TWQ: The Ties that Bind? U.S.–Indian Values-based Cooperation - Spring 2011
April 1, 2011
In his November 2010 speech before the Indian Parliament, President Barack Obama cited shared values as a key element in the U.S.-India relationship. Pointing to a “final area where our countries can
partner—strengthening the foundations of democratic governance, not only at home but abroad,” Obama emphasized an issue that has long received short shrift from those focused on building a new, robust bilateral relationship. Despite deep skepticism among many experts about the
prospects for U.S.-Indian cooperation to advance universal values, the president told India’s Parliament, “[P]romoting shared prosperity, preserving peace and security, strengthening democratic governance and human rights—these are the responsibilities of leadership. And as global
partners, this is the leadership that the United States and India can offer in the 21st century.”
U.S. leaders have long justified their country’s foreign policy practices with reference to the ideals of American democracy. Interestingly, what has changed over the past decade is Indian leaders’ discourse about the role of democratic values in world affairs. As the pursuit of non-alignment has gradually given way to India’s opening to the West and growing ambitions to assume a full role in the world’s
leading councils, so too have Indian statesmen grown more comfortable articulating and projecting liberal values. This development, coupled with the overall transformation of bilateral ties, suggests that an agenda of values-based cooperation is realistic—and would provide the missing piece of a relationship that has flourished in nearly all other realms.