Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: India and the US need to address the vexed issues in trade


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India and USA - way ahead


The event at Houston brought together Indian diaspora. This must yield tangible outcomes.


  • India and the US are wrapping up the negotiations on trade that have been underway for some time. 

Past relation – sensitive to others’ needs

  • Then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh offered quick unilateral support in May 2001 when US President George W Bush’s announced an initiative to build missile defences and move away from the doctrine of deterrence through nuclear terror. 
  • Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s strong support for Bush’s war on terror immediately after 9/11 set the stage for a political and strategic approach to the Indo-US relationship.
  • Bush extended unprecedented support for India’s rise by changing the US domestic nonproliferation laws as well as international regulations to lift a long-standing nuclear blockade against India. 
  • The resolution of the nuclear issue created the basis for a productive partnership with the US.
  • This saw liberalisation of US technology transfers, launch of counter-terror cooperation, the expansion of defence relationship and political cooperation on regional and global issues. 
  • Modi reoriented India’s policy to make Delhi part of the solution in the stalled international negotiations on mitigating global warming. Obama helped finalise the nuclear agreement and integrate India into the global nonproliferation regimes.

Trade issues

  • India’s prickly attitude towards trade liberalisation put it at odds with its major trading partners. 
  • Market access has been an issue that has troubled the relationship in recent years. 
  • A trade deal with the US will make it a lot easier to deal with his administration on a range of issues including terrorism, Kashmir and the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan. 

Way ahead

  • The two countries need to change the direction in bilateral commercial engagement.
  • They need to communicate their interests to each other and signal the political will to overcome domestic obstacles.
  • A new trade agreement must prepare India for profound changes in the global economic order and technological disruption. 

Way ahead

Getting India’s most important trade relationship right in the near term and charting a course for a mutually beneficial commercial partnership with the US over the long term are urgent and worthy goals in themselves.

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