President Bush is set to visit India (and Pakistan) for the first time tomorrow, and is the first Republican President to visit India since Richard Nixon. In between, Carter (1978) and Clinton (2000) had also visited India.
Indo-US relations were lukewarm at best for the entire period from 1950-2000. India, despite being an English-speaking democracy, foolishly chose to participate in the so-called 'Non-Aligned Movement' (more accurately a Non-Importance Movement), yet subsequently decided to make an even worse choice and aligned with the Soviet Union and adopted a socialist economic model, complete with Soviet-style 5-year plans.
The magnitude of this blunder is apparent when comparing India's economic progress against that of nations that chose free-market policies in 1950. The per capita GDP of South Korea, Taiwan, and India were approximately the same in 1950, but with South Korea and Taiwan residing under the US free-market umbrella, both reached per capita GDPs of $15,000 in 2000, while India languished at merely $500. Multiply this by India's vast population, and an opportunity cost of trillions of dollars reveals itself. That a country containing a sixth of the world's people has, between 1970 and 2005, won merely six Olympic medals, and has been visited by a US President only three times, is a further barometer of the utter failure of India relative to what could have been.
Unlike Democrats Carter and Clinton, who would simply praise India as the home of Gandhi and Mother Teresa and give low self-esteem Indian politicians the validation of having an important white person pat them on the head, Bush's visit could be the watershed event for a new era of joint cooperation. During Bush's visit, the agenda will focus on genuine economic and military synergies between the world's two largest democracies, with many new trade and military treaties almost certain to emerge. India's new generation of citizens is better educated, less self-loathing, and more practical than their embarassing predecessors, and this bodes well for a new era of rapid economic and political cooperation with the US.
Interestingly, India is one of the only countries where the 2004 reelection of George W. Bush was received as overwhelmingly positive. The accumulated frustration of younger Indians from having to suffer through decades of leftist-socialist policies and the condescending multiculturalism of Western pseudointellectuals has whet a great appetite for advancement. India's brand image is already rapidly improving through the efforts of fed-up younger Indians.
India and the US will be great and mighty allies against Islamic terrorism, Chinese Communism, and leftist multiculturalism. The beginning of this new era starts now.