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Time to be a better neighbor, India. If you don't, China will.

President Obama's trip to India underscored India's importance in global security and global finances – a democratic counter to an aggressive China. But India's poor foreign policy and botched regional relations have been holding it back.

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On Sunday, President Obama met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. They discussed opportunities for expanded Indo-American trade, and both leaders highlighted the strategic importance of a strong and prosperous India in the face of Chinese expansion. But Prime Minister Singh did not acknowledge, and President Obama did not bring up, the most important obstacle to India’s success: its poor regional relationships.

From the outset, India’s promise as a rival to China has been that it is a power apart. It could not beat Beijing in a race for pure growth or military might. But in a contest over principles, India’s democratic progress offers the region a model that China cannot match. India should be a partner for countries seeking a fair alternative to alliance with its authoritarian neighbor.

But India is losing this contest, and it is losing it close to home. Now, as President Obama leaves India, it is worth asking: Why isn’t South Asia’s richest country leading more effectively in South Asia?


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