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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Explained Ideas: What John Bolton’s memoirs tell us about US-India relationship

The worrying conclusion is that for all the hype about a special relationship between the world’s oldest and largest democracies, India figures in the mind space of successive US administrations mostly in relation to America’s enduring security concerns

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: June 30, 2020 9:07:09 am
 john bolton book, john bolton book india us relations, John Bolton’s book is titled “The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir”

The recent standoff with China has made many Indians wonder how far can India rely on the US for support. Sanjaya Baru, a policy analyst and former media advisor to Prime Minister of India, inspected the latest book by John Bolton, the former National Security Advisor of the US under the Donald Trump administration in 2018-19, and found that if “Read from a purely Indian perspective, Bolton’s book raises questions about US interest in, if not commitment to, Indian national security. India hardly figures in the book”.

Baru finds that Bolton’s book, titled “The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir”, naturally focuses on issues impacting US national security, especially in the period when Bolton was in office. So it is not surprising that the countries mentioned most often, several hundred references to be precise, include China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Japan, Britain and the European Union.

But “for an Indian reader, it is sobering to note that India is mentioned on precisely 10 pages — twice along with China, twice along with Pakistan, twice with reference to Iran’s oil sales, once with reference to trade, once with reference to nuclear non-proliferation, once with reference to Russian sale of S-400 missiles and once in the context of a comment by Trump on Narendra Modi,” states Baru.

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Baru concludes, “Clearly, India was a marginal concern of the US national security advisor during his term in office”. For instance, Bolton does not take the India-Pakistan border clash of 2019 very seriously.

“For an Indian reader of Bolton, the worrying conclusion is that for all the hype about a special relationship between the world’s oldest and largest democracies, India figures in the mind space of successive US administrations mostly in relation to America’s enduring security concerns — nuclear non-proliferation, Afghanistan-Pakistan, China and Russia,” states Baru.

Even on “the one purely bilateral issue of trade relations,” Bolton is sympathetic to the hawkish views of the US trade representative Robert Lighthizer. In Baru’s opinion, “All this does not contribute to greater confidence-building between Trump’s US and Modi’s India”.

Beyond the US-India relationship, Bolton “confirms the widely held view that Trump is a charlatan. Worse, an ignoramus. The problem, however, does not lie in the fact that Trump knows so little about the complexities of the world and national security. That could be said for most elected politicians anywhere,” writes Baru. “Bolton laments the lack of informed and intelligent policy-making in the Trump administration”.

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