USA and India. Their relation since India's independence

The rapprochement of the two cultures in the course of globalization

Seminar Paper, 2010

31 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Jawaharlal Nehru - a dominant colossus in India´s politics: The beginnings
2.1. Modernization or Westernization of India?
2.2. Jawaharlal Nehru´s domestic policy of India
2.3. The rise and fall of the rightists in India
2.4. Jawaharlal Nehru´s foreign policy of India
2.4.1. The US-American Anti-India Policy
2.4.2. Jawaharlal Nehru´s foreign policy: idealism and realism
2.5. Jawaharlal Nehru´s legacy and its impact on India´s foreign policy

3. Improvement in US-India relations after the end of the Cold War
3.1. Media: A cause for India´s increasing consumerism
3.2. The effect of India´s global economic integration on the Indian and US -American workforce
3.2.1. The consequences of globalization for India´s farmers
3.2.2. Walmart in India
3.3. Intercultural rapprochement due to an increasing transnational expansion within the food and beverage sector
3.4. Hollywood and Bollywood

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

This term paper, with the title U.S. - India relations since India´s independence and the rapprochement of the two cultures in the course of globalization, examines the importance of the politics of Jawaharlal Nehru and his successors for India´s development into a leading power in South Asia, and the impact of these politics on the relations between the United States of America and India (1947 – 2009).

Moreover, I will try to answer the question, how globalization (since India´s economic liberalization in 1991) affects the U.S. - India relations, and what changes it causes for the two countries and their citizens.

Globalization is the “[n]ame for the process of increasing [… international] connectivity and interdependence” in every area (economy, politics, culture, environment, communication, etc.). The “major […] driving forces”, that caused a dramatic speed-up of globalization “in the last two decades [, are …] technological advances”[1], especially in telecommunications and transport infrastructure, and political decisions on the liberalization of the global market.[2]

The following pages (page 4-15) deal with India´s domestic and foreign policy under Jawaharlal Nehru and his successors. I chose to start explaining India´s political situation from 1947 onwards because since India´s independence, the country underwent a gradual ´modernization´ by implementing western ideals into its system of values. Moreover, India´s political leaders, beginning with Nehru, vigorously championed India´s rise to a major-power and tried to put their plan into action by providing India with economic and military capabilities. By doing so, they hoped to approach toward the West, in particular to the United States of America, and concluded by mistake that the USA would subsequently regard India on equal terms.

From page 16 till 28 the changes that occurred in the U.S.-India relations after the end of the Cold War and the events, which have brought about these changes, are explained. By means of some selected examples, I describe how a closer relation is developed between the former opponents, United States of America and India, since globalization affects India (beginning of the 1990s), as well as the associated advantages and disadvantages for the respective country and its population.

2. Jawaharlal Nehru - a dominant colossus in India´s politics: The beginnings

Jawaharlal Nehru was an Indian politician and he became India´s first Prime Minister after the country´s independence on the fifteenth of August in 1947.[4] He held the ministerial office until his death in 1964.

Nehru was raised predominantly in the English custom and was sent to England by his father, Motilal Nehru, to study there. After he graduated, Jawaharlal Nehru returned to India in 1912 and there he started to engage in politics. In the years prior to independence, he was raised to the political leadership of the Congress Party. In the Indian independence movement, apart from Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru acted as a leading figure and advocated a quick and complete independence from the British Empire.[3]

Still in the struggle for independence, Nehru noticed the prevalent need for a new state, to guarantee the nation´s development and prosperity. He was determined to obtain independence from Britain and consequently replace the colonial state by a sovereign nation state. The prevailing system of state was lacking in dynamics, flexibility and modernity. In order to eradicate this flaw Jawaharlal Nehru, as a western-educated statesman, introduced western ideals of modernity and enlightenment. By doing so, he aimed at the advancement of India´s modernization, progress and social balance. However, the execution of this plan, which should have been realized in opposition to the hegemonic structures of the West, was made difficult by the western hegemonial powers that opposed the application of the western modernity in India.[5]

2.1. Modernization or Westernization of India?

In his book, entitled “Hindu-Nationalismus und Globalisierung: Die zwei Gesichter Indiens – Symbole der Identität und des Anderen”, Clemens Six uses on page 116 the terms “westliche Ideale der Moderne“ as well as “westliche[n] Moderne”, whose implementation is planned by Nehru in order to modernize India. One can conclude from Six´s choice of words that modernization and westernization are not identical processes for him because he states that India just strived to adopt the western ideals of modernity. By doing so, he acknowledges that there is still something else, aside from the western ideals that constitutes modernity. But if the adoption of western ideals cannot be labeled as modernization, what, apart from the western ideals, constitutes modernization? And, can modernization take place completely without the adoption of western ideals?

