As This Decade Ends, Let’s Revisit The India-US Relationship

India and the United States of America, being the two largest democracies of the world, have time and again undergone different statures of bond ever since colonial India had been on her struggle for independence. 

US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Namaste Trump rally/Photo: Wiki

As such, Indi a emerged to be a successful democracy much later than the already democratic and powerful US; however, in the contemporary times, the geopolitics has evolved in such a way that none of the two nations can ignore one another, which certainly can be reckoned by the recent visits of Modi followed by Trump, engaged in extending friendship between the two nations like never before. If one keenly observes the ‘Howdy Modi’ event followed byNamaste Trump’ extravaganzas, one will know why.

Well, as of now, how long this warm cordial friendship between the two nations would continue to prevail would soon be revealed in a couple of months from now. However, if one retrospects this relationship, it can be counted in different phases of both ups and downs in the past.

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To begin with the pre-independence era, India’s struggle for independence had indeed caught America’s attention as the latter also didn’t favour colonialism since America herself had been a British colony once. Franklin D Roosevelt, the then President of anti-colonialist America, supported India’s independence albeit on moral and strategic grounds. However, after the outbreak of the Second World War and Japan’s growing imperialism in Asia, America’s position remained unclear with its subscribing to the British view.

However, the initial years of India’s independence saw great heights of support from the US when India was in need due to famine wherein the Truman’s India Emergency Food Assistance Act 1951 came out as a helping hand to needy India. Not just this, India’s Green Revolution having been inspired by Norman Borlaug changed the entire scenario, which prevailed then into an affluent India.

However, in bipolar politics, India refrained herself from making direct involvement. But India seemed slightly inclined towards the socialist ideology. No doubt, there stood genuine reasons as America’s freestyle market capitalism created suspicion in many of the Indian elites including Prime Minister Nehru. Knowing that imperialism or colonialism was nothing but the cause & effect of capitalist ideology, hence, nations like India had the fear of the powerful colonialist countries such as the USA that they might recolonize the newly independent countries.

The US continued to support India during the Sino-India war in 1962. It was also because China was a closer ally of the Soviet Union carrying similar ideology of Communism. But, Nehru’s Non-Aligned policy in search of strategic autonomy unfavoured America’s scheme of geostrategic balancing in Asia. No doubt, in retrospection for India, it’s worth mentioning that NAM indeed played a significant role in sustaining India’s sovereign democracy though then India’s economic and strategic insignificance followed a new gap in the relation of the duo.

And It Deteriorated With US’ Growing Closeness To Pakistan 

Secondly, the relationship post-1962 didn’t go well with the flourishing bond amongst US-Pakistan-China. India, however, signed the Indo-Soviet Peace, Friendship & Co-operation Treaty in 1971. Notwithstanding, India was never critical against Soviet’s invasions in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and later Afghanistan in 1979. Such instances certainly added impediments in the already deteriorating relation.

Following this, America turned her support for Pakistan in the Bangladesh liberation India-Pakistan war of 1971. Nixon, the then President of the US, even dispatched aircraft against India. Moreover, taking advantage of the ideological rift between the two great communist nations – USSR and China, USA in 1972 tied hands with China. As seen so far, for the USA, dictatorial-ship of Pakistan and Communist China was more acceptable than democratic India. This certainly proves Henry Kissinger’s saying – “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” The major setback in India-US relations happened to be because of India testing her first-ever nuclear power, which was against the nuclear treaties formulated by the US. Eventually, India signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1978.

The entire global geopolitics changed after the collapse of the USSR; the cold war ended and the world order moved towards unipolar where the USA stood as the only superpower. Both India and Russia had no choice but to have better relations with the USA. India’s policy began to favour the US so as to have a close alliance. Thus, on one hand, where both India & Russia were trying to get closer to the USA, while on the other hand there emerged a rift between India and Russia.

Thus, in the early 90s, India, on one hand, lost her Soviet ally, while on the other hand, it was undergoing a serious economic crisis. This was the period when Dr Manmohan Singh serving the portfolio of Finance Ministry initiated the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to reform India’s economy, which was successfully followed by gradual economic reforms on the liberal lines. With this, America’s growing interest was obvious as India opened a huge middle-class market. And it is needless to say that geopolitical and strategic purposes and economic reasons are the two major factors guiding the US policies.

Another series of intensive engagements took place between India and US in 1998 when India again tested her nuclear program but this time, sanctions were put by the US. No matter, it was later justified as a measure of deterrence by India against the already nuclear power China. The very next year followed the Kargil War when it was thought that the US and China would take sides for Pakistan, but fortunately, it didn’t happen. So, instead, Pakistan was asked to withdraw her army by the US. Henceforth, with the beginning of the new century, Clinton’s India visit in 2000 marked the beginning of a new era in the Indo-US relations which was followed by the historic Bush-Manmohan Civil Nuclear Deal signed in 2008. Along with this, the growing bilateral trade between both nations has also ushered in extending their friendship and ties.

However, only bilateral terms aren’t sufficient to understand the relationship as both the nations have also been negotiating in various multilateral forums, be it – in WTO, climate negotiations, and so on. Moreover, there are various other international issues and security concerns, for instance – the USA-Taliban truce following the withdrawal of American soldiers from Afghanistan brings a lot of concern to India, the US-Iran conflict indirectly affects India’s bilateral trade with Iran, et al.

However, the decade marked several instances when the world witnessed euphoric events, be it Modi and Obama both exchanging visits in each other’s country or the very recent visits of Modi and Trump. All these have indeed created positive sentiments among the masses of both the nations and strengthened our ties. Well, the decade as it now ends soon with this friendship reaching a peak and also the US presidential election just a few months away is yet to see whether the India-US relation would continue to prevail or remain under deep reckoning!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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