In the midst of the Iraqi civil war that missed happening and the Dubai port takeover that shouldn’t happen, the Bush administration helped midwife something very right that will have good effects for many decades. President Bush met with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and welcomed India formally into the nuclear club. India was a nuclear power anyway, whether we welcomed it or not—it exploded its first atom bomb in 1974—but Mr. Bush ratified the obvious as part of a developing “strategic partnership.”
America’s rapprochement with India began under Bill Clinton, who visited India in 2000. Clinton tirelessly cultivated India and Indian-Americans—you couldn’t go to a big-deal Democratic Party fund-raiser in New York in the 90’s without seeing at least one sari. He and Mr. Bush each deserve a full share of credit for the ongoing realignment. But their policy transcends individuals. It forecasts the evolution of the Anglosphere, into the 21st century and (perhaps) beyond.
Anglosphere is a word, and a wish, that has been kicking around for a decade or so. It refers to a handful of nations once ruled by Britain—Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Ireland (sorry, Representative King) and Britain itself (so long as it stays out of the E.U.). They share, to some degree, features of the same legal and political systems—common law, democracy, balance of power. They also share the absence of certain other features—men on horseback, putsches. The English language is an unquantifiable accompaniment to the mix. Could the Anglosphere be a force for good in the world, or a force for anything? The special relationship between the United States and Britain that ran through two world wars and two Iraq wars seems to give the Anglosphere idea reality. Does anyone else belong to it?
India’s relation to the Anglosphere began in colonialism. The British in India were an alien, self-segregated ruling class. They built railroads, forbade suttee, ate curry and lived in their clubs. Yet British culture percolated to certain Indian elites, especially Bengali intellectuals. In an early Satyajit Ray film, Charulata, one of the characters, urging his friend to study law in London, breaks out into an English-language rapture on the stepmother country: “The land of Burke! Of Macaulay! Of Gladstone!” Britain’s legacy to independent India was mixed, for it included both parliamentary democracy and socialism; Jawaharlal Nehru had an opportunity to study both at Harrow and Cambridge. But time has winnowed the wheat from the chaff, for democracy remains, despite the hiatus of Indira Ghandi’s emergency rule, while socialism has been consigned to the dunghill.
India now feels a new Anglospheric tug with the blossoming of information technology. The 800 number you dial to order replacement parts or check your bank account connects you to Bangalore, for three reasons. Bangalore has educated, relatively low-wage employees; someone in Bangalore probably wrote the program that makes the system run; and Bangalore, thanks to India’s earlier access to the English language, has the jump on tech centers in other developing nations. So Google fortuitously reaps what Cornwallis and Wellesley sowed—and lays in the seed for later harvests.
British India also included Pakistan; hundreds of thousands of lives were lost in that bloody, post-independence partition. Pakistan, however, has not benefited from its Anglosphere connection apart from the cricket pitch—largely, one feels, because of the retarding pull of political Islam. Military dictators, seeking to shore up their sacred flank, have reduced Pakistani higher education to the madrassa level. With the exception of A.Q. Khan, the scientist and atomic Johnny Appleseed, Pakistan produces nothing sophisticated that anyone would want to buy. Thousands of Pakistanis come here to sell newspapers and drive cabs, but they are not on the economic cutting edge. Islamism can stumble along in countries that are awash with oil, but in poor countries it is the mark of intellectual and economic death.
The long-run payoff of Mr. Bush’s visit to India is not India’s feelings toward us. There will be many wrinkles in the “strategic partnership” of Washington and New Delhi, the main one being that we must continue to work with Pakistani strong man Gen. Pervez Musharraf, not only to find Osama, but to make sure that some Osama clone does not take power, and thereby take over Pakistan’s atomic arsenal. India will marginally benefit the world (and us, as part of the world) because of how it relates to its people, and to the future.
The alternative model of Third World development is China, which presents itself, to us and to its people, as the nice Sparta: a strong state that licenses getting and spending, and imposes order, at the cost of tyranny and its attendant corruption and dirigisme. Odd religions, like Falun Gong, disappear into jail; odd nationalities, like the Tibetans and the Uighurs, are stuffed into the jail of forced assimilation. Party rule, meanwhile, is no more to be challenged than it was at Tiananmen Square, or in the darkest days of Mao. And if the big boys make a bad bet on the yuan, or on workers’ wages, there is no correcting them, short of spastic riots or flight to the countryside.
India has its own problems. Although it is the third-largest Muslim country on earth (after Indonesia and Pakistan), it has been mostly spared the curse of jihadism, its Muslims having available to them the better alternatives of work and politics. Naturally our enemies (perhaps even wealthy bankrollers in Dubai) will try to make India’s Muslims as bloody-minded as they are. Along those lines, a demagogic official in the state government of Uttar Pradesh offered an $11.5 million bounty for the Danish cartoonists who drew Muhammad. His colleagues unhelpfully excused him on the grounds that he had not incited to murder “in his capacity as a minister.”
India will have its useful idiots and its angry monsters. Those are the parasites on the host body of a free society. Nevertheless, it will do the world good to have a large, well-armed country touched by the law and language of Gladstone.