It has been a big idea in American foreign policy for over a decade: The United States would align its interests with a rapidly rising and democratic India to balance China’s burgeoning power in the vital Asia Pacific region. But that ambitious strategic bet depended on the critical assumption that the chaotic, poor, and struggling India of today would develop into the vibrant, wealthier, and more stable India of tomorrow that many of its admirers think it may yet become.
India is a country of immense contradictions — at once a rising economic power as well as home to the greatest number of poor in the world. A nation rich in scientific and engineering talent but held back by deplorable roads, infrastructure, and miles of bureaucratic red tape. At a meeting of the Aspen India Dialogue in New Delhi earlier this week in which I participated, Americans and Indians alike agreed our countries have never had a stronger partnership. And, yet, I don’t believe we will see its real promise until the India of tomorrow is more fully formed.