, expertise, political heft.

By the same measure, an unfriendly US can and does cause a great deal of trouble. India has seen both sides of this coin.
American aid was the key in preventing mass starvation in the 1960s, its expertise revamped our higher education and triggered the green revolution.
Most crucially, its political blessings ensured that India remained a favoured destination of World Bank assistance, and, more recently, in removing India from the global civil nuclear blacklist.
But the same US also created our greatest security nightmare by propping up the military junta in Pakistan and arming it to the point it began to think itself as a rival of India.
Likewise, the Sino-US détente kept India off balance through the 1970s and 1980s. Some analysts believe that some of the problems in the Indo-US relationship have been structural.
These relate to differing world views, conflicting economic priorities and asymmetries in their national power.
Cold War
In the 1950s, India saw economic development as its principal challenge and sought to promote world peace through non-alignment between the two power Blocs.
However, the US saw the principal problem as arising out of the threat posed by the Soviet Union and its allies.
In economic terms, the US pursued the path of liberal capitalism, seeking open markets for investment and trade.
India, on the other hand, adopted a "socialistic" model and closed off its economy from the rest of the world. Since this model failed to deliver, India failed to develop its comprehensive national power and the existing asymmetries between the US and India on this score prevalent in 1950 remained.
Allies: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (right) and President Barack Obama (left) pictured in Delhi in 2010. The US remains one of India's most important international allies
Allies: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (right) and President Barack Obama (left) pictured in Delhi in 2010. The US remains one of India's most important international allies

The end of the Cold War may have changed many things, but it has not altered New Delhi's mindset on non-alignment, which has now morphed to the concept of "strategic autonomy."
On the economic side, India has changed and accepted the liberal nostrum, but not fully. Significant barriers to investment and trade remain, often only because of the existence of a retrograde bureaucracy.
As for military power, the asymmetry remains, though India is now a nuclear weapons state. However, by refusing to reform and restructure its armed forces it persists in de-rating their capabilities.
Even so, notwithstanding the recent spat over the Khobgrade affair, India and the US are much closer than they ever were.

But, there is a significant difference between the texture of the relationship that the US enjoys with other democracies like UK, Germany, France and Japan, and the one it has with India.
And neither are we able to cash in on it to the extent the Chinese and the Pakistanis managed. In great measure, this is as much a consequence of persisting Indian weaknesses in the economic and military fields, as the quality of its political leadership which cannot take the country beyond its strategic posture of "passive restraint".
Economic and military power create their own dynamics and somehow, India has not been able to reach the point where it is taken as a serious interlocutor in the power dynamics of Asia.
But to come back to our original proposition. Why is it that India finds it so difficult to acknowledge and openly further a relationship with the United States?
To an extent it reflects the continuing distrust of the US in relation to our predicament with Pakistan. But to a greater extent it reflects a national inferiority complex.
The Americans are like a rich relative, whose help we think we are entitled to, but whose help we do not want to acknowledge because they highlight our own failure to accumulate the currency of power - a flourishing economy or a powerful military. 
Mail Today February 4, 2014