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India and US - Evolution of Strategic Relations 

Oct 04, 2022

India and US - Evolution of Strategic Relations - PrepLadder

Upgrade your UPSC IAS 2023 preparation with our daily dose of Current Affairs wherein we discuss news of national and international importance. In today's edition we will talk about India and US - Evolution of Strategic Relations.

For Prelims: I2U2, Financial  Crisis, F-16 Fighter Aircraft, India-US

For Mains: India-US relations, Strategic Relations, Russia, Ukraine, China 


On the sidelines of the UN general assembly meeting, and after it, there were some verbal exchanges between India’s foreign minister and his US counterpart. India reacted to US trade of F-16 fighter aircraft with Pakistan, however India remains bullish on Indo-US relationship.

Practice Question

Despite frequent irritants, the future of India and US relationship remains bullish. Comment.

Evolution of Indo-US Strategic Relation in the Last Two Decades

  • Following the nuclear tests of May 1998 much of the western world came down heavily on India.
  • While the tests were a temporary setback, soon India’s relations with the West in general and US  specifically, began to crystallize into a mutually beneficial and substantive relationship.
  • Talks between the then leadership led to President Clinton’s historic visit to India in 2000, and the Indo-US nuclear deal of George W Bush.
  • In 2008, the international financial crisis hit, and Mumbai was attacked by Pakistani terrorists. This and the events following it affected relations between two countries.
  • However, Barack Obama became the only President to make two visits to India, and he hosted both Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi in the White House.
  • Ties continued to improve during President Donald Trump’s tenure. The Quad framework was revived, and the defense partnership was strengthened with the signing of the foundational agreements. 
  • Trump visited India, one of his last visits overseas before the pandemic shut down much of the world. 
  • Though the chaotic US exit from Afghanistan affected India at a time when it was already facing a challenge on the Line of Actual Control, relations between two countries continue to grow.
  • Under President Joe Biden, the rhythm has been maintained, especially on the Indo-Pacific strategy. Recent India Israel US UAE (I2U2) becomes another multidimensional milestone in the bilateral relationship of two nations.

Irritants in the Current Geopolitical Context

  • Russia Ukraine War 
    • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has tested the Indo-US relationship like never before. 
    • India’s refusal to criticize Russia’s war has made her allies in Europe, and the US, deeply uncomfortable. 
    • However, recently the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi expressed his wise thoughts that “today’s era is not of war”.
  • US Pakistan F-16 Trade: 
    • US briefed India on the F-16 programme with Pakistan as a continuation of the old programme, not a new one, and necessary for Pakistan to fight terrorism.
    • India disagreed both on optics and substance of the US's explanation over F-16.
  • Absence of full time US Ambassador to India 
    • The absence of a full-time ambassador 20 months after the Biden Administration took charge has had an impact on ties.
    • This has been the longest that the US has been without a full-time envoy in New Delhi since 1950. Kenneth Juster left the position in January 2021.
    • For India, having a full-time US envoy is important to deliver key messages to the US. 
  • China Factor
    • Even as they navigate the minor turbulence in their relationship, both India and the US see China as the biggest threat and rival. 
    • India had seen the problems with a rapidly rising and increasingly aggressive China early.
    • However US administrations ignored the warning signs until around 2011, when President Obama started to talk about a “pivot” to the East. 
    • It took the Trump administration to clearly spell out China as a strategic threat and rival. This framing has continued under Biden. 
  • Russia Factor 
    • The US has been unhappy that India has been buying more oil from Russia than earlier. India argues that it must protect its citizens from the inflationary impact of the war.
    • With the recent “no-limits” ties between Russia and China, irritants in the US-India relationship present potential weak spots. 
    • As the US has exited Afghanistan, China’s presence in Pakistan-Afghanistan has increased. In this context, India has sought an exemption on the Russian air defense system, the S-400, from US sanctions.

Way Forward

  • India and the US are two natural allies, they must continue to engage each other as they did in the last few decades. 
  • While the world is going through a great reset and changing global geopolitical equations, there is no better time to accommodate and invest in the relationship.
  • Being the largest democracy in the world, and under the great leadership of current leaders, India should continue to put more thrust on national interests, sovereignty and peace. 

News Source: The Indian Express 


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