Wilson Center Experts
My interest in India has been life-long, sparked by an assignment in college to write a review of Jawaharlal Nehru's autobiography Toward Freedom. Related readings opened up an entirely different world than the one I knew as a young American. This was at a time during the Cold War when the U.S. government, bent on winning the "hearts and minds" of the populations emerging from colonial rule made available Fulbright awards and language fellowships to increase the pool of expertise needed to inform policy. It was as a Fulbright student that I first "discovered India" and dedicated much of my professional life to understanding the complex transformations unleashed by the introduction of political democracy in India's hierarchical society, underdeveloped economy and plural cultures. The results of this scholarship are best known in my standard work, India's Political Economy, 1947-1977: The Gradual Revolution (1978) (Princeton: Princeton University Press), its South Asian edition published in 1979, and the Chinese translation, with updated Introduction published in Beijing in 1990 by the Chinese Academy of the Social Sciences. The second edition, published by Oxford University Press in 2005 updates the original text to cover the period from 1978 to 2004. It will be published in paperback this summer for use in the graduate curriculum of Indian universities as a ready reference for a new generation of students. As would be expected this steady intellectual and research engagement with India resulted in numerous collaborative research programs and projects that led to publication of books, edited and co-edited volumes, book chapters and articles.Yet, the life of an India scholar was often difficult and eventually even solitary. By 1971, the U.S. opening to China as a counterweight to the Soviet Union brokered by Pakistan, and the Indian alignment with the USSR to ensure against a two front war once India extended help to the "freedom fighters" and in dismantling Pakistan and creating Bangladesh marked the end of political trust, never very high, between India and the United States. Suspicions on both sides continued for years and even decades. American scholars, in particular, were suspect, and their research was perceived as exploiting India. At its worst, as the fear of CIA plots to destabilize the Indian government gained ground, little distinction was drawn between American social scientists and agents collecting intelligence. Despite the transformation of power relations after the Cold War, and even after President Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee articulated a new vision that in the post Cold War world, India and the U.S. are "natural allies" suspicions of social science research by American scholars still lingered. Most revealing to me was the response I received to a series of eight articles published in The Times of India, New Delhi, in May 1986 which pivoted around the themes of the U.S. failure to see India's importance, and Indian perceptions that U.S. policies had forced India to turn to Moscow. These articles were received with something like relief by many who believed that an American had finally understood the reasons for the Indo-U.S. chasm. I had already begun to write about "India's Promise," Foreign Policy, 28 (Spring 1980), but it was clear that the potential for closer bilateral relations could only be realized once the underlying historical and cultural factors that had created the conditions of resentment and distrust were better understood. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, as leaders in both countries recognized the need to rebuild the relationship, I became determined to carry out an authoritative study of the divergent worldviews of U.S. and Indian policymakers which previously prevented them from managing outstanding issues to achieve a mutually satisfactory partnership even when their major security concerns converged. My research project is the first comparative analysis of the making of foreign policy in the United States and India using comparable archival resources to reconstruct the perceptual and political worlds of policymakers in each country from the formative period of their relations. The most important insights into the Indian worldview are derived from the Nehru Papers, post 1947, made available to me by permission of the head of the Nehru family. Documentation on U.S. policy toward India spanning the period 1953-1971 is available from declassified U.S. government documents. During my last fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson Center, I completed the first three chapters of the book. After returning to Penn, I had to put the project aside to devote my time and energies to institution-building as the founding Director of the Center for the Advanced Study of India. I am now free to complete the remaining six chapters of the book. The final two chapters "After the Cold War" and "Parameters of the New Partnership" will examine new materials on the growing convergence in Indo-U.S. security interests; and the prospects for building a new mindset of trust between the most influential constituencies in the two countries required to sustain a global Indo-U.S. partnership.
B.A., Political Science, City College of New York; M.A., International Relations, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS); Ph.D., University of Chicago
- Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania, 1979-present
- Director, Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania, 1992-2006
- Madan Lal Sobti Chair for the Study of Contemporary India, 2003-06
- Founding Director, Center for the Advanced Study of India, 2006-present
- Fellow, Asia Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1997-98
- Research Fellow, Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (New Delhi), 1990-92
- Visiting Scholar, Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, 1984-85
- Visiting Member, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, 1976
Shifting power alignments in Asia; Indo-U.S. relations; the role of perception and ideology in the making of foreign policy; India's society, politics and economy; political economy of development
This study uses comparable U.S. and Indian archival resources, memoirs and interviews to examine the divergent historical and cultural worlds of policymakers in Washington and New Delhi which resulted in virtually mirror opposite interpretations of ambiguous threats. Internally logical security policies for meeting external dangers were situated in different cognitive worlds. The resulting lack of trust spanned ten U.S. administrations and still shadows rapid progress toward a long-term U.S.-India global partnership. The project provides a deeper understanding than has so far been achieved of the cultural and historical context of bilateral relations essential to avoid the pitfalls of the past and realize the potential of a strategic partnership of immense importance for both countries, and for stability in Asia.
- India's Political Economy, 1947-2004, second edition (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005)
- The India-China Relationship, What the United States Needs to Know (New York. Columbia University Press and Washington, D.C., Woodrow Wilson Center Press, co-edited with Harry Harding, 2004)
- "Indo-U.S. Relations: The Future is Now." The Washington Quarterly, 19.4 (1996)