Matthew Continetti asks a good question:
Why do Americans spend so much time analyzing China's growth, but not India's? Yes, the growth of Chinese economic and military power since Deng Xiaoping proclaimed "to get rich is glorious" has been nothing short of extraordinary. But India has also embraced markets over the years, and the results have been equally amazing. We tend to think of India in terms of its relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan, and in terms of its cultural power, rather than in terms of the economic and geopolitical benefits of a prosperous South Asian democracy. But that should end. We have a lot to gain by befriending India, and a whole lot to lose.
The Bush administration made it a point to solidify ties with this formerly nonaligned country. It seems like the Obama administration shares the same goal, but unfortunately also sees India as a lower priority than Afghanistan, Iran, reset with Russia, and "strategic reassurance" with China. Of course, an India closely aligned with the United States could help with some of these strategic dilemmas, and hedge against other threats. Why can't Obama spend less time assuaging America's competitors, and more time supporting her friends? A good place to start would be an Indian-American free trade agreement. It's one European idea Obama ought to emulate.
I think he's completely right about this. Christopher Hitchens has also argued this point vehemently a number of times. India is a largely-secular, largely-democratic, largely-open country in South Asia of rising economic and security importance. It would be disastrous if the U.S. were to waste the chance to become strong allies with India.
Still, there are are two reasons why the U.S. hasn't spent as much time on India as it has with China, and both have to do with time constraints. First is the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, whom the U.S. continues to view as a short-term ally of necessity in the fight for Afghanistan. Publicly cozying up to India could jeopardize what little cooperation we've gotten from Islamabad, and would make an already-difficult task much harder. I wouldn't leave the point there, tho. The U.S. has an opportunity to leverage its potential relationship with India to pressure Pakistan to do much more than it has done, and it should consider doing so. If Pakistan doesn't play ball, then the U.S. can turn to India or threaten to, further isolating Pakistan from the rest of Asia. And if the AfPak effort fails, cooperation between Pakistan and the U.S. will likely dry up anyway. In the short run, then, treading water with India makes sense.
Second is the related fact that India isn't going anywhere. Opportunities for building rapport with India will continue to be available over the next decade and beyond. India already has fairly close ties with Europe, and won't turn against the West to join with China, say. The U.S. has some time to try to deal with more pressing short run concerns before turning to a longer-term relationship with India. I'm not sure that the Obama administration is thinking at that level of abstraction, but I do think it's true.
Despite that, a good governor can juggle more than one ball at a time, and Obama should be doing more to strengthen ties with New Delhi. There is no reason why security initiatives with Pakistan should preclude economic ties with India, for example. And the U.S. should not allow itself to be blackmailed by Pakistan in any way, shape, or form. So I do think it's time for a closer relationship with India.