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Communication


P.R. Chari


Judges are permitted to issue obiter dicta in their judicial pronouncements. Book reviewers have arrogated the same privilege it would seem. Hence, Leo Rose pronounces upon the ideal pattern of Indo­-U.S. relations, whilst reviewing John W. Mellor's book India: A Rising Middle Power, in the Nov./Dec. 1979 issue of The Book Review. To quote Rose: ‘Perhaps it is best if we become reconciled to a low profile relationship; India is still important but not critical to most U.S. geopolitical and economic calculations and much the same can be said for the importance of the U.S. to India. The two societies can inter­act in a variety of fields in mutually adva­ntageous ways while (sic) still agreeing to disagree on a wide range of Asian and global political and economic issues’. American perceptions of India's signifi­cance to the United States has varied at different times. It must however be con­ceded that U.S. decision-making processes are not monolithic: the Presidential office, Congress, National security Council, State Department, Pentagon, academics and the all-powerful media all contribute inputs to the making of American foreign policy. It is difficult to be sure, therefore, which segment wields how much influence on specific issues. By contrast, the foreign policy elite in India is small and mainly comprises the Foreign Office bureaucracy; the influence of Parliament, academics and the media is not easily visible. Shifts are, nevertheless, discernible in the nuan­ces of Indian foreign policy during dif­ferent regimes, but these can be explained as reflecting changes in style and not in substance. A constant refrain is evident in U.S. declaratory statements at the quasi-official and academic levels that India is peri­pheral to American geo-strategic calcula­tions. I am not sure whether this posture reflects genuine convictions or is designed as a riposte to the ‘brahmanic superci­liousness’ which Rose suggests is ‘an in­tegral characteristic of the ‘Indian per­sonality’. ‘However, official declarations, particularly in the present Carter era, have conceded—sometimes in embarrassingly unequivocal terms—that the United States recognizes India's predominance in the South Asian region. Predictably, this drew strenuous protests from Pakistan. A prescient observation was made on this question by Joseph Sisco whilst testi­fying before the U.S. Congress in March 1973. He deposed: ‘The subcontinent bridges the area between the Persian Gulf, source of much of the world's energy, and Southeast ...


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