Now, most of you won't be surprised to learn that, generally speaking, I am inclined to agree with the American Enterprise Institute's fine scholars. But from time to time, I have to call them out, disagree with them publicly and, if your humble servant is allowed to put it like that, say it like it is: Guys, don't be silly. On its Center for Defense Studies, Michael Mazza has argued that the Indian decision to not buy the F-18 or F-16 but to instead shortlist the (Eurofighter) Typhoon and French Rafale for procurement is a rebuff to a closer Indian-American strategic partnership.
And in a nutshell, it simply is not. The Typhoon and the Rafale are simply of a more recent generation of fighter planes and give the Indians simply a little more capability, or put in a rather old-fashioned way, more bang for the buck. Had the U.S. really wanted to use its foreign weapons sales as an avenue for fostering a closer partnership with India, it wouldn't have offered the F-18, but the more recent and far more capable F-22 Raptor. And lets be honest here, if there is any democracy in the world that could use a fighter plane designed for air superiority with stealth capabilities and air-defence suppression capabilities, its the Indian. So, might I be allowed to contend, there is hardly reason to be surprised that New Delhi is not buying a weapons-system that has had its peak in the 1990s.
That's all nice and easy, but where Mazza really gets off the mark is when he suggests that the only other nation with largely similar interests vis-à-vis the Chinese are the Americans. In a conflict between India and Beijing, the United States is hardly likely to, forgive me, land on the Indian side because New Delhi has bought a couple of F-18s. I am sure, Parag Khanna and Fareed Zakaria, will all come out sooner or later and tell you, what I am going to argue right now: The close bilateral partnership will be formed no matter what planes the Indians are buying, because foreign policy interests in both Washington and New Delhi simply dictate it.
More to the point, the real dilemma is of entirely different nature. The Bush administration has done terrific work in Asia (as two particularly smart Germans suggested a little while ago) and the only reason that there currently isn't the progress in U.S.-Indian ties I and many others hope for is plainly that the American administration isn't paying any attention to it. Would President Obama be a more visionary leader, he would take the partnership a step further, but I am afraid that will be left for the next president. May I say so, dear fellows of the American Enterprise Institute, do choose your target a little more carefully.