Thanks largely to India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who
shared with his leftwing British friends a dislike of the Yanks, the
geopolitically senseless alienation between the United States and
India continued for five decades after India's independence in 1947.
What seems finally to have convinced the British to leave India was
the seepage of loyalty from the Indian component of the armed forces.
More than 2 million Indians saw action on the Allied side during World
War II. Yet during the war, their loyalty to the Crown was tested by
the discriminatory treatment meted out to Indians in the services.
British personnel dominated the higher reaches of the military and
were given perquisites and privileges far beyond those enjoyed by
Several thousands of soldiers joined the pro-Axis Indian National Army
during the war. Within the ranks of those who remained on the Allied
side, there was visible sympathy for those Indian officers and men who
switched sides and refused to fight for the British monarchy that
denied them the privileges enjoyed by soldiers from the Australian,
New Zealand, U.S. and Canadian complements. The possibility of
widespread revolts within the armed forces concentrated minds in
London and speeded up the withdrawal from India
During World War II, the Muslim League under M. A. Jinnah backed the
Allies unreservedly, and was later rewarded with Pakistan, a Muslim
state carved out of Hindu-majority India. Jinnah's effusive backing
for the British was matched by his successors' similarly emollient
line toward the United States. As a result, Washington joined London
in regarding Pakistan as a reliable ally, in contrast to the
"undependable" Indians -- a tilt that continued until 9/11.
Even as late as the 1990s, the U.S. was pressuring India to surrender
the Kashmir valley to Pakistan. At the same time the Clinton
administration was covertly backing the jihadi elements that finally
took power in Kabul in 1996 as the Taliban. Interestingly, as yet the
U.S. Congress has not opened an enquiry into the 1994-96 policies that
resulted in Osama bin Laden's patrons being given charge of
Afghanistan, with consequences that have been disastrous for
Relentless U.S. and British pressure since the 1950s on the Kashmir
issue, and lavish military and civilian help given to Pakistan, caused
New Delhi to gravitate toward the Soviet Union. Even in its 1971-1977
heyday, however, the strategic relationship between New Delhi and
Moscow never resulted in a single Soviet soldier coming to India for
basing or training.
Nowadays the U.S. military routinely undertakes joint exercises and
training sorties in India. Fear of international jihad and worries
over a fast-developing Chinese military have made the United States
and India de facto military allies.
However, within both countries strong lobbies are still at work to
abort this alliance. Within the United States these anti-India groups
have coalesced around two poles. The first comprises those who take a
Euro-centric view of the world, seeing it in terms of the West and the
Rest. Such individuals see little value in a full-fledged alliance
with India that might divert focus from NATO. According to this
school, the only core international partners of value to the United
States in worldwide conflicts are the other NATO countries.
The other lobby hard at work within the United States to sabotage the
India-U.S. military alliance comprises backers of the Pakistan army.
Recent efforts by officers who seek to forge a comprehensive military
relationship with India to offer the USS Kitty Hawk carrier to the
Indian Navy -- as the USS Trenton was a few years ago -- seem to have
foundered on opposition from pro-Pakistan and NATO-centric elements in
the U.S. military. They see the move as potentially alienating the
Such a transfer would link the United States and India in a military
supply relationship that could lead to the displacement of Russia as
the primary supplier to India of defense equipment. Yet both the NATO
and Pakistan lobbies within the U.S. military are working overtime to
scuttle the plan to offer the USS Kitty Hawk to the Indians.
Within India too there has been resistance to the induction of the USS
Kitty Hawk. It comes from the segment within the Indian Navy that is
in favor of Russian or French platforms, both being lucrative sources
of patronage. Their efforts at downplaying the force multiplier effect
of the U.S. carrier focus on its "obsolete" catapult technology and
the expenses involved in a refit.
That their primary interest is to prevent a reversal of the Indian
decision to induct the Russian carrier Gorshkov (now estimated to cost
US$1.6 billion in place of the $500 million quoted earlier) is clear
from the primary argument used against the U.S. naval vessel, which is
the age of the four-decade-old ship. However, unlike the Gorshkov,
which is unable to sail at all, the U.S. vessel is operational, and
was recently in the news for its attempt to dock in Hong Kong over the
The fear among those within the Indian defense establishment with
financial ties to Russian and French defense suppliers is that
acquisition of the USS Kitty Hawk would result in New Delhi purchasing
U.S. aircraft for the carrier, and later for the air force, in place
of Russian ones. As such purchases could amount to US$22 billion over
the next five years, the stakes are substantial even in purely
Eager to get India to pay an extra US$1.4 billion for the Russian
carrier, the pro-Russia lobby in India has ignored the fact that the
modified Kiev class aviation cruiser was earlier mothballed due to a
collapse of its propulsion systems. After nearly $500 million was paid
toward a refit by India, it has been pulled out for a very expensive
refurbishment and rechristened the INS Vikramaditya. The effectiveness
of the multidimensional firepower it could unleash after such a $1.9
billion refit is yet to be tested.
The French and Russian lobbies were alerted by the Indian Navy's
procurement of the former USS Trenton LPD-14. This ship, rechristened
the INS Jalashwa in 2006, has a long record of operational performance
with the U.S. Navy's carrier and amphibious groups. The Indian Navy's
amphibious expeditionary capabilities have been significantly enhanced
with the Jalashwa, the induction of which has helped familiarize naval
personnel with U.S. systems.
The Indian Navy will add at least another 45 vessels in the next
decade to maintain a 140-ship navy for operations. The focus is to
reinforce sea control and sea denial capability that spans the Persian
Gulf to the China Seas. The induction of the USS Kitty Hawk could be
the trigger for the switchover from Russian-French to U.S. platforms
in first the navy and later the air force and the army.
CVN 68 in the recently concluded Malabar 07-02 in the Bay of Bengal,
which significantly enhanced interoperability between U.S. and Indian
forces. If it beats back hostile lobbies in both the U.S. and India
and is rescued from oblivion by joining the expanding Indian Navy, the
USS Kitty Hawk may serve as a force multiplier in the U.S.-India