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The Commonwealth Games and India’s Global Image

This week’s shooting of two tourists in front of Delhi’s Jama Masjid drew a great deal of unwanted attention just days before the Commonwealth Games, expected to bring some 8,000 athletes and 100,000 tourists to India beginning on October 3rd. The security fears exacerbated existing worries that New Delhi won’t be ready in time (a footbridge collapsed Tuesday, for example, injuring 27 people).

After the incident, Australia warned its citizens of a “high risk of terrorism” at the games and the United States issued a travel advisory. At least three major British athletes pulled out of the games, with one quoted in the Guardian saying, “Sorry people, but I have children to think about…. My safety is more important to them than a medal.” The terrorist organization Indian Mujahadeen reportedly promised a “great surprise” for October. And today’s Asia Times reports from Pakistan that Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organizations are planning to use ongoing unrest in Kashmir and the international attention of the Commonwealth Games to bring India into their “broader regional theater.”

Yet this incident–whether it turns out to be a terrorist act or not–is just the latest in a series of events that reflects both India’s internal security problem and the country’s global image problem.

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India, U.S. Policy »

Political Costs in New Delhi and Washington

India often finds itself making major demands of the United States. It asked the U.S. to rewrite global nonproliferation rules to accommodate India’s status as a de facto nuclear power (accomplished under the George W. Bush administration), to revise U.S. technology export controls so that Indian companies and India’s military can gain access to more advanced U.S. technology (a priority for the Obama administration), and to advocate permanent membership for India in the UN Security Council (a goal to which no U.S. administration has yet committed itself).

But America turns to India rarely; and when it does, in important areas from climate change to global trade to isolating Iran, India’s approach is often at odds with that of the United States. This limits the extent of the U.S.-India relationship. Indeed, many Indian politicians are sensitive about even the perception of aligning with the United States. While it doesn’t help to blindly accuse India of intransigence without understanding its policy environment, we would be equally mistaken to deny that the relationship will have limits until circumstances change.

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