Balancing Asia's Rivals

OXFORD – George W. Bush is approaching the end of his presidency mired in low popularity ratings, which partly reflects his policies in the Middle East. But Bush leaves behind a better legacy in Asia. American relations with Japan and China remain strong, and he has greatly enhanced the United States’ ties with India, the world’s second most populous country.

In 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prepared a visit to Delhi by Bush the following year in which he announced a major agreement on US-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation, as well as a variety of measures for commercial and defense cooperation.

The nuclear cooperation agreement was criticized in the US Congress for not being strict enough on non-proliferation issues, but it looked likely to pass. In India, the Communist Party, a small (but important) member of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ruling coalition, has blocked the agreement. But, as one Indian friend explained to me, this is mainly symbolic politics for India’s Left.

Even if the nuclear agreement fails, the improvement in US-India relations is likely to continue. Some attribute this to the fact that India and the US are the world’s two largest democracies. But that was true for much of the Cold War, when they frequently talked past each other.