by Ranjan Mathai, Foreign Secretary of India
Reviewed by Michael W. Cotter
Official speeches by senior government officials visiting the United States deserve much wider dissemination than they usually receive. Because they cover the full range of bilateral and global issues of interest to both countries, they are usually the best way to gain understanding of how broad those interests can be. And, of course, they also highlight areas of disagreement as well as agreement between the two countries.
In February, Ranjan Mathai, who had assumed the position of India’s Foreign Secretary barely six months earlier, made an official visit to Washington. A career diplomat, Mathai had served a tour in Washington early in his career. As is a common practice for such officials, in addition to his official meetings with U.S. government agencies, congressional figures and business leaders, he gave a formal speech on the bilateral relationship at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Those remarks are notable because they reflect the tremendous changes that have taken place in India’s relationship with the U.S. over the past decade. They reflect India’s increasing status as an equal interlocutor, rather than the supplicant it might have been as recently as twenty years ago.
He led off by identifying what India perceives as the outstanding bilateral issues. Then touched on all of the regional and global issues of interest to both countries, a list much longer than was the case a few years ago: stability in what India calls “West Asia” and we call the Middle East, including preventing nuclear proliferation; concerns over protectionism in global economics; cooperation on food security in Africa; security of sea lanes; the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan; terrorism; and China and the “Indo-Pacific” region.
Finally, he highlighted the need for cooperation on “the global architecture of governance, security and nonproliferation...” (i.e., reform of the U.N. Security Council, and the proper role of organizations like NATO and the Non-Proliferation Treaty), reiterating India’s ongoing commitment to “strategic autonomy” (i.e., neutrality) while stressing that his country will also “assume its international responsibility.”