Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ahmadinejad in India

The New York Times reports that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is currently on a high-profile visit to India. Though no major new breakthroughs in Indian-Iranian relations (which are fairly good, and based on real mutual strategic interests) are expected, the visit gives the Indian government a chance to show its independence from the United States by dealing with a leader openly loathed by Washington. I'm sure some people in this town are wringing their hands at the visit, but frankly, I think in the long run, it's a net positive for the U.S. It allows the Indian government to deflect criticism that it is Washington's pawn without having to make concrete strategic moves that would damage America's position in South Asia. It might even help get our stalled nuclear deal back on track, which I continue to support, albiet cautiously.

More to the point, India will never be an American client state, nor, probably, a steadfast ally in the Western European mold; however, solid relations with India are both achievable and desirable for Washington, if only because the state has cultivated links with so many other important international actors (Iran, Russia, China, Japan) that will require a delicate hand in the coming decades. Engaging India as a strategic partner in managing such relationships - both the good and the bad - makes imminent practical sense. America's relationship with Iran is going to have to change, either for better or worse, over the next decade. Overall I think it's a good thing that a potential American partner on Persia's doorstep keep relations open with Tehran.

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