Samuel P. Huntington argues in chapter three of his book “The Clash of Civilizations” that societies can undergo a process of modernization without getting westernized. He writes that westernization cannot be equated with modernization because the essence of the western culture already developed before the modernization of the West took place and therefore it can be considered as western but not as modern. This essence of western culture includes Catholicism and Protestantism, separation of the temporal and spiritual powers, constitutionality, pluralism, individualism, etc. Huntington explains that modernization is a revolutionary process that can only be compared to the transition from a savage to a civilized society and that includes industrialization, urbanization, more complex and diversified occupational patterns and an increasing degree of alphabetization, education, prosperity and social mobility. A reason why westerners equate modernization and westernization could be found in Huntington´s statement that the West was the first society which underwent the process of modernization and for that reason it acquired the position of the leading modernized culture.[6] Therefore we, the westerners, unjustifiably regard our ideals, for example democracy, as modern and those cultures that do not comply with our ideals are seen as outmoded. If Samuel P. Huntington is indeed to be believed, by assuming that modernization can take place without westernization, then the world will become more modern but also more heterogenous which would obstruct globalization. Since this phenomenon failed to appear until nowadays, it can be assumed that the majority of all non-western countries modernized in the way India did it. After its independence, India chose modernization without excluding westernization which led to a convergence between India and the West, in particular the United States of America, and India´s rise to a serious power in South Asia.

2.2. Jawaharlal Nehru´s domestic policy of India

After its independence in 1947, a constitution was drafted for India which describes it as a socialist, secular and democratic republic. The Indian leadership gained their people´s trust by vesting them with the authority “to elect their governors”. By doing so, they defied “the assumptions of democratic theory that a literate and wealthy population was a prerequisite for democracy.”[7] Among other things, India´s constitution contains a Human Rights Catalogue which guarantees equality before the law and which prohibits discrimination based on religion, caste and sex.

“The speed and the dedication with which the leadership evolved a liberal-democratic institutional order and deepened its legitimacy were extraordinary among developing countries.” Since his inauguration day, India´s Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, did all he can do to get those rights, mentioned above, accepted and thus written down in “[t]he constitution, [which] came into effect in 1950”.[8] Nehru advocated social equality, personal liberty and the protection of minorities. Right from the beginning, he spoke out against a nationalism which is based on language, culture or religion because these unifying characteristics are too exclusive and intolerant, in Nehru´s opinion. India is characterized by a pluralism of various religious groups. Since the country´s separation which concurred with its independence, the Hindus outnumber the other existing religious groups, and conflicts between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority are omnipresent in India. Nehru regarded Communalism, meaning religious exclusivism, as a problem because it hindered the establishment of a united India that would be in a position to guarantee all the rights, written down in the constitution, to every individual of its society. For this reason, the reducing of religion´s influence in all public interests was of first priority for Jawaharlal Nehru.[9] This aim became evident when he expressed the following: ´[…] We have to get rid of that narrowing religious outlook, that obsession with the supernatural and metaphysical speculations, that loosening of the mind´s discipline in religious ceremonial and mystical emotionalism.´ (Nehru, zit. nach Six 2001, p. 116)

The main elements of Jawaharlal Nehru´s ideal government ideology were secularism, rationalism and technological, economic and intellectual progress, but such an ideology proved impossible for India. Even though India tried hard to copy the US-American model of the ´wall of separation´ between “church” and state, it failed to consistently stick to secularism. This failure could be recognized by the ongoing interventions of the Indian government into the religious matters of various religious communities. Nehru also took the United States of America as an example when planning the structure of the Indian state. According his ambition, India should be transformed into a federation, closely linked to its neighboring states and with a major role in world politics.[10]

