What introduces friction into the ties between India and the United States is that Washington is still unable to find for India a position in its global strategy, which would satisfy India’s national self-esteem and ambitions’. Explain with suitable examples. (15 Marks)

Mentor Comments:

  • India aspires to be the leader of the emerging global order (Ambitions in terms of economic, political), but that does not perfectly fit in the US’s strategy which is leading to friction between India and the US.
  • In the first part of the main body, the theme of the discussion should be on the line of: “India cannot ensure its global rise without a stable global economic order”
  • Mention in the 2nd part, how the USA is distorting the global economic order.
  • Also, discuss the issues of frictions in other spheres between India and the US.
  • Give way forwards suggesting measures to find the middle path for the two nations.


The partnership with India is one of the few U.S. relationships that has deepened notwithstanding transitions from the Bush to Obama to the Trump administrations. But a number of differences are coming to a head that could stall or even derail progress. Key among them are trade and strategic issues.

Reasons for continued frictions between India and the US on the strategic and global platform:

  • India cannot ensure its global rise without a stable global economic order, but America under the present administration is challenging the basic foundations of economic globalization. 
  • The U.S.-China trade and technology conflict is rising, with huge consequences for a global economy already under stress from several directions. 
  • With Washington flexing its economic muscles, India has begun to face heat.
  • New Delhi has been forced to stop concessional oil imports from both Iran and Venezuela, and these heavy-handed American steps have led to a sharp rise in India’s oil import bill. 
  • India’s energy security requires the stable Middle East and New Delhi cannot be expected to downgrade its profile in the region. 
  • But more than that, the U.S. attempts to undercut India’s strategic ties with Iran are going to pose serious challenges for Indian foreign policy. 
  • India’s attempts to reach Central Asia are also likely to suffer if New Delhi’s ties with Tehran show a downward trend. 
  • The United States has also been critical of India’s bid to purchase the Russian made S-400 air defense system. 
  • The biggest challenge New Delhi faces is that if it defies American diktat, there would be economic sanctions as well as restrictions on high-tech defense cooperation with Washington. But if India cancels the S-400 deal, its traditional ties with Russia are bound to suffer.
  • Trade ties are also a source of tension. India has been a huge beneficiary of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, but the Trump administration ended it. 
  • Hyper-nationalism and a combative approach have fundamentally defined the motivational structure of India’s current foreign policy. 

The US is unable to find for India a position in its global strategy:

  • A major obstacle to deepening bilateral relations at the U.S. end is the recurring failure to remember why assisting India’s success remains fundamentally in America’s national interest. 
  • This shortcoming is only amplified by the fallacious presumption that India is somehow in the same league as the United States and, as such, should be expected to cooperate by bearing the requisite costs of upholding the global order
  • What compounds these problems is the capacity of various interest groups in American society and narrow bureaucratic interests within the U.S. government to hijack national policy-making toward India, turning it away from what U.S. grand strategic interests demand in favor of more parochial preferences.    
  • The United States views international politics from the vantage point of a hegemonic power and remains determined—as it should—to preserve its primacy. 
  • In contrast, India views the international system very much as a subordinate state and desires a multipolar system that would more easily accommodate its preferences. 
  • In the US, bolstering ties with India is still not a pressing foreign policy priority given that the US has stronger and more committed allies willing to readily partner with it in managing the challenges posed by a rising China. 
  • In India, the U.S. relationships with both Pakistan and China fuel doubts about American credibility in different ways, and the country as a whole has yet to rid itself of old suspicions of the US nurtured during the Cold War. 

Way forward:

  • The US should return to the best of its past practices toward India: acting to deepen the relationship by strengthening India’s capabilities without any expectations of clear quid pro quos. 
  • It is in U.S. interests to bolster Indian power even if no repayment is forthcoming because doing so will help limit the rise of a Chinese hegemony in Asia that could undermine the enduring strategic interests of the United States. 
  • The administration must resist the demands both of pressure groups in American society and of narrow bureaucratic interests in the U.S. government that push for transactional policies that subvert the nation’s larger goals.
  • India should articulate a geopolitical vision that preserves a special priority for the US and look for creative ways to demonstrate strategic solidarity with Washington. 
  • If India is to enjoy the kind of preferential support that the United States usually extends only to its closest allies, its leaders must offer their American counterparts a vision of strategic partnership that they find both appealing and consistent with their own conceptions of the national interest. 
  • Such a vision should be reinforced by increasing cooperation with the United States across the widest possible range of issues.

A long-term American commitment to India in the Indo-Pacific region is the only way to operationalize the vast potential in Indo-U.S. strategic relationship into concrete policy outcomes while preparing India as a credible counterweight to the Chinese power in Asia.

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Dakshina Moorthy
Dakshina Moorthy
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