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Obama, Clinton visit India with wary eye on rising China

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The previous US administration was more convinced that in the long-term China’s rise would be hostile to American interests. The Bush administration entered into a landmark “strategic partnership” with India in an effort to raise a competitor to China in Asia.

Indian caution

India has been extremely cautious publicly toward China, so there’s some disagreement among analysts and former officials over how much Delhi wants to play a counterweight role.

But Indian officials were clearly upset when Obama visited Beijing last year and seemingly turned the tables on Delhi by saying that China and the US would “work together to promote peace, stability, and development” in South Asia.

Since then, US and Indian views on China have converged. That’s because Obama got little in return from his visit to Beijing, and the Chinese have grown more assertive over territorial disputes in recent months – alarming both the Indians and the Americans.

“There is a congruence of interests and this happened after Obama got mugged in Beijing,” says Sumit Ganguly, an American scholar of South Asia on sabbatical in Delhi. And “growing Chinese misbehavior … had the effect of concentrating the minds of the Indians.”

For some in Delhi, the Obama administration’s walk back toward India is welcome but still not close enough.

“They are still in the hedging mode,” says Brahma Chellaney, a security expert at the Center for Policy Research in Delhi. “There is an attempt to do what Bush was doing, which is to line up partners.… [But Bush policy] was driven by a larger geo-strategic blueprint that the Obama administration lacks.”

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