Seth Mandel’s review of Obama’s diplomatic record greatly overstates things:
Obama snubbed India–perhaps the most significant of George W. Bush’s diplomatic successes, endangering our relationship with an important ally.
What was the snub? Mandel doesn’t identify it, and perhaps that’s because it doesn’t really exist. He links to a May 2009 Tunku Varadarajan column that objects to Obama’s “neglect of India.” Varadarajan urged Obama to go to India or to invite PM Singh to Washington. Since Varadarajan wrote that three years ago, Obama has hosted PM Singh at a state dinner and has personally visited India. During the visit to India, he endorsed India’s goal of becoming a permanent member of the Security Council. The endorsement was symbolic, but it was appreciated. If this is neglect, what would paying attention to India look like?
There are things in Obama’s handling of India that leave something to be desired. The lack of progress on finding some way to make the nuclear deal work after the passage of India’s liability law is unfortunate. Needlessly damaging the relationship over the Iran embargo has been a mistake. This last part has been remedied somewhat by the waiver that the U.S. granted India, but the disagreement has still been handled more poorly than it should have been.
Of course, this raises the question of what Romney would have done or will do differently on these and other issues related to India. As far as I can tell, Romney would be less flexible in granting waivers to countries that import oil from Iran. That means that U.S.-Indian relations would likely be worse under Romney because Romney would be more hawkish towards Iran and even less concerned about India’s interests in maintaining its economic ties with Iran. Romney would not be more willing to accommodate India on the nuclear deal, so it’s not clear how Romney would be able to salvage the deal from its current limbo. Would Romney be able to persuade India that the U.S. will be a reliable supplier of military equipment? Unless he intends to alter U.S. ties to Pakistan in radical fashion, I don’t see how he could, so India isn’t likely to start buying American jets from a Romney administration. If Obama’s handling of relations with India has been unsatisfactory, how would Romney improve on it when he is even less accommodating to the interests of other major and rising powers?
Dan Drezner suggested this morning that Romney add India as a stop on his upcoming trip:
First, India. That’s another country where bilateral relations have cooled off a bit during the Obama years. It’s also one of the BRIC economies, which would allow Romney to disprove Laura Rozen’s charge of being out-of-touch with current geopolitical realities.
All right, but what would be the point of his going there? What is he going to say that Indians would be interested in hearing? Romney has stated repeatedly that he rejects the idea of a multipolar world, so what does he have to offer India? Romney’s starkly hegemonist worldview is exactly what makes many Indians wary of aligning their country too closely with ours.