2.3. The rise and fall of the rightists in India

From the 1980s onwards, India´s Congress Party, that continued Nehru´s domestic policy after his death in 1964, gradually lost its power because its kind of policy could no longer be applied and consequently failed. With the Congress Party´s failure, Hindu Nationalist parties came more and more to power and hence, India experienced a rightist political reorganization. The eighties and nineties were characterized by the Hindutva ideology whose concept of nation gradually displaced the one by Nehru. While Nehru opposed a nationalism that contained religious elements, the Hindu nationalists vindicated religion as the unifying characteristic of the Indian nation. According to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the All India Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Shiv Sena, the politics of India had to become more sensitive toward the religious and cultural majority of the country, meaning the Hindus, to whom the politics´ mainstream had to be orientated. All those organizations of Hindu nationalists, mentioned above, belong to the Sangh Parivar which represents the Hindu nationalist movement. In the following, I will elaborate on the RSS, VHP and SJM because these three Hindutva organizations will play an important role in chapter 3.3. which deals with India´s response to globalization, more specific, to US- investments within the consumer goods sector.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was founded in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar who was replaced by Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar in 1940. Discontent with Gandhi´s strategy, for example his concept of exclusive non-violence, gave political cause for the foundation of the RSS. Hedgewar was convinced that the program of non-violence has no efficacy and he criticized the unorganized and weak condition of the Hindu Community. For that reason, the RSS made the restoration of India´s cultural and political grandeur its principal aim. In order to achieve this goal, Golwalkar urged: “The Non-Hindu people of Hindusthan […] must case to be foreigners or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation […].”[11] In the process of reinvigoration of a Hindu unity, the RSS felt threatened by the Christians, Moslems and by the western elite of India; among other things, Nehru ranked among the latter. Nowadays, the RSS is the core organization of the rightists in India and since the 1990´s, when globalization also affected India, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was involved in all kinds of protests against the global foreign influences.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) was brought into being, under the patronage of Golwalkar (RSS), in 1964. The VHP, a subsidiary organization of the RSS, made it its business to put all problems out of the way that would obstruct the formation of a strong Hindu unity. By doing so, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad aimed at paving the way for India, so it can soon develop into a leading nation which will be able to defend itself against threats by the modern world, in particular the West. Like the RSS, in the eighties the VHP substantially gained in importance for India´s political development. The RSS and the VHP are in agreement about the country´s current problems that have to be solved by all means. Both of them criticize the abnegation of ´national identity´ that is, according to them, basically the fault of the westernized politicians of India. (Jaffrelot, zit. nach Six 2001, p. 62) They argue that the western elite of their country would be trumpeting communism, socialism and capitalism as solutions for India´s problems, but they are actually not conducive at all. Members of the VHP and RSS are of the opinion that materialism, capitalism, etc. obstruct the realization of a Hindu nation. For that reason they feel threatened by the West that allegedly subjugated India through its knowledge and culture and thus alienated the Hindus from their own culture. Therefore, the right-wing extremist organizations of the Sangh Parivar firmly reject all kinds of western influences, which pervade India especially since the beginning of globalization, and put them in the category of ´Foreign´/ Non-Indian.

The Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), a subsidiary organization of the RSS, came into existence in 1991 and is under the leadership of S. Gurumurthy. However, only in 1993 the SJM came into the public eye, for the first time, when the struggle against foreign multinational corporations (MNCs) became more intense. From this time onwards, the members of the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch tried to fight globalization which is, according to them, a Western strategy of global homogenization that will destroy India´s cultural and indigenous religious structures. The SJM devotes itself to counter-globalization, pressing for the guarantee of national security and the growth of a new and strong national self-confidence that is supposed to be revealed during the upcoming twenty years when India will establish itself as a world power. Although the term Swadeshi appears in the name of the SJM, it would be wrong to believe that it has the same meaning for this Hindu nationalist organization as it had for Gandhi. While Gandhi´s principle of swadeshi meant ´local self-sufficiency´, for the SJM it embraces the rejection of the forces of globalization as well as the reconstruction of the nation. Muralidhar Rao, who is the second leader of the SJM, also expressly underlines the fact that no longer the spinning wheel symbolizes the re-empowerment of the nation, as it was the case in times of Gandhi, but India´s newly acquired atom bomb.[12]


[1] (19.01.2010)

[2] (19.01.2010)

[3] Baldev Raj Nayar und T.V. Paul, India in the World Order: Searching for Major-Power Status (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) 162.

[4] Hermann Kulke und Dietmar Rothermund, Geschichte Indiens: Von der Induskultur bis heute (München: C.H. Beck Verlag, 1998) 386.

[5] Clemens Six, Hindu-Nationalismus und Globalisierung: Die zwei Gesichter Indiens- Symbole der Identität und des Anderen (Wien: Südwind, 2001) 115ff.

[6] Samuel P. Huntington, Kampf der Kulturen: Die Neugestaltung der Weltpolitik im 21. Jahrhundert (München: Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, 2002) 96ff.

[7] Baldev Raj Nayar und T.V. Paul, India in the World Order: Searching for Major-Power Status (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) 121.

[8] Ebd., p. 121.

[9] Clemens Six, Hindu-Nationalismus und Globalisierung: Die zwei Gesichter Indiens- Symbole der Identität und des Anderen (Wien: Südwind, 2001) 115ff.

[10] Clemens Six, Hindu-Nationalismus und Globalisierung: Die zwei Gesichter Indiens- Symbole der Identität und des Anderen (Wien: Südwind, 2001) 115ff.

[11] Clemens Six, Hindu-Nationalismus und Globalisierung: Die zwei Gesichter Indiens- Symbole der Identität und des Anderen (Wien: Südwind, 2001) 57.

[12] Clemens Six, Hindu-Nationalismus und Globalisierung: Die zwei Gesichter Indiens- Symbole der Identität und des Anderen (Wien: Südwind, 2001) 64f.

Excerpt out of 31 pages


USA and India. Their relation since India's independence
The rapprochement of the two cultures in the course of globalization
Martin Luther University  (Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik)
India: English Colonial Policy, Commonwealth, Transformation and Foreign Policy towards the USA
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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India, USA, United States of America;, Globalization, Nehru, major power
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B.A. Loreen Leuschner (Author), 2010, USA and India. Their relation since India's independence, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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