Courting Indian Country

Russia has indicated that it will continue with assisting Iran’s nuclear program, increasing the likelihood of a nuclear-armed Iran. Between the soft efforts of the European Union 3 (EU-3) to stop the Iranian nuclear program and Russia’s encouragement and support, the Mullahs of Iran are sure to continue their quest to become a nuclear power.

The impact of Russia’s support of Iran’s nuclear program is both far-reaching and short sighted. Russia is indicating that it is separating itself from the West by co-opting the theocratic regime of Iran. Russia’s myopia is clear: they do not recognize the interrelated threat from Islamist states and terrorist groups. The murderers of Beslan ultimately receive support from the Iranians via their tacit support of al Qaeda and Hezbollah. The net of the Islamic terrorist groups is cast far and wide.

In light of Russia’s defection, the United States must think long and hard about finding a new and powerful strategic ally in Asia. India is that natural ally.

India is a large, democratic, developing nation strategically positioned in Asia, bordering on Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and close to other nations in Southeast Asia where terrorists operate. Pakistan is a nuclear power that is potentially susceptible to an Islamist takeover. No doubt any operation to secure or destroy Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in the event of an Islamist takeover would be conducted in cooperation with India. Bangladesh is becoming a haven for radical Islamists.

India has a longstanding problem with Islamist terrorists, most notably in Kashmir. These Kashmiri terrorists work in close conjunction with al Qaeda and its International Islamist Front. Denying Kashmir as a base of operations for al Qaeda is a strategic goal in Asia.

The Indian people also are supportive of an Indian-American alliance. A recent poll was conducted in India about America, and the results are encouraging. Americans were viewed in a positive light by a large majority of Indians. The main reason cited was terrorism:

But it was terrorism that ultimately brought Delhi and Washington together, says Rajamohan. “After the attacks of Dec. 13 [on India’s parliament building] the US for the first time defined groups based in Pakistan as terrorists. They began to hold Pakistan accountable for their actions.”

The time is right to actively pursue a strategic relationship with India. The loss of Russia as an ally on the war on terror is both disappointing and difficult to offset, but a strong relationship with India can mitigate the damage and improve our odds in fighting against the enemies of civilization.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


  • Justin B says:

    They better view us in a supportive light. I would hate to have the folks running all of our IT industry and all the call centers silently loathing us. If we form an alliance with India does this mean we are outsourcing some of our diplomatic effort to India? That is almost as bad as outsourcing the hunt for Bin Laden to warlords. John Kerry and Teddy are gonna be angry.

    Several Islamic countries have been very effective at using the common enemy approach to form new alliances between groups that otherwise pretty much hate each other. The only real problem we have with getting too cozy with India is that we run the risk of alienating Pakistan. Pakistan is one of the most troubling issues we have in our foreign policy. They are clearly a military dictatorship that has an extremely unpopular leader (and most of the unpopular part is due to his support of US efforts to get Bin Laden). And sooner or later the folks there are gonna kill him. Then what?

    Do we offer Pakistan the same thing we encouraged in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine? Free elections? Do we interject? And if they have free elections and elect some nut job Taliban type, how do we handle things? Or have coup and install some anti-US dictator? The good news is that Indian-Pakistani relations have calmed down a lot, but they still hate each other and both have nukes and this is a Holy war of Islam versus… well, pretty much anyone.

    Certainly India has by far the most progressive and Western society in that region. And we have incredible influence with the number of Indian people living here and the number of English speaking Indians working for US companies. I think the current administration in Pakistan and their much more moderate stance is the only thing keeping things there under control and there are problems brewing that we have to deal with.

  • praktike says:

    Um, India just signed a huge gas deal with Iran and has a basing rights agreement in the event of hostilities with Pakistan.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Um, it would still be a good idea for us to try to bring them in our camp. That’s the point of the post.

  • praktike says:

    Not going to happen.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    “Not going to happen.
    You make a very convincing argument. How can I object? If you say so, praktike, then so it must be.

