Investor's Business Daily has a good article on the growing strategic partnership between the US and the world's largest democracy, India. The article points out that not only Secretary of State Rice visited India last week, Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen was in Islamabad talking to the Pakistani government, underscoring the criticality of the region to US interests.
"The entire picture shows something that isn't well-known: India is not just an ally but now a top ally in what the State Department calls a "priority relationship" with the U.S. It's bound to be good for the U.S., and may amount to a worthy end to the war on terror.
"I believe that this partnership will be for the 21st century one of the most important partnerships that our country, the United States, has with any country around the world," former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said in a 2007 speech. "I would wager that in 20 or 30 years time, most Americans will say that India is one of our two or three most important partners worldwide."
This "natural alliance" started with the private sector, eventually tilting U.S. strategic interests toward India. In 1991, India opened its economy to the world, cutting tariffs and bureaucracy, and luring investment and talent. U.S.-India trade, $5 billion in 1991, hit $42 billion in 2007. The result: double-digit economic growth, a new consumer market and a billion people with a stake in peace."
While President Clinton visited India in 2000, it has been the Bush administration, in particular Secretary Rice, that has evolved the diplomatic relationship with the end of nuclear sanction in 2005 and the 2006 civilian nuclear agreement. The partnership also has a natural strategic focus given the issues found in neighboring Pakistan. With the inclusion of a major regional power like India in the war on terrorism, it become far less US centric and has the potential to shift the global perception toward one of simply defending the concept of free market democracies.
Secondly, in strategic terms it allows the US to maintain its military naval focus on the Atlantic and Pacific regions while allowing India to exert its growing strength in its home waters of the Indian Ocean, all the while keeping important trade routes open being in the interest of both countries as well as the world at large.