No matter who wins US polls, India will remain the gainer

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One of the concluding presidential debates in the run-up to the big US election slated for Tuesday that saw foreign policy issues being taken up by the rival sides, a report said while the term 'Pakistan' was mentioned over 20 times by the candidates and the moderator while 'India' was not even uttered once. Does Islamabad still continue to be closer to Washington DC than New Delhi, as it has been historically?

Realpolitik tells a different story. The international political, economic and diplomatic scenario have undergone a remarkable change in the last one-and-a-half-decade. No other fast-developing country on this planet today is perhaps as close to the US like India.

The closeness has been strengthened more by many of the USA's own compulsions, given birth by realistic disadvantages, rather than India's urge to ally itself with the only superpower today to beat arch-rivals Pakistan or China. And no matter who comes to power in the Washington following this election, one thing is clear and static. The incumbent can not afford to ignore India no matter what happens across the globe.

US presidential election candidates Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama

US presidential election candidates Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama

The two presidential candidates for the 2012 US poll during a debate.

Mitt Romney and his junior supporters

Mitt Romney and his junior supporters

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney poses with children wearing shirts which spell out "Romney" as he campaigns at the Iowa Events Center, in Des Moines, on November 4.

Bill and Barack at a campaign

Bill and Barack at a campaign

From left to right, former US President Bill Clinton, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., New Hampshire Governor John Lynch and US President Barack Obama, wave on stage together during a campaign event at Capitol Square on November 4.

Popular President Obama reaches out to his supporters

Popular President Obama reaches out to his supporters

President Barack Obama reaches over to greet supportera before speaking at a campaign event at Fifth Third Arena on November 4.

Issues that cement Indo-US ties in current times

There are several inter-related issues that have strengthened ties between the USA and India today and they encompass foreign as well as domestic domains. This is because we live in a globalised world and both these countries, owing to their democratic development, are reaping the benefits of globalisation. Even in adversity, these two nations today find an opportunity to tighten their bonds. From the USA's perspective, India is a crucial power in various sense.

In the foreign policy domain, Washington's Afpak policy and the strong stand on Iran see India as a vital player. While India will be expected to play a positive role in reconstruction of Afghanistan once the western forces pull out, decision-makers in Washington will also want New Delhi to play a balanced role in its dealings with Iran. The onus will be on New Delhi as far as engaging with Iran is concerned. Neither would it prefer a devastating US-led war in the sensitive region nor antagonise Washington to jeopardise its own interests.

Some voices in the diplomatic circle think India has no business in buying the American thinking on Iran, but at the same time, it is very important to clarify a stand on this matter for at the end of the day, there is no point in annoying USA and put our bigger interests in trouble. We really do not have a serious and long-term engagement with Iran, barring historical connections.

The priority should be: Maintain the warm relation with the USA and protect our own interest in the volatile Western Asian region. The question of security of Indians living in that region, energy and other politico-diplomatic interests is key for New Delhi.

A warm relation with Washington will help India in reaping benefits in other sectors like sales of arms (India is one of the biggest buyers today), nuclear power, integrated defence and also internal economic advantages. A key concern for India will be gaining American confidence in South Asian political developments for this is a region which is more important for it in comparison to a distant Western or Central Asia.

US inched closer to India under US Presidents in recent times

The nature of South Asian politics has significantly changed with the rift between the USA and Pakistan, which is perhaps the widest now than ever before. The USA-India-Pakistan equation began to witness a big shift towards the end of President Bill Clinton's second term when the two Asian neighbours got involved over the Kargil conflict. He had taken a tough stance towards Islamabad after the 1999 Kargil war and the USA continued to come closer towards India during the days of President George W Bush Junior, who had once said: "Was Evangelical on India."

President Bush's wrangling the single country exception from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, pushing the 123 deal showed how history was being reversed. Devastating events like 9/11 and 26/11 also brought the two sides on the same side of the fence with countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan sitting in the opposite ranks.

Under Barack Obama, too, the USA has continued to favour India, sometimes showering favours a bit too fast than New Delhi can really absorb. Washington has also been putting pressure on New Delhi to open the Indian markets for foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail for that would help American retail giant Walmart. Washington also wants to integrate India into its major plan to contain China in east Asia and India has a big stake in the USA's friendship for the gap between New Delhi and Beijing is looking more and more substantial.

India's rise and Pakistan's fall

India has just filled up the vacuum created by the exit of Pakistan from Washington's scheme of things. In a pre-election survey conducted in several countries, it was seen that Pakistan was the only country that did not favour Barack Obama. Still other polls showed that an overwhelming number of Pakistanis are anti-Americans, something which was quite unthinkable even five years ago. The relation between the two countries reached a new low last November when 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in NATO bombing on a border checkpoint and for a major part of this year after Pakistan decided to close road for NATO supplies.

The situation did not improve even after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tendered an apology and Pakistani authorities decided to reopen the route. The general mood in Pakistan continued to be vocal against Washington. The continued drone attacks by the USA on Pakistani soil also shows the trust deficit the two 'historically natural allies' share today.

The killing of Osama bin Laden by US troops in Pakistan has not helped things either. Today, Pakistan does not prefer the Republican Presidents over the Democrats any more. Just like every US President today favour India for a number of factors, they treat Pakistan as a failed state.

As noted Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid has written in one of his articles: "The biggest irony of the US-Pakistan relationship senior Pakistani generals and religious leaders mouth their hatred of and sense of betrayal by the US, while large numbers of their family members live in the US. Such hypocrisy is mirrored at all levels of society as tens of thousands of Pakistanis try to get a Green Card and visa lines still snake around the US Embassy in Islamabad."

One thing is static. Whoever wins this year's US presidential election, the ground realities will not change. Talks made rounds that the next American President will be mainly engaged in domestic policies, but the USA can not reverse global politics today. It has left several parts of the world in a mess and need allies both for economic and diplomatic profits.

Western Europe is in a brittle state, West Asia and Pakistan are more hostile than ever, China still a distant enemy and amid all this, it is only India that can serve the new incumbent and the USA the best. Be it Obama or Romney, names and tags don't matter.

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