  • Justin B says:

    Let’s see what is India’s best interests: How many jobs does Iran export to India each year? How bout the good ol’ USA? Yep, they need Oil and Gas, same as China. Their demand is as much a cause of high gas prices as the war on terror and the supply problems, if not more. What do you expect them to do? Not try to get oil and gas?

    So the real question is, does India want another Islamic Theocracy with Long Range Missiles and Nuclear Weapons within striking distance? I am fairly sure the answer is no. Are they in favor of letting Iran have nukes so that Iran will sell them gas? Hmmm, you think nukes give Iran more bargaining power or less? I think India is probably not a big supporter of Iran getting ahold of the bomb.

    Are they in a huge hurry to proclaim to be America’s biggest ally in Asia? Well, considering what being one of our friends entails, I think I would quietly root for America to reform the Muslim world and not stir the pot by adding their name to the list of Great Satans–The US and Isreal.

  • Kartik says:

    India and the US will be tight, natural allies. This is the inevitable course of geopolitics. Let me share my views as someone who has lived 7 years in India, and 23 years in the US.
    1) The Indian community in the US numbers 2 million, and has the highest income and education level of any ethnic group.
    2) India has been a democracy since 1947, despite being surrounded by a sea of Islam, Communism, etc.
    3) India produces 300,000 English-speaking engineers a year, up from just 50,000/yr in 1990. If the future of economic growth is in technology, which *people* will be a large part of that.
    4) India has 250 million English speakers – the same as the US.
    5) Most Indians in the US vote Republican, except for the ones born in the US, before 1970. They vote Democrat because they are obsessed with trying to get a pat on the head from white people, and as they see a few white hippies eating Indian food and acting ‘Zen’, they quickly adopt leftist beliefs to gain the approval of these white liberals. Since white conservatives keep their views to themselves, these US-born Indians believe all whites have left-wing opinions.

  • Kartik says:

    Forget Praktike. He is one of the Indians who spout leftist views just because he wants the approval of white liberals who he hears say these things.
    Other truths :
    1) India made the mistake of having a socialist economy (despite full democracy) from 1947-1991. Since 1991, India has grown at 6% a year.
    2) Further diffusion of education and the internet, along with the growing number and prominence of Indians in the US, will result in the Indian economy growing at over 8% from 2008 to 2020.
    3) India has a huge army, and could potentially provide tens of thousands of troops to US military efforts – more than any other US ally.
    It is a natural, virtually certain event. I think the watershed year will be 2010 (provided a Republican is in the whitehouse rather than some racist liberal who tries to tell Indians that it is better to be loincloth wearing ascetics rather than capitalists).
    Note that Hilary Clinton has made a racial slur about Indians, in 1999. She might have thought she could get away with it, but this will come back to bite her in 2008.

  • Jay Stannard says:

    Actually, I think it is a good thing that Russia has announced that they will continue to assist Iran’s nuclear program. Speaking for myself, I didn’t know they were supporting it in the first place. I suspect that there may be others ignorant of that.
    Since they were supporting that program, they must have seen it as beneficial so it seesm likely that they will continue to support it. So the public admission of that support will hopefully make it obvious to our policy makers that Russia is not only pursueing a different path on terror and geo politics but one that is not parallel or beneficial ot our own goals.
    This shouldn’t be terribly surprising, especially after their support for Saddam, but perhaps now we will change our own relationship with Russia to a more realistic one. They certainly cannot be viewed as an ally in any but very specific and small ways.

  • Enigma says:

    You make an important observation about Russia pursuing a different path. I think we tend to overlook the fact that Islamist terror is not Russia’s only geopolitical concern, or even necessarily its main concern.
    I think Putin may be more concerned about Western geopolitical expansion into what he perceives as Russia’s rightful sphere of influence. Taking the long view—from Putin’s perspective—terrorism is probably less of a threat to Russia than U.S. geopolitical moves in the former Soviet Union.
    I think Russia’s move to help Iran is a big mistake (for them and us), if we are to take it at face value. Terrorism is still a major concern of Russia, but our proper view of Russia vis-a-vis the GWOT should be that of a cobelligerent, not an ally.

