Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi got in a conversation with Ambassador Nicholas Burns, Professor of Diplomacy & International Relations at Harvard, how the COVID crisis is reshaping the world order. This exclusive interaction between former Indian National Congress President and former diplomat was broadcasted across the social media platforms.
In his opening remarks, Gandhi opined that there has been a lot of progress over the last couple of decades in the India-US relationship. But according to Gandhi, a relationship that used to be a partnership, seems to have become episodic and transactional.
"A relationship that used to be very broad- education, defence, healthcare & multiple fronts has sort of focussed mainly on defence. What do you think about where the relationship between India and the United States is going?" asked Rahul Gandhi.
Nicholas Burns believes that democracies go through trials, countries play out their differences, in campaigns or street protests.
"Democrats & Republicans agree on little but there's nearly universal support in both parties that the USA ought to have a very close, supportive & all-encompassing relationship with India. We are the two largest important global democracies," stated Burns.
According to Gandhi, India-US partnership works, because both have tolerant systems. 'You mentioned you are an immigrant nation. We are a very tolerant nation. Our DNA is supposed to be tolerant," said Gandhi.
Agreeing with Gandhi, Burns also has the same thoughts on this. "An advantage we democracies have, over an authoritarian country like China, is that we can correct ourselves as a self-corrective part of our DNA, India & the USA. As all democracies, we resolve this at the ballot box in free & fair polls", Burns.
But Gandhi later expressed that the open DNA is disappearing. "We're supposed to be open but surprisingly that open DNA is disappearing. I say this with sadness that I don't see the level of tolerance that I used to see. I don't see it in the United States and I don't see it in India," said Gandhi.
Discussing the challenges, Burns claimed that the US never wanted to fight but want to preserve the way of life & its positions in the world.
"A challenge we face is the coming power of authoritarian countries like China & Russia. We never want to fight but we want to preserve our way of life & positions in the world. I think the India-US relationship is important for that reason," stated Burns.
However, Gandhi believes that the Indian American community is a real asset and it's a good bridge to have. Speaking on the same, Gandhi said "If I look at US history, I see big ideas like the Marshall plan & how the USA worked with Japan and Korea. These societies were transformed. I don't see that right now."
Burns also agreed that military relationships between both countries are strong. "Our military relationship is very strong. But you are right, it can't be just about that. So my advice would that keep the doors open to each other & lower the restrictions on the movement of people between the two countries, opined Burns.
He further mentioned that he does remember working closely with former PM Manmohan Singh. "Our relationship then focused on trade, military relationships & we were always searching for your big idea. We have something precious in common- our democratic traditions", said Burns.
Sharing his thoughts on the US President Donald Trump, Burns mentioned that he wraps himself in a flag, declares that he alone can fix the problems. "I think President Trump in many ways is an authoritarian personality. But in our country, institutions remain strong. That's what President Trump is all about,' said Burns.
But Gandhi doesn't believe that type of vision coming from the United States which is transformative. And one doesn't expect regional ideas from the United States, one expects global ideas from the United States.
Gandhi further pointed out that we can't have an authoritarian perspective internally and then make that argument. That argument has to be made from the foundation of democracy, within the country itself, within our countries. And that's where I see the problem.
"I see cooperative competition without ever going into violence. China has a different worldview. Yes they have an authoritarian worldview, we have a democratic world view & I'm pretty confident that Democratic worldview will do well", said Gandhi.