Interaction with Dr. Ashley Tellis on Indo-U.S. Relations
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On 26 Aug 2016, the Vivekananda International Foundation invited Dr. Ashley Tellis, a foremost expert on non-proliferation issues, strategic issues in South Asia and the U.S. foreign policy, for a broad-ranging interaction on Indo-U.S. relations and the way forward. The interaction, held broadly against the backdrop of impending Presidential elections in the United States barely two months away, focused on crystal-gazing the potential trajectory in the Indo-U.S relations with a new U.S. President in office. While the current trends in bilateral cooperation: challenges and opportunities were discussed in a holistic manner, the interaction delved deeper into specific issues, especially scope and limits of the ongoing bilateral defence and technological cooperation, joint Indo-Pacific vision, the Af-Pak situation and China’s defiance of international norms, among other issues.

The interaction indicated growing convergence between India and the United States across a range of strategic issues, while perceptional difference on a few issues also surfaced during the interaction. Significantly from India’s point of view, Dr. Ashley Tellis presented a broad-based and somewhat realistic assessment of the U.S. policy towards South Asia, indicating no major breakthrough in policy towards the Af-Pak region, especially towards Pakistan, unless, of course, necessitated by dramatic turn of events. The sense one got from Dr. Ashley’s presentation is that the United States still has not given up on Pakistan, while terrorism emanating from Pakistan’s soil and the danger of loose nukes falling into the hands of non-state actors continue to remain a major cause of concern for her. While the United States is yet to get over its cold war psyche in so far as Pakistan is concerned, the latter continues to bedevil the U.S.’ hard military gains in Afghanistan. Pakistan remains a classic example of a state which has willfully blurred the distinction between the state and non-state actors. The U.S.’ drawdown in Afghanistan however poses considerable challenges to India, especially as the latter has not come up to the required expectations while Pakistan continues to play its devious game in Afghanistan. It is in this context that the urgency of stoking up the ANA (Afghanistan National Army) with required fire power was succinctly underlined by the Indian interlocutors.

Dr. Ashley, however, evinced a growing convergence between India’s and the U.S.’ strategic interests, especially towards the Indo-Pacific region where protecting global commons and upholding the international rule of law is a shared concern between the world’s largest and the oldest democracies. He assured the Indian interlocutors that while the U.S.’ technological regimes are increasingly amenable to greater collaboration with the Indian companies, there is also a growing appreciation within the armed establishments that such collaborations will eventually help the U.S. military at the operational level, especially as the two militaries are being ushered into an era of logistics cooperation. With an expanding defence and technological cooperation between India and the United States, Dr. Ashley Tellis urged the need for both countries to kick-start cooperation in cyber defence, space and missile technologies.

The interactive session was largely a reflection of the complex and varied nature of India-United States relations. During the Q&A session, the Indian interlocutors spearheaded by the Director, VIF, sought to ascertain the U.S. perspective on China-Pakistan nexus, as also on a potential Indo-U.S. cooperation in the Gulf. They also underlined the fact that divergence of views on Pakistan was a potential hindrance to taking the strategic partnership to the next level.

Event Date 
August 26, 2016
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