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Postscript: Why India matters to the U.S.

A reader and an Op-Ed writer face off over American foreign policy toward India.

June 16, 2012
  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's visit to India this month focused on strategic issues.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's visit to India this month… (V.K. Singh / AFPGetty Images )

Jonathan E. Hillman's Op-Ed article Tuesday about the United States' unproductive diplomatic overtures to India prompted Luis Suarez-Villa, a professor at UC Irvine's School of Social Ecology, to write:

"Hillman's foreign policy advice on India ignores some fundamental facts. The U.S. government is practically bankrupt and is largely dependent on China to finance its huge debt and deficits. The 'sticks' that Hillman believes should be used on India are not financially sustainable, nor are they in Americans' best interests. The United States must stop treating other nations as pawns in a global chess game in which it uses 'sticks' and 'carrots' to try to manipulate their policies, trample on their national sovereignty and otherwise dictate how they should govern themselves.

"The economic crisis has shown, moreover, the severe flaws of American governance, as major banks, corporations and the wealthiest get bailed out and increase their wealth while the average citizen succumbs to economic insecurity, foreclosures, unemployment and downward economic mobility. America's corporatocracy is not a good model to be imposed on other nations, and it is time we recognize that submitting others to American dictates is not necessarily in their best interest or ours."

Jonathan E. Hillman responds:

Suarez-Villa is right to raise the issue of economics, which should be at the heart of U.S. foreign policy efforts. Unfortunately, he fails to appreciate how diplomacy can be harnessed to strengthen the U.S. economy and improve the well-being of America's friends and allies, India in particular.

Despite growing 40% since 2009, trade between the United States and India has achieved only a fraction of its potential. To date, India has been slow to implement reforms that would increase market access for U.S. companies, and it continues to clash with the United States on free-trade issues.

For example, India has claimed since 2007 that its ban on poultry imports from the United States is intended to prevent the spread of avian influenza, but it has failed to offer any scientific evidence meeting international standards to that effect. This restriction hurts both average Americans, farmers in particular, as well as Indian consumers, who deserve access to high-quality goods from around the world.

Negotiating with India on these and other issues is hardly "a global chess game" or an example of "submitting others to American dictates." Though the professor is well intentioned in voicing his concerns about wealth inequality and corporate interests, he should recognize that U.S. diplomats are working for the American people.

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