  • praktike says:

    “Forget Praktike. He is one of the Indians who spout leftist views just because he wants the approval of white liberals who he hears say these things.”
    Look, let me explain this very slowly.
    Iran is India’s ally, not its enemy. It needs Iran in the event of a war with Pakistan, and it needs Iran’s gas. It just signed a long-term contract for gas. While relations have improved, India has never been a U.S. ally and has always been independent or even leaning toward Russia, from whom it buys its weapons. There is no chance that India will suddenly throw out the Iranians in favor of the U.S., and it’s delusional and uninformed to think otherwise.

  • Kartik says:

    Then why do 62% of Indians favor Bush’s re-election?
    India is a democratic, English-speaking country like the US. Iran is not.
    You are assuming that Iran would side with India against Pakistan? Now THAT is naive…
    Simply buying gas from Iran does not preclude an alliance with the US. India does a lot of trade with Israel, the UK, and Australia too, you know.

  • praktike says:

    Are you slow?
    Of course Iran would side with India against Pakistan BECAUSE THEY HAVE A BASING AGREEMENT.
    Indian relations have warmed with the United States, but India has never seen politics as a zero sum game. At the same time as Indian relations have improved with the U.S., they’ve also improved with Iran.
    Iran and India have cooperated for years in Afghanistan, and they will continue to do so. Iran supports India’s position on Kashmir as well.

  • Kartik says:

    So some alleged ‘basing agreement’ (which does not exist in real life) is why Islamic Iran will side against Islamic Pakistan?
    Are you saying that India will no longer do trade with Israel and the US because it buys gas from Iran?
    Never mind that India is an English-speaking democratic country that already does much more trade with the US, UK, Israel, and Australia, than with Iran.
    Dude, it is strange to be so illogical just to get a pat on the head from some white liberal. Just because a white liberal was nice to you is no reason to toss logic by the wayside.
    Plus, Bill and Justin are white people. Isn’t it out of character for you to disagree with them?
    Note : India is rejecting socialism in favor of capitalism. This bothers you..

  • Ravi says:

    It is people like ‘praktike’ that have kept India poor and backward for years. These socialist pinkos can never come to terms with their own shame, and reflexively oppose the US to support Islamic despots (their miniscule brains don’t go so far as to consider that if they are where Islamic terrorism occurs, they too will die).
    Praktike makes me sick. Fortunately, his type are hurtling to extinction (as all homosexuals are).

  • Bill Roggio says:

    You are stating that India and America cannot form a partnership because of Iran. I never stated Iran is the main issue here, nor did I say India will suddenly drop Iran as an ally. I am discussing the overall war on terror, of which India has been a target of Islamic extremists.
    So, now I challange you to go back through my post and find where I stated the goal of an alliance with India is to defeat Iran. Good luck.
    Of course India has taken the precaution to secure regional allies, such as Iran. This is wise, just as America has unsavory allies (like Pakistan) until they can find better ones.
    There is the issue of Pakistan and the potential for it to fall in the hands of Islamists. Now, if you are India, and you want these nukes taken out, who would you prefer to have on your side? The mighty Iranian Air Force, or the pitiful U.S. Air Force, with their useless stealth fights and bombers, and the decrepid U.S. Navy, with those rusty aircraft carriers in the region? It is logical to think the Indians are considering their relationship with the U.S.
    Stating the U.S. and India would never form an alliance is the naive position here.
    If the net result of an Indian-U.S. alliance is a deterioration of the Indian-Iranian alliance, then this would be a positive.

  • Kartik says:

    Actually, you are being generous to praktike. If you search all major Indian portals and newspapers, you will see very little content in terms of an Indian alliance with Iran. I challenge anyone to show me more than 3 articles over the last 24 months, from a major Indian media outlet, discussing any ‘alliance’ with Iran beyond mere purchasing of oil/gas.
    On the other hand, to say that an alliance between two large, democratic, English-speaking countries is ‘Not gonna happen’ is nothing more than indignant squealing by an anti-US leftist.

