The Indo-US ties have reached a stage where change of guard in Washington will not affect the bilateral relations that have transformed significantly over the last few years, former foreign secretary and national security advisor Shivshankar Menon has said.
“India-US relations have so far been bipartisan both in India and in the US. The whole process of transformation over the last 15 years has been done by every political combination possible on both sides,” Menon said in response to a question by PTI at a panel discussion organised here by the South Asia centre at New York University on how he sees ties between the Narendra Modi-led government in India and an either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump administration.
“For me this is less of an influence on the relationship. I’d like to believe that there is enough going for it (India-US relations) that it’s now beyond the stage where personalities can do much beyond shift slightly on the margins. I hope I’m right,” he said.
Menon has authored his first book post-retirement ‘Choices: Inside the making of India’s Foreign Policy.’ During the discussion, he said India and the US are “natural partners” because of “all the complementarities” as “each one has what the other needs.”
Menon emphasised that India-US relations are “better than they have ever been before” as the two nations are working together on a host of issues from maritime security to counter-terrorism.
“We are natural partners,” he said. However, he added that the two nations differ widely on economic issues like IPR and trade and market access.
“Despite the differences, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be natural partners,” he said.
Gary Bass, Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, said at the discussion that despite the “unlikely” sort of “chemistry” between Modi and President Barack Obama, the two leaders are “very different” kinds of personalities and have had “radically different kinds of life experiences.”
On how he perceives Modi and Trump, Bass said he does not think the two leaders are similar.
“Modi is a tremendously disciplined man who personally can be quite ascetic in his lifestyle. He is a very controlled personality,” he said.
Bass added that Modi has had a “politicised youth” all the way up but “Trump appears to have woken up at the age of 70 and decided ‘Oh I got humiliated at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and now I’m interested in politics’,” a reference to 2011 annual dinner where Trump was at the receiving end of Obama’s jokes and which many feel prompted Trump to run for the presidency. Bass said while Modi was interested in politics all along, the political system is having so much difficulty dealing with Trump is because “he does not function at all as a politician.”