  • praktike says:

    Bill, you have some bizarre commenters here.
    I took your post to mean that you think India would team up with the United States against Iran, particularly as regards Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons. If that’s not what you meant, then I’m sorry to misinterpret. In any case, it’s not going to happen. In addition to what I said above, India also is upgrading Iran’s submarine fleet and conducted joint military exercises last spring. They codified their partnership in the New Delhi Declaration just last year.
    I’m in favor of improved Indian-American relations, but the Indians have historically played hard to get. India is wary of the U.S. making Pakistan a major non-NATO ally, and would look unkindly upon, for instance, a US sale of F16s to Pakistan. But the US has been able to pull off improved relations with both countries simultaneously. However, I doubt very much that India will pull away from Iran at Washington’s behest. India doesn’t see geopolitics as a zero-sum game.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    You usually are a stickler for words, and I am surprised you misinterpretted the post.
    Interesting. I just ran across this headline: US Agrees to Sell Patriot Missiles to India.
    It seems the Pakistanis are a bit “worried” (to say the least) about this one. Sounds like improved relations to me, and certainly lowers the “hard to get” bar a notch (just a notch, mind you).
    With good diplomacy, improved economic ties, increased military cooperation and vital weapons sales, I think India could be convinced to distance itself from Iran. I am not going to disagree that India is a tough nut to crack, I just happen to believe the time is right, it is worth the effort and both nations can benefit. The best relationships develop over time, and now is the time to start.
    RE: Commentors. Sigh. I’d much prefer the “homosexual”, “pinko” and other namecalling be left out of disagreements. This tone is unusual for this site. And something tells me that Ravi and Kartik are the same person…. could it be…. oh, I don’t know, the same IP address of
    Don’t play games on this site, folks, I don’t like it much. Read the comments policy, it is clearly posted.

  • praktike says:

    I think that India is mostly worried about China and Pakistan, there, Bill. They aren’t threatened by their ally, Iran.
    But here’s the trick. India needs its energy pipelines. It’s going to get gas from Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, or maybe even Qatar. But I think Iran is the cheapest offer, and it has the added bonus of bringing Pakistan into the mix. The U.S. wants the Turkmenistan deal, which would go through Afghanistan. But Iran is obviously a player in Afghanistan, and would have an interest in spiking that one. So I’m less optimistic than you are.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Again, It looks like you misread what I wrote. The Patriot sale is definitely related to Pakistan and China to a lesser extent. A good way to build relations is to secure strategic interests. Pakistan’s nukes are one of them, energy considerations are another. If we can seperate India and Iran from a military relationship, it is a win. energy considerations are much tougher, on that I agree. But we buy fuel from some unsavory countries as well.

  • Ravi says:

    Careful, Bill. If you imply that being called a homosexual is not something to be proud of, you might be attacked by the left for your ‘intolerence’, ‘conservatism’, and ‘opposition to gay rights’.

  • Justin B says:

    Regardless of whether it is right or wrong to call someone a “homosexual” or make comments about homosexuality, I cannot imagine any reason for the statement to be made in the context of a discussion of Iranian-Indian politics and the Middle East.

    Please stay on topic and stop name calling. I have rarely (if ever) seen much name calling here, and I greatly prefer it that way.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Ravi/Kartik (since I know you are the same person),
    I agree with Justin completely here. Additionally, you sabotaged your own arguments by name calling and bringing up irrelevant points into your post. I’m not sure what your beef with praktike is, but please pursue it somewhere else.
    While I may not always agree with praktike’s views and he can occasionally be a bit know-it-all-ish, he is deserving of a fair debate.
    I’d appreciate it if you did not destroy my threads in the future by doing this.

  • praktike says:

    Thanks, Bill. You’re a good guy.

  • Winds of War: Feb 22/05

    Austin Bay and Hillary – al Qaeda lost; Hezbollah warns Lebanese; Assad’s nepotism; Who killed Harari?; Russia plans to continue aiding Iran’s nuke program; UFO/IFOs in Iran; Leaving Gaza; Tunnel war tech; Iraqi irregulars; CIA/FBI terror briefs; The P…

  • Nitin says:

    I came late into this discussion, and only through the Winds briefing.
    Bill – I think you’ve made a very important point. The most opportune time for the US and India to seal an alliance was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. If the United States had tied up with India, instead of doing what it did with Musharraf, we might even have seen a dramatic realignment; with India more than happy to ally with the United States.
    Another good time was when the US was looking for support in Iraq. India should have sent its troops, but did not.
    JustinB made a point — that the US cannot get closer to India without alienating Pakistan. Unfortunately there is no way around this problem. India is not likely to warm up to an no-questions-asked alliance until this happens.
    As for Iran, I’ve made this point elsewhere (on Praktike’s blog?): India needs Iran for very much the same reasons as the United States needs Saudi Arabia. The US is not about to support regime change in Riyadh just because its run by a bunch of autocratic fundamentalists, ditto India vis-a-vis Iran.
    Finally, Bill, Like you I think that a US-India alliance is a great idea, and will happen sooner or later

  • The Acorn says:

    Iran does not stand in the way of better US-India relations

    Non-hyphenation works both ways
    Citing Russia’s continued support for Iran and the EU’s ineffective attempts to prevent Iran from going nuclear, Bill Roggio over at The Fourth Rail (via Winds of Change) argues that the United States needs to culti…

  • Tilt Toward India?

    I initially misinterpreted Bill Roggio’s post urging closer U.S. ties with India (and got into some interesting discussions with one of his commenters). I had thought that Bill wa

  • says:

    India, Central Asia, and the US

    Via Winds of Change, I found Bill Roggio’s argument for a US-India alliance, an idea I love and very occasionally talk about here. Praktike and Nitin Pai have more to add to the discussion.
    One of my pet motivations for the closer relationship thou…

  • VSam says:

    India and Iran do have a military relationship. You guys know India, Iran and Russia had cooperated to support Northern alliance against Taliban in Afghanistan. It is not a direct one, but still there is the feeling. India and US have never cooperated in any mission like that.right?

    Since India is in odds with Pakistan over Kashmir doesn’t mean every islamic country is against India. Iran is an Arab Muslim country while pakistan is not Arab. That makes a huge difference. You guys should understand Arab pride to understand South and Middle east Asian politics.

    I agree with praktike’s view that India doesn’t see geopolitics as a zero-sum game. Atleast in recent times India seems to push for improved relationship with all its neighbours, including Pakistan. Probably they learnt it from US. Because every visitor to India from US government tells us, good relationship with Pakistan doesn’t mean bad for India.

    So, India having good relations with Iran will not effect relationship with US. India believes that. Bill believes that. I guess probably thatz what is happening and more is on the way.

    But US cannot pitch India against Iran on nuclear issue. I guess, it is because India believes every country has the right to have nuclear weapon as a minimum deterrence. India likes to see US and Iran in the same way. They are hardcore islamic country. But thatz their internal affair. If US can have a load of nuclear weapons, why not Iran. Thatz the argument India put forth for nuclear testing or not signing NPT.

  • Van Helsing says:

    It’s mind-blowing that even after Beslan, Russia’s government wouldn’t understand that allowing (much less helping) a nation long famous for supporting and exporting terrorism that is practically on their border to develop nuclear weapons is totally insane. I agree that India will be a key ally in the future, up there with the UK and Australia. France and Germany, like Russia, should be regarded as neutral at best.

  • Justin B says:

    Van Helsing,

    Money talks for Russia. If Bin Laden himself had enough bribe money for Putin or it somehow benefitted Russia, they would be lining up. I am disgusted by the recent developments in Russia and by Putins slow turn away from Democracy. See Martial Law, Ukraine, etc.

  • Jamie says:

    A small point: Iran is not Arab. Iran is Persian. Iranians tend to be proud of that fact.


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